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Eleven vie for nine seats on the Martha's Vineyard Commission
On Tuesday, Nov. 7 voters must make the biennial selection of the nine elected members of the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC). Eleven candidates are running for the positions, six of them for re-election.
For example, if the candidates with the three highest vote totals are from the same town, only two will be elected to the MVC. If a candidate with the lowest vote total overall is the only candidate from that town, he or she would be elected.
The Martha's Vineyard Times asked each of the MVC candidates to respond to the following three questions.
1. Considering recent decisions, such as the conditions put on the World Revival Church, the lengthy review of the Cozy Hearth housing development, the rejection of development of regional impact review for an Edgartown neighborhood and a West Tisbury single-family house, has the MVC properly balanced its authority, the authority of local town boards, and the rights of individual applicants?
Jim Athearn of Edgartown, candidate for reelection.
2. I don't know if large houses should be reviewed as DRI's. I do know that I've heard a lot of concern about them so I think we ought to sit down and study the real impacts and come up with appropriate plans. There may be ways for town boards to review them with MVC powers to back them up, as in the DCPC process. The Island Plan will probably address it but the MVC may need to create an interim policy for the near future.
3. Yes, it is costly to go through a DRI review and it takes time, some a lot more than others, depending on the complexity. The question needs to be asked, what would be the cost to the community to not review it? Not just in dollars but in other real costs to our well-being. No, the MVC decisions are not arbitrary, though they may look that way to those who are not as deeply involved in the process. We have been working on policy plans that help to clarify to applicants and others what the general standards for previous projects have been. Also, flexibility to one could look like arbitrariness to another.
Christina Brown of Edgartown, candidate for re-election.
2. Not at this time. If the MVC were, it should develop clear reasons and guidelines. What is the effect of large houses - on the total energy available to the Island, on the labor force and the economy, on open natural habitats? What is the experience of communities that have limited house size, such as Aspen?
3. No, I do not think that the DRI review has ever been arbitrary. It is always based on the legislation establishing the MVC, which gives guidelines for evaluating the benefits and detriments. The time and cost result in careful review with the applicant and often a mutually agreed better project.
Mimi Davisson of Oak Bluffs, candidate for reelection.
3. Costly and time-consuming? Sometimes. Arbitrary? No. Time is money. Streamlining the DRI process could reduce both time and money spent. Decisions are not arbitrary. Commissioners carefully and thoughtfully consider existing criteria and precedents in their decisions.
Dan Flynn of Oak Bluffs, former MVC member.
Paul Strauss of Oak Bluffs is a Dukes County commissioner and currently serves on the MVC as the county appointee.
1. In general, yes. The Commissioners try to balance these factors in their deliberations. The process continually evolves as we get more input from residents.
Richard Toole of Oak Bluffs is a former member of the MVC.
2. As for question two, there are many reasons why large houses may want to be reviewed by the MVC. Two of these are the need for more affordable housing to provide the increase in services to build and maintain them and the strain on an already limited energy supply to power them.
Kathy Newman of Aquinnah, a candidate for reelection, submitted the following response to the three questions.
All the questions you ask are issues of concern and consideration as the Commission moves forward. If you read my bio for the League Forum, you will note that I emphasized that my past training as a psychologist has taught me to listen to all sides and see issues as neither black nor white. I think all these concerns, about the size of houses, the character of old neighborhoods, etc. are important considerations.
The reason the MVC seems to be hearing them is that local boards are often torn about what to do. I think bringing together Island voices both to define an Island Plan and to input what that Plan should be, is an important step. All Island residents are urged to go on line and take the survey, contributing their voice. The balance between holding to Island traditions and moving ahead is a delicate balance. I think we're all struggling with these issues.
As for the DRI process, I think we can work on making that as cost effective and straightforward as possible. My hope is that the Island Plan will help to set standards that will simplify and refine the process as well as helping each of the towns to better define their criteria and standards.
Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, candidate for reelection.
2. Maybe. For example, some large individual homes have the potential for regional impact on public views. There can also be traffic impact and impacts on natural resources which rival those of commercial development. However, the MVC cannot embark on such reviews without a careful public process and the development of objective standards.
3. Arbitrary, no. Costly, occasionally; but costs are generally proportional to the magnitude (and overall cost) of a project. Time consuming? See my answer to number one. If you believe in the mission of the MVC to protect the unique character of Martha's Vineyard, the DRI process is worth the time, cost and effort, because it creates better results for the Island and generally an improved project for the applicant, as well.
Andrew Woodruff of West Tisbury, candidate for reelection, did not respond to The Times request.
Peter Cabana of Vineyard Haven submitted the following statement in response to the three questions posed by The Times.
Douglas Sederholm of Chilmark, candidate for reelection, did not respond to The Times request.