MVBA calls for stop to DRI changes

Building association says MVC “betrays the public trust” with proposed checklist.

Updated Oct. 14 

The Martha’s Vineyard Builders Association (MVBA) is calling on its members to put a halt to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission from implementing new thresholds to its development of regional impact (DRI) checklist.

Last week the MVBA board of directors emailed a letter to its members deriding the commission’s proposed changes. “The Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s efforts to override our elected officials and constituent boards, and to bypass the process by which our industry is regulated, not only goes against statute but betrays the public trust,” the letter states.

In August, commissioners saw pushback from the public, local planning boards, and other stakeholders over the proposed changes, with some saying they were an overreach by the commission. 

DRIs allow the commission to review large developments that might have significant impacts on the areas around them, or on more than one town. Every two years the commission reviews its DRI checklist.

In September, the commission finalized the draft of its checklist, which proposes to allow the commission purview over smaller subdivisions, and promote more energy-efficient buildings.

A “big-house trigger” that would require review of large single-family homes was removed from the proposed checklist, and replaced with a placeholder.

The MVBA letter cites the thousands of state and local restrictions and building and zoning codes that the building community already adheres to, and calls on its members to insist the commission remove a placeholder which could allow the commission to regulate single-family home construction and renovation, and remove any policies that seek to regulate the use of fossil fuels or require renewable investments for single-family homes. The letter states that both of these provisions should only be approved with specific language approved at town meetings.

“The Martha’s Vineyard Commission is advancing its unilateral effort to oversee single-family construction on Martha’s Vineyard and prohibit the use of fossil fuels in homes and businesses,” the letter states in part. “To the commissioners, appointed and elected, we insist that you do the hard work of building consensus by respecting the island’s residents and your counterparts in town government for the resources they are, and not mere obstacles to be overcome.”

The MVBA’s email came a week before the commission is set to take a vote on the changes, and is not part of the public record, since it was not submitted to the commission during its public comment period.

The commission is slated to vote on the new checklist at its meeting Thursday.

Commissioner and DRI checklist review committee chair Fred Hancock told The Times by phone Tuesday that he was disappointed by the MVBA letter. “I thought that we had a very good relationship with them. We reached out to them, and we had an open meeting with their membership,” Hancock said. “Pretty much all of what they’re talking about has to do with a checklist item that we actually removed.”

Hancock referred to the commission’s decision to remove the big-house trigger and leave a placeholder in its spot.

The placeholder states that the commission intends to create a large residential structure checklist item, but only after “additional public hearings on the text of such an item and commission adoption, the commission will submit the revision for state approval.”

“Once this checklist goes to [the state] for approval, that’s it. We can’t change it,” he said. “If we change anything on it we have to go through the same process again, we hold a public hearing, we vote on it, and it would get sent back to Boston again for approval. It’s not a trapdoor or anything.”


Updated to correct big house trigger. — Ed.