CAO: note lessons from Block Island | Letters

John Evans properly expresses regret about how the San Juans are “becoming a Martha’s Vineyard,” (“Martha’s Vineyard here we come”, Feb. 1, pg. 6)

In spite of all of our efforts since we put in place the Growth Management Act in the mid 1990s, we continue to move in that direction.

In 2000, San Juan commissioned a study of Nantucket and Aspen (and Martha’s Vineyard) for the purpose of ascertaining what we might do to avoid becoming as they are. (“Gentrified” was the pejorative term used back then.)

I reviewed this study and noted a most interesting paragraph that was otherwise ignored.

It stated, “By comparison, rural, and still remarkably idyllic Block Island has no growth ‘pacing’ device at all, beyond three-acre minimum zoning.”

Stated another way, Block Island had not installed an active and empowered planning and growth management bureaucracy (or other ‘pacing’ devices) and accordingly remained remarkably idyllic.

The real question that begs to be asked with respect to our current CAO and other concerns about the environment is not about “best science” or what actions are appropriate and what are not. Rather, we need to be asking whether we really want an ever more empowered bureaucracy to dictate what individual property owners can and cannot do.

The record is that empowered bureaucracies seem to occur precisely where problems of development and gentrification are most acute.

A reasonable conclusion is that undesirable consequences seem to accompany such empowered bureaucracies rather more than not.

Albert B. Hall

San Juan Island

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