Home‎ > ‎Almanac Archive‎ > ‎

Almanac Archive for Sept. 12, 2019

   The Conservation Almanac
             Environmental news from the Vineyard Conservation Society
Visit our Website

Find us on Instagram

Become a VCS Member!

Quote of the Week

Oh come on, give me a break. This is exactly what the fossil fuel industry hopes we’re all talking about . . . controversy around your light bulbs, around your straws and around your cheeseburgers. When 70% of the pollution, of the carbon that we’re throwing into the air, comes from three industries.”
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren at CNN's "Climate Town Hall" TV event, responding to a question about whether the federal government should dictate what type of light bulbs Americans are allowed to use. (The 3 big emitters she references are the electric, oil, and building industries.)

At VCS, we absolutely believe that individual lifestyle decisions matter, and there are plenty of good reasons to talk about light bulbs, straws, and meat (in fact, reduced meat consumption ranks very highly among climate solutions). But when it comes to climate change and national politics, the Senator's admonition to KISS and not get distracted is a point well taken.
Conservation Calendar

Meeting: Island Climate Action Network

Monday, Sept 16, 3:30 pm, West Tisbury.
Are you interested in taking action to address climate change? Join the Island Climate Action Network! The next meeting of the recently-formed grassroots advocacy organization is open to all who are interested in learning more about what each of us can do to make a difference for our Island—and the planet. At the West Tisbury Library, for more info visit the ICAN website or contact them via email

Public Hearing: Improving Local Waste Management
Thursday, Sept. 19, 7:00 pm, Oak Bluffs.
The agenda for next week's MV Commission meeting includes a hearing on a proposed expansion of the MV Refuse District's Edgartown Transfer Station (technical documents here; newspaper coverage here). The project presents a critical opportunity to move forward with plans currently being developed to improve the management of food waste on our island. VCS is currently preparing testimony in support of the project's potential to create a home for a central composting facility, as well as improved sorting of recyclables. If you would like to support this initiative, please attend Thursday's hearing, or send written comments via email. For background on the problem of food waste, and the solutions that the Island-Wide Food Waste Committee (which includes VCS) are working toward, please read this briefing document.

Film: The Biggest Little Farm

Thursday, Sept. 19, 7:00 — 9:00 pm, Chilmark.
Island Grown Initiative and the Martha's Vineyard Film Festival host a free outdoor screening of The Biggest Little Farm, a story of one family's experience in regenerative farming. Special guests include the farmers featured in the film, John and Molly Chester, as well as the film's producer Laurie David. Come meet them and ask questions, while enjoying a beautiful and heart-lifting movie about the positive potential of agriculture. BYO picnic with live music on the lawn outside the Chilmark Community Center begins at 5:30. For more info, contact IGI.

Electric Vehicle Day

Saturday, Sept. 21, 10:00 am — 1:00 pm, Oak Bluffs.
Do you own an electric car? Are you curious about driving one? As part of National Drive Electric Week, the Oak Bluffs Library and Vineyard Power are teaming up for Electric Vehicle Day.
Vineyard Power members and others in the community will be bringing their EVs for others to test drive. Register to attend the event, and then sign up for a test drive! Meet at the Library's back parking lot, for more info contact Vineyard Power

Strike with Free Climate Films
Saturday, Sept. 21, 1:00 — 4:00 pm, Edgartown.
To kick off the upcoming Global Climate Strike week, the Edgartown Library will be showing two free films. Burned: Are Trees the New Coal? begins at 1:00, followed by The Age of Stupid at 2:30. 
Meetinghouse Place
     The Suburban Subdivision Returns

Perfectly timed to capitalize on—and exacerbate—the growth promised by recent plans to bring ever more traffic to the Island (both by air and by sea), last year a familiar threat re-emerged: the suburban-style subdivision development. “Meetinghouse Place,” a proposal to build dozens of luxury homes on 54 acres near the Edgartown Great Pond, is currently under review by the MV Commission as a Development of Regional Impact (DRI).

VCS attended the first of the public hearings for DRI 682 on February 7, testifying in opposition to the plan. Since that time, we, along with colleague organizations BiodiversityWorks and the Great Pond Foundation, as well as concerned neighbors, have continued to weigh in. The public opposition has led to incremental changes in the proposal, gradually softening its more egregious aspects. The number of bedrooms per house has dropped from seven to five; the square footage from 9,000 to 5,000, and then again to 4,800 (not including a garage with detached bedroom on top). However, the developer’s reading of the writing on the wall must not have changed much, as they ultimately submitted a more substantial revision, which the MVC has given an updated DRI#, 682A.

