Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
After four years of being on the Chilmark housing committee and with a success rate of one home site in those four years I decided to see if it was possible to privately create housing faster. I found a great piece of land in West Tisbury abutting a sweet path to the school and imagined the generations of families to come that would appreciate the location and I was empowered by this vision.
The town in its wisdom had created a great bylaw specifically for people to do this sort of thing. One problem, four years ago when we started, it hadn’t really been used. I found a partner to join me who needed housing and found others who would also like an affordable home and thus we forged ahead with a dream. Bouncing between the planning board and the West Tisbury housing committee for almost three years, we began to solidify what the town wanted and was willing to accept in allowing someone to use this bylaw. Untested as it was, there were undefined boundaries and in the end the town agreed that they wanted to uphold a minimum acreage rule of one acre per home.
Thinking it would be a good idea, I began the process by approaching every single abutter and sharing my vision of what I hoped to do. The reactions were varied and cautious but there was little optimism. There was a lot of stress and tension (at least for us) as the abutters mounted a campaign to fight our project. Most of the abutters have long roots on the Vineyard and friends or family that need or use affordable housing, yet still they opposed us. I was perplexed by this paradox. Good local people — the kind you’d choose to have as neighbors. The Nimby signs were figuratively painted across our land.
We jumped through more hoops over these past four-plus years than I can remember. Potential recipients of our efforts came and went as other opportunities presented themselves. Other housing projects came to the forefront of the news. Some succeeded and others went down in flames. Finally after all these years of permutations and negotiation with the town and state, we have been granted a permit to go forward to try to help people who need housing.
These families, part of our year-round community, are at risk of leaving the Island because of the high costs of living. We all know that, so why is it that most if not all housing initiatives continue to face such staunch opposition? It is true that the creation of affordable housing is an imperfect science. This small victory, though sweet, belies the challenges that we as a small year-round population face to preserve our community. We need to foster new housing opportunities for the people who struggle daily against the hardships of Island life and most importantly, give hope that they one day can have the same security and peace of mind that many of us have and continue to enjoy — a foundation for a happy life on Martha’s Vineyard.
I want to offer a warm and heartfelt thank you to David Vigneault, Philippe Jordi, John Abrams, Pat Manning, the West Tisbury housing committee and planning board members and the many people who coached us and continue to pursue ways to create affordable housing for a community that desperately needs it.
Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
On Friday May 15 the County of Dukes County and Cape Cod Municipal Health Group sponsored their annual Benefits and Wellness Fair for all municipal employees of the Vineyard. This year’s success was the result of hours of planning and cooperation that led to wellness grants from the municipal health group. The grant money was used to purchase large raffle items for those who attended.
Our thanks to all who participated and donated prizes. Congratulations to the raffle winners and thank you to the Oak Bluffs school committee for the use of the space at the school.