MVC's Island Plan - a midsummer update
We would like to give the community a midsummer report on the preparation of the Island Plan, which got underway earlier this year. The purpose of the Island Plan is to "chart - in simple but compelling ways - a course to the kind of future that the Vineyard community wants and design a series of actions to help us navigate that course".
This spring, the Island Plan Steering Committee invited Vineyarders to participate in an online survey about the priorities and key issues that the plan should deal with. In June, we held the first public forum - 100 people gathered to address the same issues. These activities generally confirm the results of other surveys carried out by the Martha's Vineyard Commission over the past few years using a variety of techniques.
There was strong agreement with the following basic principles about the nature of the plan itself:
We should take the long view, planning for 50 years or more;
We have the power to make significant changes in how the Island evolves, and should be prepared to do so for the sake of future generations;
The issues and solutions facing the Vineyard towns are closely interrelated and must be dealt with in an Island-wide way;
The fact that we are an Island means that we have to accept some limitations.
The following is a preliminary summary of the priority goals that people expressed for the Vineyard.
Promote long-term sustainability.
1. Preserve the Vineyard's natural environment, open spaces, scenic beauty and habitat.
2. Protect the water quality in coastal ponds.
3. Deal not only with housing affordability at all income levels, but also with the overall high cost of living.
4. Move towards a vital but more balanced year-round local economy, less dependent on tourism.
5. Slow the pace of Island development and building, and concentrate it in certain areas.
6. Maintain the rural, small-town quality of life.
7. Protect the distinct and diverse character of the Island's six towns, especially the compact, mixed-use, walkable, historic village centers.
8. Forge a stronger regional perspective for dealing with issues and providing services.
9. Reduce traffic congestion without "improving" roads, and promote alternate means of transportation.
10. Promote energy independence and the recycling and composting of solid waste.
11. Ensure adequate health and educational facilities and services.
In the online survey, there was very strong agreement that development should be concentrated in certain areas and that, on Martha's Vineyard, "growth management" is better for business than unfettered "growth." There was fairly strong agreement that it would be desirable that the one third of the Island that is presently undeveloped and unprotected be preserved as open space and that it was desirable to provide stable, affordable, housing to all year-rounders. There was little support for promoting short-term tourism or, for that matter, more development in general.
Discussion at the forum often came back to the notion of sustainability. Is the Island sustainable today? Is the kind of growth that we are experiencing sustainable? What is the "carrying capacity" of the Island?
It also became clear that each of the four main themes of the plan - economy, community, ecology, and land - transcend virtually all the specific issues and topics.
The steering committee wants to focus on identifying clear goals for a variety of topic areas, identifying measurable short, medium, and long-term targets for reaching those goals, and then outlining specific strategies for meeting the targets. Preliminary examples of such goals and targets were prepared for and discussed at the June forum and are available on the web site.
The priority goals will be discussed at a second public forum, to be held next Wednesday. At the end of the summer, the steering committee will set up the first wave of work groups, smaller teams that will come up with the goals, targets and strategies for each of ten topics. The topics for these first work groups, selected on Monday, are water, housing, the natural environment, livelihood/commerce, and energy/solid waste. The steering committee itself will tackle the broader cross-topic issues such as sustainability, growth management, and land use, as well as coordinating the work of the work groups.
A great way for Vineyarders to get involved would be by starting at the web site - www.islandplan.org. It has a host of interesting information such as the results of various surveys, including the preliminary results of the current online survey, and the proceedings of the June forum. It also lets people sign up either to be put on the mailing list, or to join the network of planning advisors, 100 or more people who will follow the planning process more closely. Paper versions of these documents are available in all town libraries (look for the Island Plan Source Book).
An Island Plan Forum will be held on Wednesday, August 9, from 5 - 7 pm at the Tisbury Senior Center. Jim Athearn is chairman of the Island Plan Steering Committee. Mark London is executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Commission, which is coordinating the Island Plan.