Appointments to local boards, committees, and commissions are typically straightforward and predictable – the most qualified person is selected to serve. But this week left us shocked by the Select Board’s choice for a critical seat on the Conservation Commission. Like many, we thought the incumbent Chair with extensive scientific expertise and six years on the Commission was the obvious choice. Instead, 4 out of 5 Select Board members opted for a new candidate with less relevant experience. Their reasoning? More balance.
We spoke with Emily Molden, Executive Director for the Nantucket Land Council. She’s spent the last 15 years attending Con Com meetings, reviewing permit applications, and providing an outside perspective to emphasize protecting Nantucket’s fragile environment. She’s just as surprised (and disappointed) by the appointment. She believes “the collective board that served this past year has proven open, reasonable and fair, while implementing the wetland regulations.” Select Board members claiming the need for more balance would imply too many waivers or denials for projects. But Emily says, “The Commission spends weeks working with applicants to address concerns and balance the interests of property owners as well as resource areas.”
The Conservation Commission’s main charge is to review and issue permits for any work within 100 feet of a “wetland resource area” – this includes beaches, dunes, ponds, and land subject to flooding. It’s the only local regulatory body required to consider and protect our most sensitive environmental areas from continued development pressures.
Beautiful and healthy beaches, dunes, harbors, ponds – all reasons why so many are drawn to Nantucket. According to Nantucket Data Platform’s 2019 Island Life Survey, natural beauty is the #1 reason why year-round residents stay, and the #1 reason why summer residents move here and stay here.
The Select Board itself has identified Environmental Leadership as a top priority in its Strategic Plan. The Town has put coastal resilience at the top of the list, too – leading voters to authorize $550,000 for coastal resiliency planning and creating the Coastal Resilience Advisory Committee.
As Emily puts it so well, ” If the Select Board is genuinely interested in protecting our coastal and wetland resources, which will ensure the future of the island and its economy, I hope they will reconsider their idea of balance. The Conservation Commission is THE entity that is doing this work for them.”
Enjoy your Sunday evening.