Editors, Vineyard Gazette,
The March 16 Gazette includes an article on the Chilmark Planning Board’s open discussion regarding regulating large homes. The debate has proven to be an interesting and an important one, when considering future development on the Island. Although I am quoted in the article, the reporter wrote an incomplete account of my full quote and/or intent.
The quote suggests I am somewhat critical of regulatory processes that exist in both Aquinnah and Nantucket, yet I am in favor of rules and guidelines that will tell me exactly what to do from the “outside” (“outset” was the word I used), when designing a new house. For the record, and as a designer of new homes, let me clarify: 1. I would never be in favor of guidelines that tell me exactly what to do. If there were such guidelines, there would be no need for designers – I would be out of a job. 2. The context of my entire quote was an attempt to describe the cost of the lengthy permitting processes in both Aquinnah and Nantucket; however, there may be aspects of those processes that could be used to help simplify a new process being considered in Chilmark. I emphasized the importance of new regulatory/zoning language being kept simple and objective. Implementing additional special permit processes (the approval mechanism when proposing development within a District Of Critical Planning Concern – DCPC) is not necessarily the answer. 3. I suggested an example, similar to Nantucket’s Floor Area Ratio (FAR), where a proposed building’s size (footprint and vertical mass) may be measured against its land area (property). I also mentioned building on such a model by including a land disturbance ratio in an effort to reduce the destruction of the existing ecosystem with larger manicured landscapes. The floor area and land disturbance ratios would provide for clear and objective departure points when designing, and subsequently reviewing/approving, new building projects. 4. I am in favor of a clear process that would allow me to explain, to a new client, what is and isn’t permissible, from the outset, based on reasonable and agreed upon criteria.
Design is a subjective pursuit characterized by emotional responsedifferent strokes for different folks. Regulating design, outside of historic districts, would be a suffocating stance to take.