Editors, Vineyard Gazette;

I am writing as representative for a group of Oak Bluffs voters, property owners and neighbors who are extremely concerned about proposed zoning reform changes. These proposed changes are moving through town channels now. There will be an important public hearing about this in the next few weeks and then progress to the Tuesday, April 9 town meeting.

The planning board approved three different districts for light industrial use —one being along the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road which is currently zoned for residential use only. These changes allow for uses such as mining, commercial landscaping operations, earth moving and excavation companies etc., thus opening the floodgates to allow some of the most disruptive and volatile land uses into well-established residential and conservation/agricultural areas.

Our town is in a water crisis. Due to the significant water usage issues facing Oak Bluffs we must acknowledge the hypocrisy of these zoning changes that would, in effect, make it possible for mining to expand, lawn and garden maintenance businesses to set roots, and expand and disrupt the R3 district. This will promote water-related issues, including the lagoon and our aquifer to drastically worsen. In addition, these zoning changes would further increase noise levels and reduced air quality.

Opening the door to these types of uses would have catastrophic and perhaps irreversible impacts on our residential, conservation and agricultural-zoned neighborhoods. If these warrant articles progress to town meeting then it appears that some Oak Bluffs elected officials are willing to bring forth changes that would certainly have immediate and long-lasting negative impacts to our health, property and well-being. These changes would benefit very specific members of our community who stand to profit from them while simultaneously devastating hundreds more. What was previously illegal and enforceable would now become something that allows a handful of businesses to profit at the expense of the residents of this town and Island.

Oak Bluffs has long been a heavily-settled and densely-populated, residential town. Creation of these new laws that would allow strip mall-like areas to set up could change the character of the entire Island. Over the course of the last few months numerous Oak Bluffs residents and neighbors have attended planning board meetings and hearings. Concerns and opposition to these zoning changes have repeatedly been voiced.

Industrialization is not something most Island residents support nor believe should happen to this community. Doing so, blindly ignores the town’s master plan and vision that the majority of us all support going forward. And yet the planning board voted to approve the warrant articles.

We urge everyone to register to vote and go to the town’s website. There, you can view the overlay districts as well as find meeting minutes, agendas and pertinent information. You can also sign up for notifications of upcoming meetings. Please be sure to attend town meeting on Tuesday, April 9.

Susan Travers

Oak Bluffs