Harnessing Positive Energy

Good for Aquinnah. The tiny town that lies at the westernmost reaches of the Vineyard has again taken the lead among Island towns as a community that is unafraid to take charge of its own affairs and keeps a sharp eye trained on the future. The forward-thinking nomination of an energy district of planning concern for Aquinnah comes at a time when towns and private landowners alike are jumping on the wind turbine bandwagon. The Aquinnah selectmen have been passionate advocates for an Islandwide energy conservation initiative, but they also want to see thoughtful, orderly planning in their town. Hence the energy district nomination, which was accepted by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in a unanimous vote last week.

A limited moratorium now goes into effect for structures over thirty two feet in height, which means no private wind turbines will be permitted until the town develops its regulations. This may be viewed in some quarters an attempt to restrict wind turbines — but in fact the opposite is true. The nomination submitted to the commission last week laid out the goals in eloquent terms:

“The residents of Aquinnah are eager to respond to a moral mandate to both conserve energy and create alternative energy sources. Given the sensitivity of our landscape we recognize a need to manage our resources. Without a comprehensive plan or policy we may find that uncontrolled development, although well-intentioned, might create havoc. For example, our current regulations do not address the siting or height of wind turbine towers.”

Aquinnah is the only town on the Vineyard that has a townwide district of critical planning concern. The energy district now proposed will be incorporated into the townwide district, if it reaches its expected conclusion. Ordinarily districts of critical planning concern take a full year to complete, but Aquinnah selectman and board chairman Camille Rose believes an energy district can be finished in half that time.

It has been said more than once that Aquinnah manages to get things done more effectively because the town is so small. That may well be true, but this can-do approach to planning by elected officials who work for the greater good of the town and are not driven by special interests, is something every town should strive to achieve — regardless of size or geographic location.