Too much of a good thing

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To the Editor: 

I live in a residential neighborhood in South Oak Bluffs, where there is a proposal to build affordable housing on an eight-acre plot next to the ice arena on Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road. I’m completely in agreement that we need affordable housing, and every town on Martha’s Vineyard should be doing its fair share to make this happen. The members of the Southern Tier community have embraced the affordable housing project already approved near the rink, which will allow for no less than 60 units. (This of course does not include articulated plans by the board to pursue a more extensive housing project related to the doughnut hole.) If the doughnut hole is allowed to develop based on the math of 60 units on eight acres, the doughnut holes’ 24 acres would be an additional 180 units, and then there is the Gamba property, which is also in discussions to be developed, with I’m not sure how many units.

We’re talking a potential of over 250 units, with possibly twice as many cars all exiting on Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road. That’s way too much traffic for an already too congested area. Should the proposed overdevelopment continue, the Southern Tier will be fully transformed to one more akin to a densely populated suburban area, which is inconsistent with any other area of the Island save the town centers. The implications of such overdevelopment are far-reaching, impacting, among other things, traffic and noise congestion, safety, and potentially the environmental issues. The question now is how the town of Oak Bluffs will allocate responsibility for additional affordable housing among the larger community. What other areas have been considered? If none, why not? If so, why have they not been pursued?

I’m not a NIMBY, because I am for the affordable housing proposed on the eight acres. I think, however, the rest of Oak Bluffs should share in the responsibility. The doughnut hole is 24 acres of precious green space, including ancient ways, with an Indian corn-grinding rock. The proposal for the eight acres talks about keeping the green spaces, making it pedestrian- and bike-friendly, but if ALL of the proposed development happens, the green spaces go away! I’m worried about the wastewater for all this development, not to mention it all sits on the town aquifer (town drinking water)!

Contrary to a remark made by a board member during the Zoom session this winter, effectively characterizing our area as a wasteland, our area is made up of community members who, like elsewhere on the Island, have invested in their homes and settled in the area believing that we too would enjoy an environment consistent with the Island as a whole. It is imperative that we voice our concerns as a community to ensure town officials balance our interests in maintaining the residential character of the neighborhoods rather than proposing changes that benefit a few powerful and influential landowners. Opening the door to strip-mall-like developments and commercial/industrial uses in residential neighborhoods moves us further away from what we love about the town, and what makes Martha’s Vineyard so special.

Let’s build affordable housing in a responsible way that still keeps the integrity of the Island that we love so much!

 

Kristina Almquist
Oak Bluffs