Message in a Bylaw

Despite its two-time defeat on the town meeting floor, the pioneering Aquinnah energy bylaw remains ready for revival. Voters have sent a clear message to the town selectmen, planning board and other leaders and the message is this: the bylaw needs refining, with more open, public participation.

Voters have shown unambiguously that they support the development of more wind energy in town, and accordingly, backers of town wind initiatives should not be discouraged at the outcome of the special town meeting last week when the energy bylaw was rejected for a second time since June. Instead, town leaders should heed the message from voters and take the time to schedule hearings and reexamine the language in the bylaw, which is freighted with legal jargon and needs to have its wordy sails trimmed.

Also, there is still plenty of time — the energy district of critical planning concern remains in effect until December. At the outset, town leaders were optimistic that they would be able to complete the bylaw for the district in six months, and while that has not happened, it does not spell failure for the district or the forward-thinking people who crafted it. There is a reason why the commission enabling legislation sets out a full year to complete districts of critical planning concern — in fact it takes that long to develop a bylaw and accompanying regulations in a thoughtful, deliberate manner. And that includes plenty of public participation.

Aquinnah voters have said loud and clear that they want to participate, that they are interested in having a hand in shaping the town’s future. That can only be viewed as a good thing, and it is now incumbent on town leaders to put aside their differences and get to work. This is an initiative worth following through to the end.

And there is still time to get it right.