Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I have been walking at Lambert’s Cove Beach with my dogs for many years. I am seasonal so my dates of walking are typically from June 20 to Sept. 10. I usually arrive there around 8:30 in the morning and stay until we must be off at 10:00. I have never gone off-season or in the evenings. I write for the times I go every morning. Usually during a summer season I see a total of two or occasionally three dog feces on the path that have not been picked up.
I will pick these up and dispose of them. I have never seen feces on the beach. For the last year almost everybody leashes their dogs on the path. Often people leave their bags of feces with their shoes when they go to the beach, but they do pick them up and dispose of them as they return. It is a constant surprise how well behaved the dogs and their owners are. More frequently, but again very seldom, there will be empty grocery containers on the path — empty soda bottles, chip plastic containers, etc. I assume that the evening seasonal crowd are equally conscientious since I do not see unpicked up feces on the path when I arrive in the morning. It is possible that earlier walkers pick up any that are there. Given my own experience, I do not understand why there seems to be a yearly complaint of the unpicked-up dog feces on the path and beach.
Through my own observations I know that the beach and path are almost entirely free of dog feces during the summer season. I have a friend who has not been on the beach for over 20 years yet she complains to me of the dog feces every time I tell her about my pleasures of walking there with my dog. Perhaps complaints are based on long past experience. Your vote to close the beach to these well behaved owners and their dogs will rob many of one of their chief pleasures on the Vineyard.
Some research might be done. You could interview those beach going people who arrive after 10 and ask them if they see unpicked-up dog leavings before you listen only to those who don’t like or want dogs on the beach. I do not know what happens during off-season times, but I know Vineyarders care for their Island and I assume they are as conscientious as I am.
Cambridge and Chilmark
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The following letter was sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission:
For the second time in six months, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission plans to revisit the question of whether the size of single family residences should be added to their development of regional impact (DRI) checklist. I strongly oppose this proposition. As I cannot attend the meeting, I request this letter be read into the record at the meeting.
The size of single family residences is not a regional planning issue that requires redress by a supra-commission like the MVC. All necessary tools are locally available to Island towns to address this matter as they may best choose. Any actions by the MVC in this arena can only serve to weaken local town control — a criterion clearly inconsistent with the MVC charter and certainly a cynical objective for the commission to pursue.
I offer a few thoughts and observations for the commission’s consideration.
Please note that MGL Chap. 40A, which addresses zoning, includes in section three the following prohibition:
“No zoning ordinance or bylaw shall regulate or restrict the interior area of a single family residential building . . .; provided, however, that such land or structures may be subject to reasonable regulations concerning the bulk and height of structures and determining yard sizes, lot area, setbacks, open space, parking and building coverage requirements.”
To me this points directly to the fact that MVC could not regulate the referrals, or promulgate rules, based solely upon the interior area of a single family residence. As size cannot be a trigger point, it would appear to invalidate all of the option three approach in the MVC memo, which is based on floor space.
Size control can be indirectly achieved through other methods identified in the 40A statute. Please note that limitations on height, lot area and setbacks already exist in the zoning bylaws of every Island town, and some use other listed criteria as well.
In my view, the proposed MVC referral concept both usurps and undermines our towns’ autonomy and discretion in their zoning authority through their planning and zoning boards of appeal. For what purpose? The MVC memo’s possible options one and two (to provide “technical assistance” or “discretionary referrals to the towns”) appear a poorly considered and largely political effort by the MVC to garner the support of a few individuals in some Island towns by jumping on the populist “size” bandwagon. I wish to hold the MVC to a distinctly higher, and more professional standard.
If any individuals in any town are truly concerned about single family residence size, they simply need to propose changes to their own zoning bylaws through their town meeting. There is little evidence that towns are concerned about this. However, if they are, they may choose to adopt a simple concept, widely used and accepted by the courts, which is a floor area ratio.
A floor area ration sets a relationship between lot area and building area. A simple example would be to say that if the legal building lot is 40,000m square feet, the floor area of the proposed residence could be limited to some fraction of that amount, for example, .25, which would allow 10,000 square feet for building size.
The MVC memo, under option two, also mentions a possible referral criteria of “. . . Being highly visible from a public place, especially from major roads or the coast ...”
Unlike already existing Roadside Districts (e.g., Chilmark requires a lower building height within certain distances of the roadway), the vague language of “highly visible” would have a major negative implication on real estate values by creating a new, and highly subjective distinction between “highly visible” and not visible lots and their respective controls on building. Further, such a change would appear to have the character of a “regulatory taking” because it would change the value, and so the taxes, on existing adjoining properties. Such takings customarily require owner compensation — likely a cost to be borne by the towns.
