The Nov. 25 edition of the Gazette carried an article announcing a new record for land bank revenues: $ 1.12 million in one week. From recently speaking to various authorities in the conservancy organizations, I’ve confirmed that approximately 40 per cent of the Island is currently in conservation. The expectation is that at the end of the day (when all property on the Vineyard is either developed or in conservation) 50 per cent of the Island may be in conservation.

Ironically, in the same issue of the Gazette, there is an article about hunger on the Vineyard. Everyone knows a big part of this problem is the lack of affordable housing.

What is wrong with this picture?

I’ll admit, I’ve been accused of being overly simplistic in my take on certain circumstances, but I’m willing to go public and say enough is enough. There are solutions in front of us.

The conservation movement on Martha’s Vineyard has been more successful than anyone’s wildest dreams. And when this is alongside people being hungry and unable to afford housing, there is something wrong in Dukes County.

Part of the solution is staring at us: take less than one per cent of the land in conservation — 200 acres (since currently there are approximately 24,000 acres in conservation) — and build enough affordable housing to take care of the problem. There are pockets of properties that no one visits, no one sees and have no great environmental value. Then take one per cent of real estate sales and fund building affordable houses. The general wisdom is that approximately 500 affordable dwellings are needed to balance our existing problem. Two hundred acres with dense pockets of structures could do the trick.

Otherwise, we’re going to end up shipping in nearly our entire work force, including teachers, doctors, police, paramedics, carpenters, etc. and young families are going to become fewer and fewer. We will be left with a population of old wealthy people, plus a small amount of those of us lucky enough to afford property. But it’s not too late. It is still possible for the rich and less-than-rich to live together, but it requires that we get our priorities straight and start thinking out of the box.

Our conservation organizations have protected the Island from excessive building and deserve a medal of honor. Now it is time to readjust our strategies and help balance our environment.

Paul Lazes
Vineyard Haven