The Martha’s Vineyard Commission has an important role to play when it comes to planning and protection of the Vineyard environment, a majority of people polled by the Vineyard Gazette Harris Interactive survey said.
The commission was singled out for special questioning in the survey which polled more than 500 seasonal and permanent residents on issues ranging from quality of life to cell phone service.
The results showed that the commission, a regional planning agency created by an act of the state legislature in 1974 with special regulatory and planning powers, remains well known although not universally so. A majority of residents polled, 63 per cent, were either very familiar or somewhat familiar with the commission. At the bottom tier, 37 per cent of the people surveyed were either not very familiar or not at all familiar with the commission. Permanent residents had slightly more familiarity than seasonal residents.
Those who had familiarity with the commission were asked further questions about the MVC’s stated objectives as spelled out in its enabling legislation. A strong majority of permanent and seasonal residents combined ranked the following as either very important or somewhat important objectives for the MVC:
• Preserving the character of the Island (94 per cent).
• Preservation of open space and natural resources (93 per cent).
• Promoting a sustainable Island economy (90 per cent).
• Regional planning (89 per cent).
• Regulating development (87 per cent).
• Promoting affordable housing (82 per cent).
• Collecting and publishing Islandwide data (81 per cent).
India Whitcombe, 30, an Island native who now lives elsewhere and participated in the survey, said in a phone interview with the Gazette this week that she thinks the commission is responsible for all of the objectives, but especially preserving the character of the Island. “I think the size of houses is a really big issue that needs to be addressed,” Ms. Whitcombe said.
Collecting and publishing Island-wide data was ranked the least important objective by those surveyed.
Elsewhere in the survey, residents cited as their top concerns for the future the cost of living on the Island, and coastal erosion. Some respondents said the commission has a critical role to play as a regional planning agency in examining and finding solutions to these problems.
“I think it’s very important that somebody be focused on an overview of the Island and the needs of the whole Island, because each town is concerned with itself,” said Robby Bick, 55, who participated in the survey and agreed to be interviewed later by the Gazette. “And certainly in a world of global warming and international development . . . I really think you need somebody who has an overview and can think a little bit beyond the horizon.”
Mr. Bick added: “This Island is going to be facing some major issues in the next century with sea level rise and changing the environment. We’re going to be hit by our own [Hurricane] Sandy one of these days.”