One week after lauding the idea that six dissenting commissioners would file a “first in the commission’s history” minority report outlining their differences on a sports complex for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) chair Joan Malkin explained those commissioners had a change of heart.
“The six dissenting commissioners, including myself, have deliberated at some length as to whether we should include some sort of minority report,” Malkin said.
In a separate phone conversation with The Times, Malkin was asked when those deliberations took place, since the commission had not had a meeting in between. She said the dissenting group had on several occasions discussed their feelings on filing the report, and eventually arrived at the unanimous agreement, “and with great conviction,” that there would be no benefit served by submitting it.
“We all knew we weren’t going to change the outcome,” Malkin said.
When asked if the deliberation took place in a public meeting forum, Malkin said the six dissenting commissioners did not constitute a quorum, and did not feel they needed to meet officially. She added that she isn’t aware of public meeting law prohibiting this kind of communication.
“If we breached any kind of open meeting law, it would be of our own ignorance,” Malkin said.
The high school complex, which features a controversial synthetic turf field, was approved in a 10-6 decision.
Malkin said no minority report, to her knowledge, has ever been filed in the commission’s history, although it is permitted in the MVC bylaws.
As the dissenting commissioners discussed the potential of filing a report — of which they created an unofficial draft — Malkin said it became clear to them that the report would do more harm than good.
“Our greatest concern was that the report might do harm to this institution that we are either appointed or elected to serve,” Malkin said. “It increasingly seemed to us as we discussed it further and further that it would turn out to be divisive and polarizing, rather than inclusive.”
In the end, the commissioners chose not to file the report, believing that it could set an unfortunate precedent, according to Malkin. “Whatever convictions originally motivated us, we look to the future to make sure that our voices are heard,” she said.
Talking climate change
MVC climate change planner Liz Durkee said her approach to climate change is to take the challenges the Island faces and turn them into economic, social, and infrastructure opportunities that improve the quality of life here.
“All these impacts are connected,” Durkee said. “We have to address the whole puzzle, not just the individual pieces.”
Durkee highlighted two important projects for the Island — the stormtide pathways project, and the salt marsh migration project.
The Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown has finished the first year of a stormtide pathways study that identifies 700 channels where stormwater will flow as storm surges grow and sea level rises.
This data will be compiled into an easy-to-understand GIS map that will allow for real-time water level forecasting, and most importantly, critical data for first responders and municipal planners, Durkee said.
Although the Federal Emergency Management Planning Agency (FEMA) flood maps are the gold standard for predicting flooding events, Durkee said there is the opportunity for much more detailed maps that rely on the most current data, as opposed to a compilation of historical data.
“FEMA flood maps are not accurate for identifying flood risk for several reasons: They use historic data, they do not include sea level rise, and what they call the 100-year flood is now happening about once every 20 or 30 years,” Durkee said.
When she was the Oak Bluffs conservation agent, Durkee said, she started working on a project that measures and predicts salt marsh migration.
“Salt marshes will become inundated as the sea level rises unless they can migrate inland. They can’t migrate if there are structures in their way,” she noted.
She and a number of other conservation planners came up with the idea of creating a salt marsh district of critical planning concern (DCPC) in order to facilitate a managed retreat from the coast.
Coastal geologist Rob Young has been hired by the MVC to look at the science behind the data, as well as the economics behind some of these long-term plans.
Young and Durkee will identify at-risk properties for inclusion in the DCPC, and when those properties go on the market, the town gets the right of first refusal to purchase.
The town would then sell the property to the Land Bank at fair market value, and they would remove all the buildings and septic systems — conserving the land and potentially saving the salt marshes.
“This is a model concept that we are looking into,” Durkee said.
Additionally, the Island and Gosnold recently received almost $174,000 from the Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which will be used to create a 20-year Climate Action Plan for the two communities.
Part of that money will go to external consultants and a dashboard website to share information and updates with the community and municipal officials. The work is based around seven themes that relate to how climate change is affecting our way of life.
Rob Hannemann of the MVC Climate Action Task Force (CATF) said the remnants of Hurricane Ida and its impact on the Vineyard have provided a background for why there are so many people on the Island interested in mitigating climate change.
“This is the new normal, but we don’t want the future normal to be even worse than today,” Hannemann said.
As chair of the energy working group of the CATF, Hannemann said the work they have been doing provides a comprehensive picture of the Island’s energy use and production, and lays out a road map to meet the energy goals established by the community.
In 2018, the working group developed a baseline for the energy system on the Island, determining how much energy and what kind of energy is used here.
“We have also created a model of the Island’s energy system so we can understand various pathways to lower greenhouse gas emissions,” Hannemann said. The group also published a set of working papers relating to transportation, building heating and cooling, and electricity supply and use, and have developed a draft set of recommendations.
Right now, the Island sits at around 20 percent renewable energy, but by 2030 that figure is projected to be close to 60 percent, which exceeds the Island’s energy goals of achieving 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.