To the editor: The Nantucket Land & Water Council (NLWC) believes that Nantucket residents deserve comfortable, secure, affordable, year-round housing, AND a healthy environment with safe and sustainable infrastructure.
On January 2nd the Nantucket Superior Court ruled in favor of the NLWC on our appeal and overturned the state Housing Appeal Committee (HAC) decision to allow Surfside Crossing’s 156-unit development on South Shore Road. This ruling was not based on a technicality. Rather, it was an incredibly important determination that the HAC had not followed their own regulations which required them to send the project back to our local Zoning Board of Appeals for a new public hearing.
In doing so, the HAC undermined the intent of the public process and Nantucket’s ability to directly participate in the permitting of such a massive development project that affects the entire island. A development of this scale should not be reviewed and permitted solely by a state agency but should be required to undergo local review and input. This local review is critical to achieving a balance between important community concerns and protecting the health, safety, and other interests of the town and its residents.
Following the court’s ruling the Select Board, through town counsel, issued an invitation for all parties involved to participate in a joint mediation process to discuss the future of the proposed development and permitting process. The NLWC agreed to mediation, however, the developers have refused to participate. This is not the first time they have refused. At the outset of the HAC’s review process the ZBA, which had issued a comprehensive permit for the project which the developers had appealed, requested mediation with the developers to look for common ground. The developers also refused at that time, intent on forging ahead with their substantial redesign of the project before the HAC in hopes that they would not have to return to Nantucket for the local review that should be required. Refusing to sit down and work collaboratively at any point in the process, the developer’s position has continued to be “their way or the highway.”
The developers continue to claim that their proposed project would provide a full suite of housing opportunities for the year-round community, but they have never formally committed to this in any form of binding agreement. Nor have they honored their commitments to the community in the past. Throughout this process, they have repeatedly rejected any idea of balancing the community’s interests, something that the state’s Chapter 40B statute under which they are attempting to permit this project requires, and something that the town and community should demand. They have objected to the NLWC and abutters’ involvement every step of the way and have not adequately addressed important concerns relative to water and sewer infrastructure impacts, fire and safety, habitat, and open space. Now they are refusing to even attempt discussions through a mediation process that the town has requested. Meanwhile, they have filed a motion to reconsider with the Superior Court to challenge our standing as a party once again, a matter which has already been legally determined and adjudicated without appeal. The court will now have to review this matter again, delaying the ultimate remand of the project back to our local ZBA.
The mission of the NLWC is to protect the health of our environment and community through the preservation of the island’s land and water resources. The NLWC has been and will continue to be supportive of the kind of attainable, environmentally friendly, safe, and healthy housing solutions that our community needs and deserves. However, we also believe we can and must move forward in a thoughtful, community-minded, collaborative way that protects our environment and does not undermine our progress by adding new issues or exacerbating existing problems. Our continued economic vitality and quality of life here on Nantucket depends on it.
Executive Director, Nantucket Land & Water Council