To the Editor:
Growing up on the Vineyard, I have seen how both planned and unplanned development change the Island. Some of the forests I walked in no longer exist because they have been cleared and built over. Many of the neighborhoods of modest year-round homes where my friends lived are now transformed into a mix of new, larger seasonal homes and investment properties. A lot of the rural roads I biked are now lined with cars, trucks, landscaping trailers, and 18-wheelers hauling all the goods and services our modern world consumes. Yet even with all the changes, the Island continues to have a close-knit and strong community, nature remains all around us, and a rural road may only be punctuated by the friendly waves of passing drivers. Much of this can be attributed to the work of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), now in its fourth decade.
The MVC grants us a say in how change plays out. It allows us to guide development and policy in a way that preserves the character of this place that we all cherish. Islanders regularly discuss tipping points for Martha’s Vineyard, such as build-out scenarios, wastewater, traffic, and the seasonal influx of visitors, which puts tremendous pressure on our services but also underpins our economy. The broad powers of the MVC allow us to find a balance between preservation and development, to chart a course toward a vibrant economy that delivers affordable housing, sustainable year-round employment, water quality, and open space protection.
As we recognize the fragility of our place as a result of development pressure, we must also now address the added challenges of climate change. It is bearing down on the Island, and we need to find the motivation to work together to build resilience. Climate change has made our future look uncertain and tumultuous, and the work we undertake over the coming years will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren in profound and very permanent ways. Fortunately, while the prescient legislation that created the MVC did not foresee global climate disruption upending how we live, it gives us an important set of tools to find and implement a safe path forward.
I joined the Tisbury planning board in 2014 as an associate member, and later that year was appointed to fill the seat of a retiring member. At the time I felt that my training in architecture, experience in the Island’s construction industry (from working alongside my dad and brother from a young age), and affinity for strategy and planning would be assets to the town. I was elected in 2015 to fill the last three years of that vacated seat, and re-elected in 2018. The Tisbury select board has appointed me to serve on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for the past four years. Appointments are one-year terms.
At the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, as an appointed member, I serve on the MVC’s Finance Committee. I also served on this current year’s biennial DRI Checklist Review Committee. I chair the Energy and Green Building Policy Review Committee, and founded the MVC’s Climate Action Task Force, a group of commissioners and volunteers representing all the Island towns. As chairman of the task force, I have been humbled and filled with gratitude for the way its members have unified, showing the tremendous potential when we work together, as a single Island, on an issue.
My experience on the MVC over these last four years has taught me the importance of using the deep local knowledge embedded in each town to work regionally on the biggest issues we face. The problems in my hometown of Tisbury are the same problems the entire Island faces, and the successes of one town are successes for the entire Island. Regionalization might be the third rail of Vineyard politics, but growing up here, I have always felt we were one Island, made up of six interconnected yet distinct and beautiful towns. Today, with the pressure of climate change and the expensive cost of doing anything, I have no doubt that the Island’s future will only be secure if we are all aligned with a common purpose to confront these immense challenges.
I hope my fellow Island voters will allow me to continue being a part of the MVC, as an elected member. My name is on your ballot. If you support the work I’ve been doing, please vote for me.
Benjamin (Ben) F. Robinson