Chilmark appeals herbicide ruling to SJC

Chilmark has appealed a state Land Court decision that nullified a town zoning bylaw that prevents the use of the herbicide Rodeo around Squibnocket Pond.

On the advice of town counsel Ronald Rappaport, selectmen voted unanimously on February 4 to file the appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC). The filing took place February 6.

In May 2013, the Chilmark zoning board of appeals told a group of six Chilmark riparian landowners on Squibnocket Pond they could not use Rodeo to control the growth of the invasive grass phragmites. The group challenged the decision in Land Court in June.

The court ruled last month that state law, which allows the use of Rodeo, supersedes the local ordinance. Mr. Rappaport based advice to appeal on a Wisconsin supreme court ruling from 1991 that held that local governments often have a better idea of their needs than the state.

Mr. Rappaport told The Times that Squibnocket Pond is particularly sensitive to pollutants because it is one of the few large Island ponds that is not periodically open to the ocean, allowing its water to be refreshed. He said if the SJC refused to hear the appeal, it would then go to the state court of appeals. The process could take months, he said.