Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
In your August 10 issue, you ran a piece by David Handlin (Building a Better Big House Debate), the architect of the 12,000-plus-square-foot construction on Quitsa Pond in Chilmark which has created a storm and led to the formation of a Chilmark town committee to tighten review of big houses. Unfortunately, Mr. Handlin’s piece is a compilation of vapid and pointless clichés and red herrings that adds nothing to the debate and sidetracks the issue.
He begins: “The Vineyard is an Island, but it cannot fend off the forces that engulf our culture.” Right, bring on McDonalds! “The state of mind that underlies such an impulse [to oppose big houses] is based in fear . . .” No, perhaps it is based on hope that Chilmark will not be turned into East Hampton. He quotes Thomas Jefferson: “the earth belongs to the living,” and then adds his own bit of wisdom: “Future generations should not be burdened by the dictates and institutions of their ancestors.” Hey, which ones? Throw out the Constitution, old stuff has got to go!
Mr. Handlin continues with red herrings: the opposition to big houses comes from objecting to people who are different: “From early childhood I heard disparaging whisperings that certain people looked differently, spoke differently, dressed differently, lived differently.” Actually, no, this is not about mosques and 9/11. No one of whom I am aware thinks Mr. Handlin’s clients look “differently.” Those concerned about big houses are objecting to the construction of three large structures totaling more than 12,000 square feet on an exquisite corner of Quitsa Pond. And he continues: “Our laws — land use and otherwise — should extend the limits of our adventure in freedom, rather than curtail them.” Right, let’s go to the Houston model: No zoning, no height restrictions, just think of the wealth we might create with 12-story cement condominiums dotting our shores!
There has been and is, Mr. Handlin, a serious debate about big houses. Yes, the Vineyard is evolving, but that does not tell us that we should throw up our hands and let “freedom” reign. Are you advocating no zoning, or just no zoning which might threaten six-figure architect fees? Should there be no review, no matter what the size? Is the character and culture of Chilmark not worth preserving? Your answer, referring to your clients looking “differently,” is, in your words: “It takes all kinds.” Oh, great, bring on Donald Trump!
Do these cliché generalities make for a better big house debate?