Planning Commission To Choose Between De Molina And Rayport To Fill Vacant Seat

JohnCarl McGrady •

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Abby De Molina and Hillary Hedges Rayport, the two candidates seeking appointment to the at-large seat on the Nantucket Planning & Economic Development Commission.

Outspoken local planning critic Hillary Hedges Rayport and Planning Board alternate Abby De Molina are contesting the at-large seat on the Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission (NP&EDC) vacated by outgoing chair Mary Longacre, with the Commission set to make the appointment at its meeting today at 5 p.m.

De Molina is seen as the heavy favorite, given Rayport’s firebrand reputation and her previous unsuccessful attempts to be appointed to the NP&EDC and other town bodies. In 2021, the last time there was an at-large vacancy on the NP&EDC, Rayport applied for the seat but was defeated by Longacre. More recently, Rayport sought appointment to a vacant seat on the Planning Board but lost out to former Short-Term Rental Work Group member John Kitchener in May.

In many ways, the two candidates are a study in contrasts. De Molina represents continuity with the current planning regime and has repeatedly spoken out in defense of the Planning Board, including in an editorial pushing back against Rayport's comments about the Planning Board’s entirely male membership during her candidacy for the vacant seat. Rayport is one of the local planning regime’s most vocal critics and sponsored a home-rule petition to restructure the NP&EDC at a Town Meeting two years ago. The home-rule petition, which passed by a single vote but has not yet gained the necessary state approval to go into effect, would change the makeup of the NP&EDC to include only a single Planning Board member instead of five, increasing the number of at-large representatives.

In her letter to the NP&EDC seeking appointment to the seat, De Molina stated that she has worked in financial services for 15 years, and has a Master’s degree in finance from Boston College. She also cited her volunteer experience on the Nantucket Historical Commission, the Coastal Resiliency Advisory Committee, and as an alternate member of the Planning Board

“This has given me valuable background on the island and helped me better understand the need for its preservation,” De Molina wrote. “Additionally, I have learned about zoning, planning, and the building regulations in our community. It is vital one understand the nuances that make our island special and ensure we all collaborate to develop a future for us all.”

In her letter of interest to the NP&EDC, Rayport submitted a list of qualifications - including links to her research papers, education, and her resume - stating “I’d like to volunteer to serve on the NP&EDC because of my interest in planning for Nantucket’s long-range future, as a vibrant community and an ecologically and historically important American place.”

If De Molina is appointed to the NP&EDC, she would increase the Planning Board’s representation from five to six seats on the eleven-person body given her current status as a Planning Board alternate. That would grant the Planning Board a majority of the seats and the ability to overrule even unanimous opposition from non-members—the opposite of what Rayport’s home-rule petition intended.

This is not the first time Rayport and De Molina have dueled for an appointed position in town government. When the Select Board pushed Rayport out of her position as chair of the Nantucket Historical Commission, they appointed De Molina to her seat instead.

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