Challenges, Opportunities & Goals

Challenges, Opportunities & GoalsMartha’s Vineyard is a cherished place. It faces strong development pressures and intense forces of change, however, that may diminish those features we treasure the most … unless we act now.

The Island Plan is the product of four years of study and discussion by our community. The findings demonstrate conclusively that both year-round and seasonal residents are concerned that the Vineyard and our way of life are succumbing to the cumulative impacts of growth and change. Consider the following.
  • Current zoning could allow as many as 12,000 more homes and guest houses, an increase of 70%.
  • Every year, roughly 600 acres of the woods and fields we take for granted are developed.
  • Residential septic systems and fertilizers have polluted our coastal ponds. Clean-up estimates range from $150 to $250 million today and could double if growth and pollution continue at current rates.
  • The $132,000 income needed to purchase a median-priced $650,000 home is more than twice what most Vineyarders make. (See updated data in the Housing section of this website.)
  • The high cost of living on the Vineyard, our seasonal economy, and our physical isolation place great strains on individuals and families.
  • Traffic congestion could increase six-fold if growth continues unchecked.

That’s the bad news.

There’s plenty of good news, too.
  • The Vineyard community has successfully faced major challenges in the past, and we can do it again.
  • We did well to protect hundreds of acres of open space, to keep our tree-lined roads, and to set up an Island-wide transit system.
  • We provided hundreds of units of permanently affordable housing.
  • We fought assaults on our historic town centers and avoided large-scale commercial development, vast parking lots and bright signs.
  • We created unique organizations such as the Land Bank and Martha’s Vineyard Commission to help us meet our challenges.

The following are the main goals for the future of Martha's Vineyard as expressed in the Island Plan.

Comprehensive Goal

  • Make Martha’s Vineyard a more sustainable, resilient, diverse, balanced, stable, and self-sufficient community, preserving the Island’s unique natural, rural, and historical character and creating a better future for Vineyarders and the Island itself.
  • Use the Island and manage its development in ways that are compatible with the long-term sustainability and carrying capacities of our natural resources and community.

Specific Goals

  1. Conserve enough of the Vineyard’s distinct ecological regions to retain their biodiversity, to protect the Island’s scenic character, and to support recreational uses.
  2. Restore the ecological vibrancy of salt ponds and bays with healthy expanses of eelgrass, sustainable shellfish populations, and varied recreational opportunities.
  3. Maintain a community that is economically, culturally, and ethnically diverse, remaining intimately connected to the traditional ways of the Vineyard.
  4. Protect the distinct and diverse character of the Island’s six towns, while forging a stronger regional perspective for dealing with Island-wide issues.
  5. Stimulate a vital and balanced local economy that is more self-reliant and more diverse.
  6. Produce as much of our essentials, such as food and energy, as we can, and convert our waste into useful products.
  7. Address climate change by reducing use of fossil fuels, harnessing renewable energy sources, and adapting to anticipated impacts on the Vineyard.
  8. Sustain our year-round community by addressing housing affordability and the high cost of living.
  9. Direct development to town and village areas, and limit building in environmentally sensitive areas.
  10. Reinforce compact, mixed-use, walkable town and village centers.

Office location:

Office location:

The Stone Building
33 New York Avenue
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

Telephone: 508-693-3453
Fax: 508-693-7894

Mailing Address

Mailing address:

Martha's Vineyard Commission
P.O. Box 1447
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

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