A turning point 


To the Editor:

We are in uncertain times, with many aspects of daily life changing. In the midst of change, one thing that remains constant is the threat to our Island’s environment, and our way of life. I am writing to share with Islanders the renewed effort by Utah developers to build a luxury housing development a short distance from Edgartown Great Pond. The application for this proposed project, the Meetinghouse Way development, is once again before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. It will be the subject of a virtual public meeting on June 4 in Oak Bluffs. This application presents a clear danger to a sustainable and recognizable Martha’s Vineyard, and needs to be denied.

Last September, after lengthy public hearings and presentations by agents of the developers, the LUPC, a subgroup of the commission, recommended to deny the application by a decisive 7-2 vote. The application was then to be voted on by the entire commission. This final vote has been delayed since early last fall. In the meanwhile, the developers have come back with a minimally altered plan, one that still envisions building 27 luxury houses of up to 4,200 square feet each. There are some trimmings, mostly in the form of 14 townhouses affordably priced, but these are crumbs off a table laden with profit for the developers.

The pandemic has served to clarify the terms “essential” and “nonessential.” Almost needless to say, the impact of building a huge number of luxury houses, with lawns and pools, in the Edgartown Great Pond watershed can hardly be deemed essential. Essential is towns and nonprofits partnering to build affordable, ecologically sensitive housing in a post-pandemic Island. We need to house our truly essential population, the year-round residents working our farms, stores, restaurants, in our schools and medical facilities, in our law enforcement agencies, and other first responders. This can be done, without depending on the “generosity” of developers who balance the small payout for mandated affordable costs against enormous profit, and make a simple business, hardly an altruistic, decision to include some “affordable” element. Standard operating procedure.

Also essential is all of us working to protect our natural environment, while allowing for sensible and equitable housing. This 54-acre parcel of mature woodlands, contiguous with tracts of conserved land around the Great Pond, should become part of what’s preserved by our conservation organizations, to be shared now, and by future generations, as an integral part of our natural world.

There are clear and well-reasoned arguments against the Meetinghouse Way application (titled DRI 682B on the MVC website) that can be viewed, if you are interested. Traffic, nitrogen, water, destruction of habitat, increasing suburbanization, and inequality are all major and unanswered concerns. The MVC is charged with weighing potential detriments against benefits in determining the fate of proposals such as this one. In this case, there are no real benefits, and a long list of detriments. Please consider attending the public hearing, in whatever form it will take. This is a turning point for the Island. Let’s head in the right direction, starting with denying this proposal once and for all.

Jeff Agnoli