An unusual possible conflict of interest could delay a Martha’s Vineyard Commission vote this week on a plan to build a solar canopy over the parking lot at Cronig’s Market in Vineyard Haven.
The applicant for the development project is the community-based energy cooperative Vineyard Power. Of the 15 voting members of the MVC, 11 are members of the cooperative. On Monday land use planning committee chairman Doug Sederholm announced that the commission must wait for an opinion from the state ethics commission before voting on the project.
Mr. Sederholm said the commission had been advised by its counsel to seek an ethics commission ruling after the unusual circumstances were brought to light at a public hearing last Thursday.
“If everyone recused themselves we couldn’t vote on this project,” he said.
Vineyard Power, which currently counts 1,200 members on the Vineyard, was an offspring of the commission’s 2009 Island Plan.
“It [Vineyard Power] was the direct response to a recommendation in the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s Island Plan which called for the creation of a community-owned renewable energy cooperative,” Vineyard Power president Richard Andre said at last week’s hearing. The cooperative hopes to eventually recruit 15,000 members and return the savings from solar and large scale-wind projects to Islanders in the form of low energy bills.
Despite the legal tangle, on Monday the land use planning committee voted to recommend approval of the project to the full commission.
Last week commissioners expressed some worry that the 12,200-square-foot $1.1 million solar canopy array had not attracted much public comment, either for or against. By noon on Monday the commission had received nine correspondences, seven backing the plan (including a letter from the Tisbury planning board) and two opposed to it.
The commission was scheduled to decide on the project on this Thursday, but Mr. Sederholm said that is now up in the air pending a ruling from the ethics commission.