Selectman, concom at odds over mowing
There was an awkward moment at the regular meeting of the West Tisbury selectmen last week. Chairman Jeffrey "Skipper" Manter opened the meeting but passed the gavel to vice-chairman John Early, who recognized the chairman of the conservation commission (concom), Prudence Burt, and the concom's board administrator, Maria McFarland. The concom was seeking permission to pay for the advice of town counsel Ronald Rappaport concerning the enforcement of the wetlands bylaw, in a dispute with Mr. Manter over mowing on his mother's property.
Mr. Manter remained silent throughout the brief discussion and abstained from the vote.
Although the selectmen themselves and the concom representatives clearly knew what was up, nothing in the circuitous discussion gave any specific information about why the concom needed Mr. Rappaport.
The awkwardness of the moment, however, was a hint the discussion might be about Mr. Manter, who has in recent years been in conflict with the concom, leading to some legal expense for the town. Ms. McFarland confirmed to The Times that Mr. Manter is the reason for last week's request. The concom believes that Mr. Manter is violating the town bylaw by mowing a wetland on his mother's property, and Mr. Manter believes that there is an agricultural exemption allowing the mowing. The concom hopes that Mr. Rappaport can find a way to settle this dispute without costly litigation. Mr. Early and selectman Glenn Hearn voted 2-0 to approve the use of town counsel.
Citing the fact that the appeal is pending, Mr. Manter declined to comment on the matter
The present dispute has nothing to do with the 18-month-long argument over the Manter family's seasonal docks in Muddy Cove of Tisbury Great Pond. In March of 2004, Mr. Manter and his mother filed notices of intent with the concom for four temporary floating docks. After two public hearings, the concom approved the four docks with long lists of conditions. The Manters appealed the conditions to the regional office of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the docks sat on the banks all during the summer of 2004, waiting for DEP to act.
On May 20, the DEP issued a ruling affirming all but a few of the concom's conditions. Mr. Manter accepted the ruling for two of the four docks, and those docks were in the water this summer. However, Mr. Manter appealed the ruling on the other two docks to the Boston office of the DEP. This time the dispute was between the DEP and Mr. Manter, and the town bore no legal expenses. Ms. McFarland told The Times that a settlement has been reached, and the final papers are waiting to be signed. While not a party to the appeal, the concom is a party to the settlement and voted to approve it at its last meeting.
Ms. McFarland said that she hopes expensive litigation can be avoided in the present, agricultural exemption case.
After the tap-dancing around the concom's request was over, Mr. Manter resumed the gavel and ran the rest of the meeting — which included, among other things, a comment from executive secretary Jennifer Rand that she expected to have the final draft of the town's legal expense policy by the last night's meeting, and a request from Chairman Manter for an itemized and complete accounting of the town's expenses in defending the suit by William Graham against the assessors.