On Monday, the Chilmark planning board held a public meeting on Zoom to discuss development options for Peaked Hill Pastures. This is the second of a three-part meeting series planned to discuss the proposed affordable housing development.
Consultant Karen Sunnaborg led the presentation.
The first meeting, held on June 14, introduced affordable housing and the Island’s demographic shift to attendees. It also went into detail about the conditions and development concerns of Peaked Hill Pastures alongside the planning board’s goals. A recording of the meeting can be found on the planning board page of the Town of Chilmark website.
According to Janet Weidner, chair of the planning board subcommittee, the Peaked Hill Pastures proposal committee was formed by the Chilmark select board in 2017 to research a good use of the property by seeking public feedback. Four options were introduced by the committee: housing, recreational use, open space, or to keep some of the property for future use. The select board decided housing was the need that Chilmark had to meet, so they turned to the planning board to develop plans. Along with hiring civil engineers, the planning board received financial support from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in researching usable land for housing infrastructure in Peaked Hill Pastures.
According to Sunnaborg’s presentation, some key parts people wanted from the affordable housing project are year-round rentals, a “thoughtfully designed” pocket neighborhood providing a “sense of community and preservation of Chilmark’s rural values,” among other items. This was gathered during the first meeting.
Sunnaborg’s presentation during the second meeting covered various development topics, such as constraints, financing, and permits. In constructing the houses, options discussed were “you build” models, which would allow people to build their own homes but would take longer to complete the project, or turn-key models, which would allow greater oversight of the project by the town. Housing rental and ownership considerations were also discussed. For ownership, one of the key goals is to ensure people raised in Chilmark are able to purchase a home. Sunnaborg also showed different on-Island affordable housing project communities that can be used as models for Peaked Hill Pastures, such as Keuhn’s Way in TIsbury and Middle Line Road in Chilmark. Off-Island affordable communities were also shown as possible models, such as Danielson Grove in Kirkland, Washington and Cottages on Greene in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
The planning board took feedback and insight from the public attending the meeting after the presentation. There was a general agreement that this project will help meet a dire housing need on the Island. There were concerns that an increase in housing might turn the rural Chilmark into a noisier suburban area, with things such as lawn mower noises.
Deb Dunn, one of the attendees, said creating more diversity for Chilmark should be taken into consideration for the project since a “significant number” of Black, Brazilian, and Wampanoag people are unable to live in Chilmark year-round. “By diversifying we are creating more vibrancy and adding to the fabric of our community and we also add economic resiliency,” said Dunn.
Attendee Colin Reul said he agrees increasing diversity on the Island is great. However, Reul thinks Chilmark needs to do more to protect the residents already living in the town since many are unable to pass down homes to their children who grew up in Chilmark. Reul’s own family has lived on Martha’s Vineyard for multiple generations. “I have no hope of owning anything here on the Island,” said Reul. “What we really need to do is preserve the community…it’s just really frustrating to me when I hear summer people telling me what we should do with our community. Many of the Islanders here have one home, have their backs up against the wall, have no hope for their future, no hope for their children, nothing to own, no prospect of passing anything down. You need to create home ownership for Chilmarkers and people with history and culture here.”
Valerie Sonnenthal, a Chilmark resident and a columnist for the Times, said more should be done to reach out to the community about the project. “I just feel that [only] addressing the community that shows up at these [meetings] is very limited,” said Sonnenthal. “If you want a real understanding of what people who live here feel they need, there should be an actual questionnaire that goes out to everybody so that everybody has a chance to weigh in whether they were conscious of these meetings or not or if they’re working so hard this is not something they can get to.”
The Zoom meeting concluded with a survey for the public attending the meeting so the planning board could collect data.
A third meeting to discuss Peaked Hill Pastures is scheduled for September 20 at 6 pm on Zoom.