NSTAR public hearing comes to a close at MVC

Edgartown--Vineyard Haven Road — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) wrapped up an NSTAR public hearing on September 19. The MVC took up the utility’s pole replacement program as a development of regional impact at the request of Tisbury selectmen, who complained on June 17 about new taller, fatter poles.

The MVC said it would keep the written hearing record open until October 3, to allow public comment.

MVS staffer Paul Foley gave commission members a quick recap of the issues, including NSTAR’s use of herbicides in the company’s right of way and the possibility that power lines might be buried.

NSTAR community relations officer Jerry McDermott, along with project manager Mark Baldwin, represented NSTAR.

“We have been better at and will commit to better communication in the future,” Mr. McDermott said in a letter to commissioners. “We will work with each town and give a courtesy heads up if any large work project is being planned.”

NSTAR estimated the cost of placing the cables underground would run around $1.5 million per mile for the electric work alone.

“I think the idea is that we’d like you to think about it for the future,” MVC chairman Fred Hancock said. “And note that it is something that is very much on the mind of the Island community. With proper planning, it wouldn’t be a surprise to you if it comes up again.”

NSTAR said it is installing the new poles as part of an electric service reliability project for Martha’s Vineyard that includes the installation of a new submarine cable from Falmouth to West Chop. The upgrade project involves 167 poles on the roads, roughly split between Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road and Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, and approximately 84 located off-road along NSTAR’s right-of-way.All of the NSTAR poles along Edgartown-Vineyard Haven road are now installed, but more are now being set along Edgartown-West Tisbury road.

Let there be light

In other business on September 19, the MVC approved a motion to hold a public hearing for the Vineyard Assembly of God church.

The church, located off State Road in West Tisbury, wants permission to replace nine, three-foot bollard lights with six 12-footers.

At its regular July 11 meeting, the town zoning board of appeals (ZBA) referred the church request to the MVC as a development of regional impact.

The church also wants retrospective approval from the MVC for the construction of a new shed already built on the property.

Assembly of God pastor Joseph Dockter said he is worried about the current lighting. “The issue that we have is that it is a hazardous level of lighting,” he said. “When our parishioners come out to their vehicles, it’s very dark in the center of the parking lot.”

Several Assembly of God abutters were in attendance Thursday night.

“I would ask that you deny or at least limit the church’s request for outdoor lighting in both scale and times of operation,” Jon Cassel wrote in a letter previously submitted to the MVC. “This is an out-of town location and the ability to enjoy the night sky is important to me and my family.”

A public hearing has been scheduled for October 17.