This letter is to express my displeasure and disagreement with the current position of the Aquinnah selectmen in regard to a wind turbine located at the Gay Head Cliffs.
Virtually all Martha’s Vineyard advertisements, brochures, web sites, and other tourism materials show a picture of the Gay Head Cliffs and/or Gay Head Light. This area is the most photographed spot on all of Martha’s Vineyard. This area looks very much as it did 30, 40 or even 100 years ago. It presents an appealing vista that entices tourists to visit. Imagine how a 300-foot-plus wind turbine would affect all the tourist advertisements from now on. Folks come to this area to enjoy unspoiled views of nature’s majesty, not a power plant.
This wind turbine would be one of the most visible structures on the Vineyard. Peaked Hill, the highest spot on the Vineyard, is 308 feet. This tower will be taller than that. It will dominate the entire area. The Gay Head Lighthouse is 51 feet high. This wind turbine would be more than six times higher than the lighthouse. All photos will now be dominated by a wind turbine instead of a 300-year-old historical structure. It will change the character and appeal of the area forever. The cliffs are a National Landmark, not something to be turned into a power generation station.
The town of Aquinnah has some of the strictest building height restrictions on the Vineyard, 18 feet in the cliff area. These regulations are in place to prevent the town vista from being marred by houses popping out of the landscape, but a wind tower, that will be visible from much of the town, is acceptable? Can you imagine the outrage of a homeowner, and taxpayer, who is told that they can’t put a second floor on because of height restrictions but a 300-foot tower can go up next door? The town should be prepared to defend itself on this one. Tricky language to differentiate a tower of more than 32 feet from other structures violates the spirit of the height restrictions.
Some folks have attempted to make an economic case for the tower. If it is pure economics, why not just line up a row of towers along the Moshup Trail? Surely that would generate even more revenue for the town. The economics of the Vineyard are tied to the tourist trade. Many folks who call the Vineyard home would not be able to do so were it not for the dollars that tourists pour into the local economy. The shops at the cliffs are already dealing with the effects of a decrease in the number of tourist busses stopping by. Changing the character of one of the most scenic places on the Island will only have a negative effect on the tourist trade. Tourists come to Aquinnah to see the cliffs and the lighthouse, not a wind turbine six times higher than the lighthouse. Wind turbines are not tourist drawing cards. I believe that a wind turbine located in that area will have a negative impact on the economic earning power of the residents of Aquinnah, specifically the Wampanoags, many of whom rely on tourist dollars.
The Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the residents of the town of Aquinnah have made great efforts to ensure that the character of that area will not be spoiled by tall buildings. Please do not let the recent zeal for wind power undo all the good that has been done over the past few decades.
6 December 2007
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