Notwithstanding tremendous growth in the past generation, the Vineyard has largely preserved its unique character. We avoided inappropriate development typical of the mainland: hillsides covered with suburban sprawl, farmland transformed into strip malls, beaches lined with motels. For the most part, the quality of the environment, the quality of life, the unique amenities and the Vineyard's sense of place have been preserved, and are the foundation of our thriving visitor-based economy and our sound property values.
While not everyone will agree with each decision, it must be recognized that the MVC has played a vital role in protecting the Vineyard and will be even more crucial in the future as development pressure continues to increase. The real differences that the Commission made in how the Island has been developed is particularly evident in comparison with the development of unprotected areas off-Island. Here is a quick overview of some of the Commission’s accomplishments, which are detailed throughout this website.
- Protecting Special Districts: After the MVC was first established, it received a large number of nominations for Districts of Critical Planning Concern. [DCPCs] From these initial requests, the early Commission crafted three Island-wide DCPCs – the Coastal, Island Road, and Special Places districts – which still form the backbone of the Commission's DCPC protection from inappropriate development of the Island's most sensitive areas. Since then, the Commission worked with the towns to create several dozen other DCPCs to protect various special parts of the Island.
- Making Development Projects Better: Since 1974, hundreds of the most significant development projects on the Vineyard were reviewed by the MVC as Developments of Regional Impact [DRIs]. Some were approved as presented and a few were denied, but the vast majority of projects were significantly improved during the review process, thanks to the MVC's ability to manage development with powers beyond what towns can do. For example:
- septic system design and placement were improved to protect the Island's precious coastal ponds and freshwater supply;
- site designs were modified to maximize open space and minimize traffic impacts,
- buildings were set back and screened from roads and shores to preserve the Island’s rural character.
- Conducting Important Research: Commission staff has undertaken many large and small research projects, often funded from grants awarded by a number of private and public agencies. For example, the Commission conducts regular traffic counts, and periodically carries out a cost of living study. It worked with a consultant to carry out an extensive Housing Needs Assessment. Commission staff completed nutrient-loading assessments for most of the great ponds on the Island, which served to define limits for future nitrogen loading.
- Preparing Plans to Guide the Future: The Commission's research and regional planning expertise formed the basis for assistance to towns with master planning, open space planning, transportation planning, water quality planning, delivery of services, and harbor planning efforts. In addition, the Commission works on Island-wide planning efforts, such as the following.
- The Martha's Vineyard Island Plan (2009) presented an overall plan to guide growth and development on the Island.
- The SUP Extensions Pre-Feasibility Study (2009) identified how to fill in the missing links in the Down-Island network of Shared-Use Paths (bike paths).
- The Martha's Vineyard Wastewater Management Study (2010) outlined the need for improved wastewater treatment and most promising solutions.
- The Wind Energy Plan for Dukes County (2012) describes suitable locations and criteria for installing wind turbines on land and offshore.
- The Hazard Mitigation Plan for Seven Towns of Dukes County (updated 2020 - draft) outlines measures that can be taken to limit the impacts of natural disasters.
- Facilitating Implementation: The MVC’s planning work can identify implementation measures and the Commission often helps getting these efforts going. For example, in the 1980s, the MVC played a leadership role in the establishment of the Martha's Vineyard Transit Authority. More recently, the MVC helped facilitate the establishment of Arts Martha's Vineyard, a collaborative dedicated to fostering and promoting cultural tourism and the creative economy.