The Martha’s Vineyard Commission made the roundabout mess


First of all, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission ought to step up and admit that it might have saved us all a lot of heartache by moving to see that the roundabout plan got an early hearing as a development of regional impact.

It is nonsense to argue, as the current MVC chairman, Chris Murphy of Chilmark, did this week to the selectmen in West Tisbury, that the lesson is “that Oak Bluffs should have referred it [the roundabout plan] a long time ago; it would have made life a lot easier for all of us if the process had started with the commission rather than end there.”

No. The commission staff, and its director, certainly with the commission’s elected and appointed members aware of the effort, worked for years with Oak Bluffs on the project. The commission director and its then chairman ought to have alerted the Oak Bluffs selectmen — as they have done in consultation with other municipalities when questions of regional implications of a development were apparent — that the roundabout project, in its size, location, and multi-town impacts had easily recognizable regional implications. After all, if an unusual $1.5 million roundabout project, planned for the only example of a highway on Martha’s Vineyard, at an intersection in a heavily traveled multi-town location — hard by the high school, the Y, the ice arena, the skateboard park, the bus transfer site, the multi-agency community services center, and housing for the elderly — is not of regional significance, what on earth is?

And, after all and unsurprisingly, when the project was ultimately recommended to the MVC as a development of regional impact, the MVC agreed.

So the question is: If the regional agency empowered by state government to moderate the creation of developments of regional impact here cannot recognize a development of regional impact when it is up to its regional planning agency elbows in the creation of one, is there any reason to have faith in the clear-eyed objective nature of the development of regional impact process entrusted to the commission? Doubtful.

Now there’s a lawsuit. At least two towns, and many Island residents, think the deliberations that led to the project plan and its approval by the commission ended without an all-out review, that is, with the fix in.

The way the Martha’s Vineyard Commission made its decision on the project and later its decision not to reconsider the decision contributes to this view.

Apart from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s delinquency in addressing the developing project properly much earlier in the 10 years that have passed since it was a twinkle in a planner’s eye, the commission’s disorderly practice in voting to approve the project — when the then-chairman chose to break a tie and endorse the plan — and later — when, the vote being in the affirmative to rescind the approval and reconsider, the chairman chose to make a tie, thus quashing the reconsideration effort — is deeply unsatisfying. Are there no operating bylaws that govern and repress the manic flights of the elected and appointed members of this organization? There ought to be.

So now, critics want the courts to intervene. However the legal battle proceeds, it will be inefficient and expensive. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s organizational blunder brought us to this pass. It ought to be addressed contritely and constructively by the regional agency’s lay leadership, with an eye to finding a way to properly consider the issue, short of court.