Zoning enforcement rule could allow unregulated expansion

To the Editor:

To protect the character of our community, Tisbury residents should attend a Tisbury zoning board of appeals (ZBA) hearing to protest a controversial, landmark decision by the office of building inspection and zoning enforcement.

The decision, issued January 8, states that Tisbury is not permitted by the Massachusetts zoning act to enforce its zoning by-laws for the expansion or change in use of any dwelling that has been in existence for more than six years.  The only condition required by the zoning act is that the dwelling had to be properly permitted when it was initially built. Once six years have elapsed, the property owner can expand the dwelling or change its use without permits or zoning variances.

If this ruling is affirmed by the ZBA, your neighbors could build major additions to their dwellings with no constraints.  Property owners with guest houses currently limited to 800 sq. ft. of livable space could convert these guest houses to 3,000 sq. ft. homes on 7,500 sq. ft. lots in any zoning district, and then sell both dwellings as single family residences. Your neighbors even could build high-rise buildings on the footprint of their existing dwellings. In all of these cases, owners would not need building permits or zoning variances, and the town would not be allowed to order the removal of the addition.

Kenneth Barwick, Tisbury’s zoning enforcement officer, issued this ruling without his signature, and he has refused to issue a signed copy of the ruling despite two written requests. Mr. Barwick and David Doneski, Tisbury town counsel, finalized their ruling on this case in early October, but that version was never issued because an unidentified Tisbury official rejected it. After that rejection, Mr. Doneski was instructed to do additional legal analysis. Three months later a ruling was issued.

In my appeal, dated February 1, I requested that Mr. Doneski and Mr. Barwick submit, in advance of the hearing, signed and notarized affidavits, duly sworn and duly affirmed, to tell the truth. These affidavits are to state whether or not this ruling is the product of their work, and if not, to identify the Tisbury official who interfered and ordered this decision to be issued.

I encourage you to review a detailed analysis of this ruling in the ZBA office. Request the file for Assessors’ Parcel 5-G-2.1, located at 25 Goethals Way. Please make sure that the document entitled “Appeal of Zoning Enforcement Determination,” dated February 1, is in the file for your review, and that the document has all 55 pages.

Public oversight in this case is crucial to ensure that justice is not obstructed. I filed a preliminary appeal to the ZBA for this case in late October, to protest the failure of the zoning enforcement officer to issue a ruling within 14 days, as is required by the zoning act.  The evidence submitted for this preliminary appeal was withheld from the public and from the members of the board of appeals. The hearing was held on December 12, 2013, without the board members knowing anything about the case. The testimony in that hearing was doctored when reported in the decision, and I, as the petitioner, did not receive the decision until after the 20-day appeal period already had expired. Please attend the hearing at 6:30 pm on Thursday, March 13.

William Arthur Bruno