With apologies to Dickens: A Vineyard Christmas Tale

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To the Editor:

Imagine my surprise upon opening last week’s MVTimes and there, sandwiched between a full-page photo of Santa riding atop a firetruck in the Edgartown Christmas Parade and this week’s Stop and Shop flyer, was another insert. The additional insert was a holiday-season appeal from the Island Housing Trust (IHT) for $137,000, that proclaimed in bold letters: “Real Impact Starts With You.”

Having just pledged $25 to get an WMVY coffee mug, I was in the spirit of giving and started to write out a check to the IHT for the entire donation request when I happened to glance at my account balance and noticed it was $136,977 short of the amount. While pondering this embarrassing dilemma, I sat gazing out my kitchen window at the empty woodlot next door when an eerie voice that I could barely make out whispered, “Impact starts with yoooou …” My blood ran cold as the voice trailed off. Suddenly it manifested itself in the form of a terrifying vision — a huge cluster of apartment units appeared in the once empty woodlot.

I was still in a cold sweat when I snapped out of it. That’s when it dawned on me: This was no figment of my overactive imagination, but rather the real vision of the Ghost of Christmas Future, Island Housing Trust executive director Philippe Jordi. Not content to continue on the IHT’s present path of keeping density where density already is, like the Water Street project in Tisbury, Mr. Jordi has instead embarked upon a far more ambitious goal of acquiring $6 million in state low-income housing grant money so he can cram 22 rental units onto a 5-acre parcel in a rural area of Tisbury, where town R50 zoning would only allow a maximum of four residential homes. Never mind the groundwater study, which determined that this housing project would sit atop the aquifer for the town wells, and that the high concentration of septic systems would create a sewage plume that would migrate downhill to an already nitrogen-overloaded Lake Tashmoo. Never mind that this development would push the sprawl of the commercial district almost to the West Tisbury town line on an already busy and dangerous section of State Road. Never mind what the intrusion of streetlights and noise generated by a densely packed 49-bedroom community would inflict upon the neighborhood.

These inconvenient truths have been conveniently swept aside by what proponents of this scheme tell us is an overwhelming need for affordable housing. That need may be real, but overwhelming what is left of rural Vineyard Haven with urban-scale housing developments is not the solution.

If Mr. Jordi is determined to change the direction of the Island Housing Trust from smaller low-profile proposals in favor of large projects of this nature, then the only thing that makes sense is to require that they are in an appropriate location where utilities, town water, and sewering are already in place. The only way to ensure that this happens is to voice concerns to your selectmen, zoning board of appeals, board of health, building inspector, and members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and insist that they carefully review not only the impact, but the legal and environmental aspects of this project before it is too late, otherwise the vision will become a reality and set a precedent that will change our town forever. Remember: Real impact starts with you.

Chris Crawford

Vineyard Haven