— from Charles Carver —
On Mar. 6 I attended a meeting of the EPRC, curious about the visioning process for Eastsound that I have heard about. I much appreciated that portion of the meeting, the items under consideration and the enthusiasm of attendees.
Another topic came up at the end of the meeting that I wasn’t expecting: an architectural firm gave a presentation on a proposed project by the Outlook Inn to replace it’s oceanside annex with a number of cottages. It was a brief presentation, big on marketing and, in my view, short on specifics. When I asked the presenter the size of the lot, the square footage of the existing structure and the square footage of the proposed development, he simply evaded the question and commented instead on how sensitive the design was to the site, how they had not developed as much of the site as allowed, how the proposed structures could have been taller and allegedly because of some grandfathered clause.
He took a similar tact with some other specific questions though he did comment that the proposed development was 2 1/2 times the size of the current structure. After the meeting I approached the gentleman to reiterate my question and he said he didn’t have the information with him, wrote my email on the posted presentation and said he would forward it to me. Thus far he hasn’t. Upon reflection it is curious that he couldn’t answer my question as he had drawings in front of him, commented on the foundation in some detail, 10′ from the high bank, drew additional details on the board from memory and when asked about the height of the proposed structures indicated they were a few feet taller than the existing annex. One could argue he presented only a general view of the proposal in an effort to sell it.
I confess I didn’t find the design unattractive and didn’t object to the design itself. I do have two concerns. First, the brevity and lack of forthcomingness in the presentation and the fact that the EPRC after a surprisingly superficial inquiry indicated they had no objection, i.e., gave tacit approval to it. In fact, in the middle of the presentation when the chairperson asked if the committee had any questions or comments one member abruptly said, “I vote yes.” Being acquainted with several committee members and knowing them to be intelligent and thoughtful people I was disappointed that the ‘review’ of the proposal was so cursory, devoid of the critical scrutiny I would expect. It suggested to me a breach of the integrity of the function of review itself. While I am aware that EPRC has no power to over-rule the proposal I suspect the presentation was meant to garner political momentum for the permitting process and it is disturbing that EPRC provided that with so little reflection. If EPRC is not going to honor the review process it might be wise to consider whether the committee should entertain such presentations.
The second concern is not with the design of the proposal but where it is sited, even if lawful. Expanding beyond the footprint of the existing structure on the shoreline means further loss of the view corridor. Eastsound is an oceanside community and the view of the seascape which defines it continues to erode and disappear. Should we ignore that? A concern for the preservation of the seascape is not “anti-development” rather it is a suggestion that the development take place elsewhere (in this case for instance, perhaps behind the Outlook Inn). Isn’t an unobstructed waterfront that highlights the natural beauty of Eastsound as valid an organizational concept for envisioning the future of Eastsound as a concept that proposes commercial enclosure of it? I don’t see why resisting further impingement on the shoreline is by itself anti-development. I would call it smart growth that directs growth away from critical zones and allows for it in areas that don’t obscure our natural heritage and in fact restores it as often as possible. Among the challenges of planning and development is not relegating other concerns to a second class category which, precedent in SJC amply illustrates, is almost always the case.
There is a saying that, “The business of business is business” and perhaps that is part of the logic in play here. I do not care for that proposition, first, because it sanctions disregard of other concerns and additionally because business is about more than business. It is about community, relationships, service, and the way we live in, utilize, and sustain the world around us. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the authors of the proposed development at the Outlook explored alternative plans like opting to build additional accommodations landward and behind the Outlook. The current annex could be left as is or removed and the view of the seascape recovered to the great pleasure of the community, visitors, and Outlook clientele. And it would serve to restore some of the losses from other recent developments just down the street. They could offer it to the community for a park and accept the tax benefits. They could sell it to the community and finance the construction of those additional accommodations elsewhere. I could imagine a park there or a botanical display of native flora. I can imagine reclaiming most or all of the waterfront as older structures fail, are removed and businesses relocated landward. Over time we cold restore the waterfront and reclaim our natural heritage. Commerce need not suffer, indeed it would likely be enhanced.