Select Board Ousts Chairman Ian Golding From Conservation Commission

JohnCarl McGrady and Jason Graziadei •

Committee appointments
Ian Golding, left, and Ashley Erisman, the two most recent chairs of the Conservation Commission, were not reappointed to the regulatory board in successive years.

For the second time in as many years, the Select Board has ousted the chair of the Conservation Commission in favor of a relative newcomer on a 3-2 vote. Ian Golding, who has served on the Commission for 12 years and took over as chair after Ashley Erisman was not reappointed by the Select Board last year, was replaced Wednesday by Jon Schafer, the founder of a regional development and construction company who has never attended a Conservation Commission meeting.

"I look at this strictly as a vote that was pro-building, pro-development, and stacking the decks to get a compliant Conservation Commission that will approve any project the Select Board wishes to promote, specifically the geotubes," Golding told the Current on Thursday, referring to the Sconset Beach Preservation Fund's controversial erosion-control project along Nantucket's eastern shoreline. "They want a Conservation Commission that will turn a regulatory blind eye to the process when it suits them."

The Select Board voted to fill two seats on the Conservation Commission Wednesday during its annual round of appointments to various town boards and committees. Matt Fee and Malcolm MacNab, the same Select Board members who voted to keep Erisman on the Commission last year, backed Golding’s candidacy. But chair Brooke Mohr, Dawn Hill Holdgate, and Tom Dixon all voted for Schafer and incumbent Linda Williams, guaranteeing their appointments. 

“I viewed some meetings where I have concerns about how [Golding] speaks to people,” Mohr said. She denied any connection between her two votes against the Conservation Commission chairs. “These are completely separate things for me. Completely separate. Really my decision was based largely on the decorum question.”

The seven-member Conservation Commission, appointed by the Select Board, is charged with reviewing and permitting proposed building and coastal engineering projects for compliance with the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, as well as the town's wetlands protection regulations.

As chair, Golding followed in Erisman’s footsteps, pushing the Commission’s proposed wetland regulation overhaul that would increase mandatory setbacks from wetlands on new projects and taking a critical stance on the Sconset Beach Preservation Fund's (SBPF) controversial geotube project. The Select Board has pushed for the expansion of the geotube project, in fact partnering with SBPF on its latest proposal and clashing with the Conservation Commission at times.

Golding told the Current on Thursday that he believed the Select Board's decision to appoint Schafer over him was directly tied to his stance on the SBPF's geotubes, and a desire to remove a member of the Conservation Commission who viewed its role, in part, as a check on the island's building industry.

"I'm astounded Brooke Mohr gave as a reason she felt I was impolite to people," Golding said. "But after they didn't reappoint Ashley, the handwriting was on the wall. They've appointed someone who's never been to a meeting and is a developer...Those who wish to build out the island as much as possible are ascendant. The island needs to limit the amount of building and growth and we have a Select Board that appears to be focused on unlimited growth and build-out and the money that's being made from it. And it's sacrificing what makes the island so rare and unique in the first place."

Because the Select Board’s new appointees do not take their seats immediately, Golding will be able to vote on the proposed update of the town's wetlands regulations — assuming there is no further delay — at what will be his final Conservation Commission meeting Thursday evening.

Schafer stated in his letter of interest to the Select Board that he had never attended a Conservation Commission meeting but was interested in serving on the Commission to protect the island.

"I'm interested in sitting on the Commission to help protect the beautiful place in which I live and work," Schafer wrote to the Select Board. "I have been either a summer or permanent resident on the island since 1972 and have experienced the growth and change first-hand. I own and operate a small construction business and understand the necessity of the Wetlands Protection Act. I would hope to improve the communication between the Commission and the town regarding the important issues they will face together."

Select Board member Matt Fee noted Schafer's lack of prior experience at the Conservation Commission meetings as one of the principal reasons for his vote for Golding. 

“He has not attended any of the meetings yet,” Fee said. “I think Ian [Golding] has done a good job and I don’t always agree with him, but I think he should still be there. And I don’t think we should get rid of the chair every time. It’s dangerous.”

Schafer is the founder of Stowe Mountain Builders, a construction company operating in both Stowe, Vermont, and Nantucket.

“I weigh everything,” Mohr said. “For me, decorum is a very serious element of how I decide.”

Golding said he was looking forward to voting on the compromise language drafted to revise the town's wetlands regulations Thursday in one of his final acts on the commission following more than a decade of service.

"It's been an honor to serve and to meet so many people who care about the island and its natural resources, which is what brought most of us here," Golding said. "It's been a very humbling experience, and I've learned a lot." 

The shakeup on the Conservation Commission ushered in by the Select Board led to some consternation among those in attendance at Wednesday night's meeting, including one who left behind the following sign at the Public Safety Facility where the meeting was held:

IMG 1164

The Select Board also appointed new members to several other boards on Wednesday. Many seats were uncontested, but five other boards had contested appointments. Incumbents Phil Marks and Andrea Planzer were unanimously reappointed to the Airport Commission over equity fund manager Michael Leavitt. Incumbent Sarah Bois was also reappointed unanimously to the Coastal Resilience Advisory Committee over real estate agent Shelly Lockwood.

Capital Program and Solid Waste Committee member Howard Matz was appointed as the new Planning Board alternate 3-2 over real estate agent Liza Hatton. MacNab, Dixon, and Fee voted for Matz while Mohr and Holdgate voted for Hatton. Incumbents Peter Schaeffer, Jeremy Bloomer, and Joseph Wright were all reappointed to the Finance Committee. Schaeffer received the Select Board’s unanimous support, while Bloomer and Wright each lost a vote to former Nantucket Finance Department Operations Manager Kathy Richen.

The Select Board also filled three seats on the Nantucket Affordable Housing Trust. One seat was designated to go to a realtor, and as Brian Sullivan was the lone realtor applicant, he received the votes of all five Select Board members. Incumbent Shantaw Bloise-Murphy was also unanimously re-appointed, while middle-school teacher and Habitat for Humanity home recipient Forest Bell edged out contractor Boyd Boggiss 3-2. Kim McMahon, an advisory board member of Housing Nantucket, received no votes for the position.

Loading Ad
Loading Ad
Loading Ad

Current News