Another possible referral criteria, “located in historic or traditional neighborhoods,” is redundant. If a town has voted an historic district into its zoning bylaw, projects within that district are already subject to additional review by the local historic commission and conformity to whatever rules it may have chosen to promulgate. Governed by MGL Chap 40C, historic commissions ar e already empowered to:
“[Section 7] In the case of new construction or additions to existing buildings or structures the commission shall consider the appropriateness of the size and shape of the building or structure both in relation to the land area upon which the building or structure is situated and to buildings and structures in the vicinity, and the commission may in appropriate cases impose dimensional and set-back requirements in addition to those required by applicable ordinance or bylaw.”
Again, the key point is towns already have the tools to govern their own concerns about size in such neighborhoods.
Another suggested referral criteria, “. . . Exceeding the nitrogen-loading limit for the watershed . . .,” is not relevant as a control on size. Nitrogen-loading criteria may have use as a population density control — and thus may translate into land area per bedroom (e.g., Edgartown uses 15,000 square feet of land area per bedroom to address adequate recharge to the aquifer). However, this measure has no relationship to the size of that bedroom — it might be 100 square feet or 500 square feet. Nor does it address a size limit for any other type of room in the residence.
Lastly, the proposed MVC involvement in size issues, and the referral requirements thereto, implies a one-size-fits-all approach. To me, it is self-evident that each town faces different issues in consideration of size, density and limits to growth. What may be of legitimate concern on the smaller lots and close-knit neighborhoods of Oak Bluffs may have little relevance to Chilmark. Since zoning is individual to each town, and each town has access to zoning tools, there is no gain in centralizing size issues at the MVC, but there is significant loss.
In summary, the MVC has played, and can continue to play, an important role in helping the Island control matters individual towns cannot address. I urge the commissioners to maintain that focus.
Chilmark and Brookline
The writer is a registered architect.
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
Town officials and Island residents have seen letters from Don Muckerheide that charge Oak Bluffs officials, Tony’s Market and us with failing to enforce or follow the town’s bylaws that regulate development, parking and business practices over the last 20 years. That is false and unfair to our town officials and to us. Don is certainly entitled to his opinions, but not to make up charges or facts. We want people to know that since the day we opened for business in March 1992, we have been in full compliance with every order, bylaw, ruling and decision of town officials and boards — including all provisions pertaining to off-street parking and deli business.
No Oak Bluffs official has ever failed to enforce any town rules or regulations that apply to Tony’s, and we have never failed to comply with them 100 per cent. We take pride in our record of compliance with our town’s rules and regulations. It is the right thing to do and we are proud of it.
After public meetings of the roads and byways committee and planning board in September, October and November this year, the selectmen have taken a thoughtful and creative initiative to improve vehicular safety, increase on-street parking for residents, customers and visitors, and provide a safe walkway down the side of Dukes County avenue. Let’s see how it works and what changes might further improve it. And let us try to work and talk with each other so that the needs and best interests of everyone in town can be served well. Isn’t that what living and working on this Island are all about?
Dave and Ellen Richardson
The writers are the owners of Tony’s Market.
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
Casino gambling will prove to be a mistake in Massachusetts. The social costs to the gamblers who can least afford to squander their money will be profound, and families will suffer. Casino proponents claim that jobs will be created. But what kind of jobs?
Construction workers will benefit while the casinos are built. After that, most of the casino jobs will be low-paying, service-level positions. Instead, as Senator Wolf said, the state needs to improve its infrastructure.
We must consider the economic impact that casinos will have on the communities surrounding them. Local restaurants, bars and retail establishments all stand to lose revenue when competing with the casinos, which typically offer free or discounted prices on food and drink to lure customers.
FAIRIES AND TROLLS
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
The West Tisbury Library would like to thank a few of the people who made our first annual Fairy Troll House building day such a success: Andrew Jephcote, a master gatherer and visionary, Paula Bolash and Trevor Lowther for gathering and advice, Isabel Littlefield for inspiration and Lynne Whiting and Carol Brush for a gem of an idea.
During this time of emphasis on consumerism, ibooks, ebooks, ipads, and iphones, it is so great to get kids and families outside: building, creating, sharing and noticing the fabulous materials that nature presents us with. Emma Young, our able and gifted fairy house builder really made it come to life. Thanks so much to all who participated.
The Vineyard Gazette welcomes letters to the editor on any subject concerning Martha’s Vineyard. The newspaper strives to publish all letters as space allows, although the editor reserves the right to reject letters that in her judgment are inappropriate. Letters must be signed, and should include a place of residence and contact telephone number. The Gazette does not publish anonymous letters.