Editorial: Planning Board combined patience and wisdom

Mon, 08/19/2013 - 4:00pm

Being a member of a Planning Board, as anyone who has served will tell you, is not the most glamorous job in the world. You look at plat maps. You listen to abutters. You hear the arguments from attorneys, who are often so eloquent and persuasive for their side of the debate that quite a bit of intensive study is needed to finally come to a decision.

Not every board does everything right, of course. We’re still puzzling over some recent decisions by the Planning Board regarding Payne’s Harbor View Inn — but that’s an editorial for another time. This week, after nearly a year of discussion, the Planning Board approved a Master Plan for the development of six residential lots on 23 acres of property owned by William Merkler and Shannon McAloon near Mohegan Trail.

This is, as far as Block Island, is concerned, a major development. But after listening to Planning Board Chair Margie Comings read page after page of conditions and waivers to the Master Plan — the vast majority of which dealt with how best to preserve as much open space on the parcel as possible — it was hard not to be impressed with the care and thought that went into this process.

The plan asked that the lots be designed not to maximize the development but rather to respect the existing neighbors. Soil erosion impacts are to be minimized. Stone walls — a Block Island treasure — are to be protected. Utilities are to be buried. These are all the results of a process that’s working well.

Block Island cannot exist without a robust economy, nor will it flourish if it loses its affection for the beauty that surrounds us. The members of the current Planning Board kept an eye on both balls, and it’s a pleasure to salute them for this effort here.