MVC begins work on Island plan
What should the Vineyard be like 50 years from now? What do we have to do in the short and medium term to make that vision become reality? How should we deal with the specific issues that are challenging us today?
The Martha's Vineyard Commission has initiated the preparation of an Island plan that will chart - in simple but compelling ways - a course to the kind of future that the Vineyard community wants, and that prescribes a series of actions to help us navigate that course. A 20-member citizen steering committee was set up last fall and worked over the winter to outline the planning process, which is being launched this week. We need to know what kind of future all Vineyarders want for the Island, so the plan truly reflects the hopes and needs of the whole community. Public involvement will be sought in a wide variety of ways, including public forums, workshops, and surveys, as well as creation of work groups on specific topics and a large network of citizen advisors.
We are starting out by asking some fundamental questions about how Vineyarders see the future of the Island, such as the following (expressed somewhat provocatively as a choice between two extremes to spark discussion).
Should we allow anyone who wants to live on the Island to move here, or should we strictly limit population growth and development?
Should we allow widespread development or require development to locate in certain areas?
On the Island, which is better for business: growth or growth management?
Should the one-third of the Island that is currently unprotected and undeveloped all be protected as open space or all be developed?
Can issues be most effectively dealt with by the towns individually or together on an Island-wide basis?
Should we provide stable, affordable housing for all year-rounders, or is it okay if the lack of stable, affordable housing leads some people to leave?
Later on, we will focus on more specific aspects of how the Vineyard works, such as the economy, housing affordability, open space, health and education, natural resources, water quality, transportation, the built environment, social and community facilities and services, and governance. At the conclusion of the process, we hope to have a new kind of Vineyard plan - a strong expression of our community that contains a series of measurable actions to lead us forward.
Starting this week, we are asking all Vineyarders to participate in the preparation of the Island Plan in one of three ways.
First, we are inviting people to fill out the first of a series of surveys, to give their comments on the purpose, priorities, and principles of this plan for the Vineyard's future. Secondly, we are forming a network of planning advisors, made up of 100 or more Vineyarders who will closely follow the planning process and give their input at key times. Members will receive a survey every couple of months, get special invitations to participate in forums, work groups, and other planning activities, and will have an opportunity to comment on draft documents. When people fill out the current survey, they will be given an opportunity to join the network. Thirdly, we invite people to pencil the morning of Saturday, June 24 in their calendars, the tentative date of a public forum to kick off the planning process. More details will follow.
The steering committee is committed to making the Island plan not only a clear statement of what vision the community has for the Vineyard's future, but also a clear strategy for how to achieve that vision. The Island plan should affect how the Island develops, and what kind of community, economy, and environment we will have in the future.
We need your help to get it right.
Jim Athearn is chairman of the Island plan steering committee. To fill out the survey, go to the web site www.islandplan.org or any Island library.