The newest, and possibly final, plan proposes 28 large houses (instead of 35 or 34), plus ten 1,000 sq.ft. townhouses. The simple interpretation is that they have merely substituted 10 small houses for 6 large ones, but we must admit the new plan is a meaningful improvement. The townhouses are deed-restricted to ensure some degree of affordability, and the new design is the first one proposed to make any effort at clustering the buildings to reduce habitat fragmentation. However, our primary concerns remain, including overall density of the development, house size, energy and materials consumption, wastewater, nitrogen runoff from lawns and landscaping, and habitat loss. Fundamentally, this remains a dense development that threatens further harm to the Great Pond's already-imperiled ecosystem.

"I am a resident of Edgartown, but I feel that I am more of a citizen of Martha’s Vineyard. This is one subdivision, but not the only one. Taking the whole Island view, these subdivisions appear shoulder to shoulder. Look at the Island Plan and its survey results: 95% of people asking for a future with more open space, 5% for more development. This is just one more of the tiny insults making us less of a ‘place apart’ . . . This is where it stops." — VCS President Jim Athearn, addressing the MV Commission

Zoning Diversity and Historical Background at Meetinghouse Way

In 1986, the land we today know as the Land Bank's Waskosims Rock Reservation was acquired by a developer. Only after 17 consecutive defeats of subdivision plans like this was it permanently protected via purchase by the Land Bank. A public treasure many may take for granted today is in fact a powerful example of the importance of persistence and cooperation in land protection.  

In the more recent context of second-home development on Martha's Vineyard, what Meetinghouse Place proposes—large, luxurious houses on small lots in a rural (for the time being) setting—is somewhat unusual. Over the past few decades, land appraisers have determined that the the most profitable use for most undeveloped land on Martha’s Vineyard was the creation of large estates on large lots (so-called “kingdom lots”). On an island where nature is prized, and for a clientele inclined toward privacy, creating fewer building sites could actually produce more real estate value than subdivision into as many lots as allowed under zoning, particularly when costs of improvements (road construction, sewage, power, etc.) are included.  Only time will tell whether the Meetinghouse Place proposal is more of an aberration or a harbinger of things to come.

In many towns, zoning alone would prevent this proposed subdivision, due to the large minimum lot sizes required (outside of town centers). But not so in Edgartown, where a diversity of zoning exists, intended to provide people of more modest means the opportunity to own a home. Zoning there ranges from a 3-acre minimum lot size down to one-half-acre, or 20,000 square feet, aka “R-20.” This zoning persists today in areas near the Edgartown Great Pond. However, instead of providing affordability, one of the last large R-20s in town has been acquired by a Utah-based developer for the purpose of building out luxury houses. Story continued here, second column

Content adapted from our summer newsletter. To receive the next issue fresh off the press, join VCS today!
     Storm-Damaged Trees Soon to Become Outdoor Classroom

This ancient tile-roofed marketplace pavilion in Monpazier, France is the inspiration for a soon-to-be-built outdoor classroom at the State Forest. (Photo by Bob Woodruff)

An exciting new project is underway at the Island’s largest conservation property, where the Friends of Correllus State Forest are working to create a beautiful outdoor classroom space. Inspired by the ancient marketplace pavilion pictured above, and built with timber salvaged from storm-damaged pitch pine, white pine, and spruce, a new shelter measuring 36 x 24 feet (see drawing) will soon provide students the chance to learn about and experience firsthand the sandplain ecology of the State Forest.
There are many to thank for this truly collaborative project, including: engineer Michael Granger for design work (including the drawing linked above), Michael Berwind for milling work, Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation for assistance with logging and milling, the state Dept. of Conservation and Recreation for cooperation throughout, and last—but certainly not least—Bill Seabourne and his Building Arts students at the high school, who will be cutting and shaping the timbers for the pavilion. 
The Friends are still seeking financial support for the pavilion project, as well as a planned Interpretive Center to follow. If you would like to contribute, please contact the Permanent Endowment at (508) 338-4665 or via their website.
The Power of Organic Turf Management

Over the summer, the Toxics Use Reduction Institute of UMass Lowell released two new case studies demonstrating the power of organic turf management to eliminate the need for pesticides while providing excellent playing fields. The studies from Springfield and Marblehead, Mass. provide data on total hours of usage at the fields, allaying concerns that organically-managed natural grass could not support heavy usage.
Locally, the Field Fund has been applying many of these methods in their ongoing efforts to build and sustain healthy grass fields. Working in partnership with local schools and town officials, the Fund has now helped improve fields at six locations across the Island, with the goal of ultimately joining with every town and school. For their efforts in making our environment a safer place, this summer the Field Fund were honored as “Champions of Toxics Use Reduction” in a ceremony at the State House – thank you, and congrats!   

The Vineyard Conservation Society is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to preserving the environment of Martha’s Vineyard through advocacy, education and the protection of the Island’s land and water.
Submit your conservation news to:
Copyright (C) 2019 *Vineyard Conservation Society* All rights reserved.
Original content by Jeremy Houser unless otherwise noted.