Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I’m outraged by David Handlin’s letter which was published in the Gazette on August 10.
Instead of thoughtfully engaging in the actual debate, his letter seems designed to stir the pot. The movement to update the zoning laws is not about style. It’s about size, stewardship and preserving the character of our community.
And what Mr. Handlin’s letter conveniently leaves out is that he is the architect for some of the largest houses on the Island. I assume these jobs make him a lot of money and that it is in his best interest to have the zoning laws be as lax and unclear as possible. Mr. Handlin writes that some of us do not want the Island to change, but I believe it is he who doesn’t want things — like lax zoning laws — to change.
There are many citizens working together to update the zoning laws. We want thoughtful change that protects this Island from the over-development that has wiped out many towns around the country.
A 62-year-old friend of mine was raised in East Hampton, N.Y. He told me about the potato farms and open spaces that he knew as a child. His postage stamp lot is now surrounded by trophy homes. The roads are filled with absurd traffic. Only the mansion dwellers can access the beaches. The work- force is made up of immigrants struggling to make a living for families back in their homeland. In only five decades, the town he knew is long gone.
Some say the Vineyard is already “done,” but I believe with all my heart that we can take appropriate actions that will save this incredible Island for future generations.
And I ask Mr. Handlin and his clients past and future, to sit quietly and reconsider their needs. Ask yourself, “Am I doing good by building a 12, 15, or 25,000-square-foot home?”
And finally, Mr. Handlin, perhaps most offensive are your words: “For more than 300 years Martha’s Vineyard has been in a constant state of evolution, and it would only be ignoring history to believe that this ceaseless process can be brought to a halt.”
It is you, Mr. Handlin, who is ignoring history.
For hundreds of years people have built summer homes that are sensitive to the community and respect the rural character of our Island. Not to mention the fact that the Wampanoag tribe has lived here for many thousands of years — without even a hint of a trophy home.
Let’s be stewards, not hogs.
P.S. My soul brother Henry David Thoreau writes: “What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”