Shine a Light

On an Island where the dire lack of low and moderately priced housing is a perennial issue, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission is right to require a public hearing on an affordable housing proposal from the developers of the Field Club in Edgartown.

The developers have offered one million, eight hundred thousand dollars to put toward affordable housing in Edgartown. In return, they want relief from the commission requirement, based on longstanding policy, that they set aside three of the club’s thirty-two lots for affordable housing.

The developers, who already had worked out this proposed deal with the Edgartown affordable housing committee, don’t want to even consider a public hearing on the matter.

And why? Are they so worried about what might be said? The stance betrays a basic misunderstanding of the democratic process that Vineyard voters have approved to regulate large-scale developments such as the Field Club.

Further, the final decision on the proposal will be made by the commissioners, not any individuals who speak at the hearing or submit testimony.

The commissioners are right to solicit public comment on a plan that could have a substantial impact on affordable housing in Edgartown.

As such, the proposal would benefit from additional scrutiny. Perhaps the proferred sum, which Mr. Murphy said could immediately create five or six affordable housing units, is well worth taking.

Then again, maybe the developers are getting off cheaply, despite the substantial payment, by retaining three more lots that they can sell at a market rate.

And then there is the unfortunate precedent of the well-heeled buying their way out of having to share the upscale Field Club development with a handful of less affluent residents, people who could not even take advantage of its planned club amenities.

A closer look is in order.