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Home » Archives » June 2007 » Nantucket Example One Not To Follow

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06/10/2007: "Nantucket Example One Not To Follow"


The report that Nantucket planner John Pagini will be visiting Friday Harbor rhetorically asks: "Is San Juan County following the same path as Nantucket, Massachusetts; where hundreds of workers, teachers, and service people commute daily, and the median home price is $1.8 million?"

The answer is "of course we are." We're about two decades behind, but we're taking exactly the same steps. Just like Nantucket, we installed a comprehensive plan. Just like Nantucket, we've empowered bureaucrats and planners. Just like Nantucket, we're presently attempting to disrupt market forces that otherwise naturally set prices and services levels. We have not yet driven out service providers to the extent that any specific San Juan County job is not or cannot be locally accomplished - but we're heading that way.

If we are serious about not wanting to end up like Nantucket, we should abandon techniques that are long-proven to be ineffective – and as often as not actually contribute to the overall problems. In our case (and Nantucket's) it is unconscionable that we cling to the belief that empowered bureaucrats (as agents of GMA and GMA-like comprehensive plans) are somehow preferable to citizen property owners in matters pertaining to development and growth.

The “Apen Nantucket Study” commissioned by our county in 2000 confirmed that these comprehensive plans do not work. It called them “pacing devices” and in an anecdotal comment observed that “Block Island has no growth ‘pacing’ device at all, beyond three-acre minimum zoning” … and “by comparison (remains) rural and still remarkably idyllic.”

Our best and brightest future will not come via demands that our citizens comply with rigid planning criteria aimed at controlling sprawl and government-mandated affordable housing programs (privately sponsored, market-driven programs are OK). The relative quality of our circumstance will ultimately be in proportion to the degree to which our citizens’ imagination and ingenuity is allowed to blossom.

The most pertinent questions that John Pagini might answer are whether or why he believes that Nantucket's comprehensive plan and other pacing devices have worked; and whether such approaches have been successful anywhere else

Albert Hall
Friday Harbor

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