MVC Defers Chappy Decision


After listening to more than two hours of bitterly divided testimony from an overflow crowd, the Martha's Vineyard Commission postponed a decision last night on a proposal to designate the entire island of Chappaquiddick as a district of critical planning concern (DCPC).

"I will tell you that Chappy is a finite place, and because of its size what happens on this island affects everything else - the beaches, the roads, the ferry," declared Don Crocker, president of the Chappaquiddick Island Association.

"Chappy is a unique place and one of the jewels of the Island. It needs a unique solution to preserve it," said Chappaquiddick resident Edith W. Potter.

"There are some issues on Chappy, but I'm not sure a DCPC is going to address them. An awful lot of what we are experiencing isn't going to change by waving a magic wand," said Chappaquiddick resident Bob Fynbo.

"I am against this DCPC and I think there are viable alternatives," said Edgartown resident Roy Meekins.

The comments came during a public hearing on the DCPC designation, held at the Chappaquiddick Community Center. More than 100 people jammed the community center for the hearing.

Although the majority of the people attending the hearing appeared to favor the DCPC, the opponents were extremely vocal, and their remarks were delivered in angry tones at times.

Chappaquiddick resident Ronald Monterosso, who has led a campaign against the DCPC in recent weeks, openly derided the Chappaquiddick Island Association, calling it "simply the equivalent of a garden club." The association has been at the forefront of the DCPC proposal.

The commission voted to nominate Chappaquiddick as a DCPC last month, triggering an automatic building moratorium. If the DCPC designation is approved by the commission, the moratorium will remain in place for one year, while new regulations are developed.

The nomination was sponsored by the Edgartown conservation commission, and it has the support of the Edgartown selectmen and a large group of Chappaquiddick residents. Yesterday the Massachusetts Historical Commission submitted a letter to the commission strongly supporting the DCPC.

Chappaquiddick is a residential island located off the extreme eastern end of Edgartown.The small island has only one paved road, no town water, no town sewer and no streetlights.

"It is exactly for places like Chappaquiddick that the Martha's Vineyard Commission and DCPCs were created," Mr. Crocker said last night.

DCPCs are overlay planning districts with special regulations.

In opening remarks, Mr. Crocker cited the extensive work that has gone on in the last two years on a master plan for Chappy. A detailed set of goals and objectives include a water quality protection program, open space protection and protection for archaeological and cultural resources.

Mr. Crocker credited some of the historic conservation efforts on Chappaquiddick in the last century.

"If Charles Bird and Oliver Filley and The Trustees of Reservations and other conservation-minded people hadn't come along when they did, there would be nothing to talk about tonight," he said.

Mrs. Potter, who has lived on Chappaquiddick year-round for 31 years and was a summer resident for 40 years before that, offered her own perspective. "I have seen several booms and slowdowns, and until recently Chappy seemed able to absorb these changes. Now things are different," she said.

Edgartown selectman Fred B. Morgan Jr. agreed. "We feel very strongly that the majority of people on Chappaquiddick support this DCPC, and we also support it," he said, adding: "Things have been moving too rapidly. I wish we could have done something like this in the town of Edgartown."

A number of Chappy residents stood to support the DCPC.

"Things have closed in on us quite a bit. I'd like to use this time to get a handle on things," said Geoff Kontje.

"Somewhere there has to be a balance between building houses and preservation - do we need to see Chappy turned into a mini-version of Cape Cod, where real estate development and greed go hand in hand?" said Terry Forde.

Then the opponents had their turn.

Homeowner Steve Wardwell spoke at length against the DCPC, questioning the basis and criticizing the work of the Chappaquiddick Island Association.

"There is some risk in a DCPC if this is perceived as an abuse of the process because it's not supported by empirical material," he said. Mr. Wardwell's remarks were peppered with statements about his own business background. "Has anyone run the numbers? Pardon me, because I happen to have some Price Waterhouse experience," he said.

Mr. Monterosso said the DCPC is not supported by the facts. "The commission doesn't have any evidence in front of it. There is no town board that has come to tell you that the regulations are insufficient, outside of the selectmen's hand-stamped approval of this," he said.

Chappaquiddick Resident Robert Enos presented a petition against the DCPC with 200 signatures on it.

Chris Kennedy, regional director for The Trustees of Reservations, said The Trustees had adopted a neutral position.

In the end the commission decided to continue the hearing to one more session. The commission must vote on the designation by June 7. A date for the final hearing will be set this week.