The town of Aquinnah, known for being progressive in planning, this week moved a step closer to adopting a townwide energy conservation district.
Town selectmen on Wednesday submitted a nomination to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to designate Aquinnah as an energy district of critical planning concern (DCPC). The nomination was filed by Camille Rose, chairman of the selectmen.
“The residents of Aquinnah are eager to respond to a moral mandate to both conserve energy and [to] create alternative energy sources. Given the sensitivity of our landscape, we recognize a need to manage our resources,” the nomination said in part.
At its meeting last night the commission voted unanimously to accept the nomination. Ordinarily DCPC nominations trigger an automatic building moratorium, but in this case the moratorium will be limited to structures over 32 feet in height. This would include private wind turbines. The vote last night also triggers a process that will include a public hearing and another vote by the commission on whether to designate the district.
Aquinnah already has in place a townwide DCPC, so if an energy conservation district is designated by the commission, it would become part of the townwide district, the only such district on the Island. “This would provide us with some breathing room and some time to develop guidelines for energy conservation and generation, including zoning regulations,” Ms. Rose said this week.
Ironically Aquinnah, a leader in energy initiatives, is the only Island community without a bylaw that regulates wind turbines.
Led by selectman James Newman, Aquinnah launched an initiative last year to create an Islandwide energy district of critical planning concern. Voters in four towns approved the concept, including Aquinnah, Chilmark, West Tisbury and Oak Bluffs. But Edgartown and Tisbury refused to sign onto the idea.
The idea of an Islandwide energy conservation district was later picked up for discussion by the group working on the commission’s Island Plan.
This week Ms. Rose said she believes that rules for a townwide energy conservation district can be developed in less than a year — the ordinary time frame for districts of critical planning concern.
“I am committed to accomplishing this process in six months rather than the statutory year,” Ms. Rose said yesterday. “There are a lot of interested people who are encouraging development of alternative energy sources. A shorter time frame would help maintain impetus. We and other people want to see this happen as soon as possible,” she added.
In the nomination submitted to the commission, selectmen wrote:
“Without a comprehensive plan or policy we may find that uncontrolled development although well intentioned, might create havoc . . .
“With carefully considered guidelines, it is possible to encourage efficient, responsible building construction. Regulations designed to optimize alternate uses in new construction can educate property owners, while benefitting the Island community. This DCPC could encompass optimum placement of wind turbines, solar panels and geothermal systems as well as revolutionary construction design.”