Aquinnah considers building codes to fight climate change

The warrant articles may be appearing during the annual town meeting in May. 

Aquinnah is looking to adopt measures to fight climate change. — MV Times

Aquinnah voters may be voting whether to ban fossil fuel use in newly constructed buildings during the upcoming annual town meeting. The proposal is part of a state climate-energy pilot program that Aquinnah joined last summer. 

Aquinnah climate and energy committee chair Bill Lake came before the Aquinnah Select Board during a Tuesday meeting with two warrant article proposals: the implementation of a bylaw that would require new construction in the town to be fossil-fuel-free, and adopting stricter building codes to be more energy-efficient. 

Lake presented the opt-in code last month, but the board wanted more information.

“We recommend that both articles be included in the warrant for the May meeting,” Lake said on Tuesday. “We sent both to town counsel for review, and we’ll be back with [finalized texts] once town counsel has done their magic.” 

Board members haven’t taken a vote yet on approving the articles on the warrant after this week’s meeting. 

The proposed warrant articles would bolster the Island’s efforts to combat climate change. 

“We all know climate change is happening,” Lake said, listing several signs of climate change, including the 10 warmest years occurring since 2010, New England waters warming faster than most of the global ocean, sea level rise, a rise in ocean acidity affecting shellfish, and more. Lake also noted that the U.N. climate committee recently put out its sternest warnings yet. “Their conclusion was there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all,” he said. “All of us who are concerned about the fate of our Island and our families, I think we need to take this very seriously.” 

Martha’s Vineyard has a goal of ending fossil fuel use by 2040, a decade before the state’s goal of 2050, and all six towns adopted the stretch building code to become green communities. The stretch code is a version of the building code designed to make buildings more energy-efficient. The opt-in specialized code is an addition on top of the stretch code.

For Aquinnah specifically, it adopted a construction bylaw last year to require new construction projects to be all-electric. The town had to file a home rule petition to have this, alongside several other municipalities. According to Lake, the state’s Department of Energy Resources recommended these municipalities take a uniform approach. Lake said the state recommended the municipalities to also adopt the specialized code. If adopted, the code needs to take effect by July 1, 2024. Around 300 Massachusetts municipalities have already adopted the stretch code. 

Other committee members expressed support for the additions. “I just feel so proud of our town,” committee member Noli Taylor said. “We were one of the last towns in the commonwealth to get electricity, and now that we’re on the leading edge of this movement toward responsible energy use, I just think we have a lot to be proud of.” 

Committee member Jim Pickman said he wanted Lake’s presentation to be shared with more people on the Island. 

Board member Tom Murphy thanked Lake for leading the initiative, but asked how the standards would be enforced. According to Lake, enforcement would be up to the building inspectors. 


The climate change–related warrant articles weren’t the only ones discussed during the meeting. The board unanimously approved a warrant for a special town meeting, scheduled to take place on Wednesday, April 26, at 7 pm. The articles include one on whether to approve an amended regional agreement for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, and another on a $2 million feasibility study for the school’s replacement or reconstruction, both of which need to go to all towns. The other articles were more specific to Aquinnah, including zoning bylaw amendments that would exempt certain auxiliary apartments from rental limitations, and personnel bylaw amendments, like replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. 

In other news, the town will extend the existing lease for the Cliff lot lease of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) until November. Further negotiations will take place in the fall.

Meanwhile, Aquinnah is dealing with an issue regarding credit cards. Town employees have been using personal credit cards to cover town expenses, and receiving reimbursements. This is because credit cards are required to be tied to a Social Security number. However, if a payment is late, then the employee’s credit score takes a hit. The town is looking into what options are available to alleviate this situation, such as requesting invoices.


  1. Another feel good suggestion, and by law for the town and the island that loves to promote feel good causes. Towns can create their own rules, and that is as it should be, but make no mistake about these rules and laws they do more to make you feel good then the reality of the intention. The majority of our electricity supply will be coming from fossil fuels in 2040. Unless an alternative energy source is found, and it will not be wind or solar that will be supplying the huge energy needs of the country.

    • People want to feel good about clean air and water.
      Dirty air and water change the climate.
      Wind and solar continue to increase exponentially.
      Should it be stopped?

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