As an experienced cabinetmaker who has led the workshop at South Mountain Co. for more than three decades, Jim Vercruysse has helped build dozens, if not hundreds, of custom-designed homes on Martha’s Vineyard. And as the longtime Aquinnah representative on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, he has also helped review hundreds of home developments on the Island, looking at everything from energy efficiency to Queen Anne turrets with the same steady hand and deft touch he’s used as a builder.

But it was his own house off Moshup Trail he was concerned about Monday. He built it with his family three decades ago.

“Now that I’m retiring, I’m actually just finishing stuff. I’m dealing with stuff that I haven’t been dealing with in forever,” he said. “They just trimmed our upstairs windows a couple weeks ago. I’ve been in the house for 30 years.”

Mr. Vercruysse, 66, who has served as both chairman and vice-chairman during two six-year stints on the commission, decided not to run for his seat this year. He also plans to retire from South Mountain at the end of the year.

Stepping away from both allows a cabinetmaker who has spent a large portion of his career literally and figuratively compartmentalizing the needs of the Island and his clients to finally trim his own windows, so to speak. But his decision not to run for the commission comes at a precarious moment for the powerful regional planning body that reviews large development projects, which is facing legal battles on multiple fronts as it wrestles with a new phase of rapid building and growth on the Island.

“The commission has been outrageously busy for the past couple of years, There’s been no breaks,” Mr. Vercruysse said. “I love it. The work is really exciting, and really challenging . . . but it’s a weekly commitment. And I made a commitment a few years ago to really step back a little bit, and enjoy myself for a little while.”

In an interview with the Gazette this week, Mr. Vercruysse discussed the role of the commission on a changing Vineyard, his tenure on the board and his outlook for the future.

Forged from the ashes of the failed Islands Trust Bill, the commission was approved in 1974 as a first-of-its-kind regulatory board that had both review power and planning authority, tasked with preserving the Island’s unique character as close to 700 homes were being built per year. Over the next three decades, subdivisions. golf course developments and turf fields have tested the mettle of both commissioners and applicants alike.

The commission is currently facing new challenges, including a half-dozen lawsuits from developers, two of which involve the denial of requests to demolish historic homes on the Island.

Mr. Vercruysse, who first came onto the commission during the golf course battles of the late 1990s, spoke thoughtfully on the issue, positing that the home demolitions are a product of both a booming real estate market and the Island’s shrinking housing stock.

“The pace of development has increased dramatically in recent years . . . we’ve seen way more requests for demolition than we’ve ever seen, probably more in the past two years than in the past 10 years combined,” he said. “And you’ve seen, because of all the lawsuits happening, there’s not a great desire on the commission for this impactful development to continue.”

As the commission has dug in its heels, so have applicants, with both sides turning to the courtroom for answers that once might have been hammered out in the public hearing process.

But the denial of individual demolition requests has created its own issues, with commission executive director Adam Turner recently sending a letter to Island towns, saying that it would have to increase its legal budget due to the current court battles.

“It’s a difficult question, because mostly the [projects] that have been turned down, have been these amazing, historic homes,” Mr. Vercruysse said. “We’re looking at them because they’re historic, over 100 years old, but historic means different things to different people. So that’s one thing. But is it sustainable? The commission has a finite budget. And the more lawsuits, the more it takes away from the other things the commission can do, like expand staff and offer different planning services . . . but a lot of the time, it’s necessary and important to defend what we’re defending.”

He noted that the commission has faced legal fights over its denials before — nearly always winning. But he also remarked that even approval of a project can lead to a court battle as well, such as when the Harbor View Hotel sued the commission over what it saw as onerous project conditions last year, ending in a settlement.

“I think it does go in cycles,” Mr. Vercruysse said. “Many years, we don’t spend the legal budget. But of course, last year, we did. And then it normalizes itself . . . I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but the more development there is, the more potential there is going to be for legal fights.”

Mr. Vercruysse doesn’t have a legal background, but he often brings a careful, reasoned approach to projects, rooted less in policy and more in practice.

Born and raised in the Brighton Park neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, Mr. Vercruysse has been a cabinetmaker since he started working with his uncles when he was 12 years old. He has no formal training, and tried college for a few years, but dropped out and headed east, finding himself on the Vineyard for a three-week cabinetry job in 1988. He never left, building his home and life in Aquinnah.

“I loved the lifestyle, and the smell,” Mr. Vercruysse said of cabinet making. “This place is wonderful. Whatever the wind direction is, I can find a place to swim.”

He was an early employee of South Mountain Company, which has grown into one of the Island’s largest design-build firms since its founding. He also served on the Aquinnah fire department for close to 20 years, and the zoning board for about 30 years.

Reflecting on his time on the commission, he said buying a house for the executive director was a main achievement. He cited nitrogen and housing as primary issues moving forward. He was excited about the hiring of a designated housing planner at the MVC, and feels that zoning bylaws will have to change to allow for denser housing, while towns need to make better use of special planning overlays like districts of critical planning concern to guide future development, as Aquinnah has done.

“I think the commission has become more important and vital than ever, with all the different pressures that the Island is facing, especially surrounding the effects of climate disruption,” he said.

He continued:

“I have regrets. The commission is an important, unwieldy organization that takes a lot of people, and a lot of effort. I don’t think any one person can change it, for better or for worse. I’m just happy that I was part of it, and look forward to returning some day.”

But for now, back to the windows.