Freedom vs. a community’s sense of self


To the Editor:

I loved your column in the March 21 MV Times [At Large: The ‘Not Our Crowd’ approach to zoning against big houses]. You did a wonderful job of laying out the knee-jerk, “don’t tell me what to do with my house position.” Not dissimilar to your position on most regulation and one we can all embrace from time to time, especially when the regulation in question touches something we want to do.

But, there is another side. Of course there are really many other sides, just not so inflammatory as yours, and they don’t pander quite so openly to the least common denominator.

I have watched the Chilmark planning board work long and hard at the process of adjusting the existing bylaws to meet the needs of the town today. It is a difficult and often thankless task and they, their helpers, and all who contributed to the process should be applauded by all of us. We don’t have to love everything they have created, but to label the well written and thoughtful bylaw they have produced as “grotesque” seems a bit over the top, even for you.

The real argument, Doug, is about freedom, freedom of the community to decide how it wants to grow. So it comes down to the freedom of the town to determine its future versus the freedom of an individual to do whatever he wants. Simple. Basic. Very hard to balance.

Your “whimsical colonoscopy” was the best line of all, perhaps your best in years. It really does address the most difficult issue in the whole process: shining a very public light into a previously dark area. What the planning board is proposing is that in a few cases where the project under consideration is very large and likely to have an inordinate impact on the community, a more public review may be beneficial to the community (and more likely than not to the applicant too) and that there needs to be some upper limits to what we, as a community, are willing to live next to.

Chris Murphy


Chris Murphy of Chilmark is a former member and chairman of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. He is a member of the Chilmark zoning board of appeals.