Affordable housing, climate change and the health of coastal ponds were all topics that occupied the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in 2015 as it assisted Island towns with a range of regional planning services. It was also a year of transition at the commission, with former executive director Mark London retiring in July and the appointment of Adam Turner, formerly of Colchester, Conn., to replace him.

A summary of the past year appears in the commission’s annual report released last week.

The report highlights the key planning work by the commission’s 11 staff members that is often invisible to the public eye, including grant writing, water quality monitoring, and technical assistance for the six Island towns and Gosnold.

“The commission gets a lot of news for DRIs, but we spend probably 75 per cent of our time doing regional planning,” Mr. Turner said this week, referring to developments of regional impact, the regulatory arm of the commission that permits exhaustive public reviews of large residential and commercial developments.

On the regional planning side, last year the commission hosted meetings of a joint affordable housing group, the all-Island conservation commission and other regional boards. It also served as a pipeline for information between federal and state agencies and town officials.

In support of affordable housing, the commission helped obtain federal community development grants totaling $1.8 million for Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, and worked to identify future sites for affordable housing units. It assisted Chilmark in developing an accessory housing bylaw that later won approval from voters, and helped identify zoning tools that could provide alternatives to market-rate housing on the Island.

MVC staff planners facilitated visioning sessions and provided maps and data as Island towns plan for the future. They helped the Vineyard Haven Harbor area become recognized as a cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and helped Aquinnah apply for a similar designation that it received this year.

A state-of-the-art cartography program allowed towns, organizations and individuals to better visualize their work. Maps generated by GIS coordinator Chris Seidel delineated watershed boundaries, roads, flood zones and other Island features.

Mr. Turner, who began work in early August, has already initiated an effort to map the historic paths and stone walls of Cuttyhunk, and to work with the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to better assess the problem of Lyme disease on that small island. He also worked with the Gosnold selectmen to identify planning projects and opportunities. Gosnold includes all the Elizabeth islands and is the seventh town in Dukes County.

“They have really interesting old roadways that have walls and other kinds of infrastructure on the side, and those need some maintenance,” Mr. Turner said of Cuttyhunk, adding that wastewater was also an issue. “We look forward in 2016 to really doing a lot of work for them.”

Also last year MVC transportation planners updated a 25-year Martha’s Vineyard Transportation Plan and developed a long-term outlook for scenic roads on the Island. With support from the commission, the intersection of Old County Road and State Road in West Tisbury was realigned to improve safety, and the Lagoon Pond Drawbridge finally opened to traffic in November.

The commission also continued ongoing work to identify old roads that could be protected as special ways. Four roads in West Tisbury received special protection: Pine Hill Road, Red Coat Hill/Mott’s Hill Road, Shubael Weeks Road and Old Coach Road.

With growing awareness around the health of Island ponds, staff members worked with a variety of town boards and conservation groups to find ways to improve coastal water quality. Among other things, they helped review the findings of the Massachusetts Estuaries Project, which has evaluated about half the Island’s major estuaries and set nitrogen reduction goals for each system.

The commission designated a district of critical planning concern (DCPC) to help regulate the use of fertilizers around coastal ponds.

Water quality sampling continued across the Island. MVC staff worked with the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown to test for pharmaceuticals in coastal ponds. Staff members offered guidance to a number of Island groups dedicated to pond water quality, including the recently formed Oak Bluffs-Tisbury joint watershed planning committee.

“We used this year to really set the tone, both on the water quality issue and targeting affordable housing,” Mr. Turner said. “There is a lot of interest, a lot of energy, beginning to be directed toward those two issues.”

On the climate change front, the commission launched a program to measure the ability of coastal wetlands to grow in height as sea level rises. With funding from the Friends of Sengekontacket and the Edey Foundation, a first monitoring station was set up at Felix Neck in Edgartown.

Meanwhile, DRI hearings continued, with 38 projects in four towns referred to the commission as developments of regional impact. Of those, 10 projects went on to full review by the commission. Eight were approved with conditions; one was withdrawn and one was still in progress at year’s end. No projects were referred from Aquinnah, Chilmark or Gosnold.

A commission subcommittee began its review of the criteria for DRI referral, as required every two years. The committee plans to present its recommendations to the full commission in the coming weeks.