News in Brief
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Island schools begin
new academic year
Martha's Vineyard Regional High School freshmen stepped off yellow school buses and into their first high school year Wednesday, a day or orientation for the class of 2010.
Schools open for business today across the Vineyard. Vehicle drivers are reminded to exercise caution and observe school speed zones.
Land Court upholds Bridge Housing decision
In a win for the Bridge Housing Corporation Tuesday, Justice Alexander H. Sands 3rd of the Massachusetts Land Court upheld the Tisbury zoning board of appeals (ZBA) decision to grant a comprehensive permit to build Bridge Commons, an affordable housing development.
In 2002, the Bridge Housing Corporation, a small non-profit organization of mainly local religious groups, launched an initiative to build Bridge Commons, a 30-unit Chapter 40B affordable housing project on 8.7 acres located off State Road in Vineyard Haven.
The Martha's Vineyard Commission signed off on the project in June 2003. After a nine-month round of comprehensive permit hearings, the Tisbury zoning board of appeals (ZBA) unanimously approved Bridge Commons, with a hefty list of 46 conditions in November 2004.
Shortly afterwards, two owners of abutting properties, Ken Bilzerian and Kristen Henshaw, appealed the ZBA's decision to the Massachusetts Land Court. A trial was held in December 2005.
Attorney Marilyn Vukota, working in the law offices of Marcia Cini at that time, represented Bridge Housing at the Land Court trial. "It was a grueling two-day trial that felt like ten," she said. "We can't be happier about the decision that came down yesterday. Just to play a small part in achieving that is an honor for me, frankly."
Now 16 months since the comprehensive permit was awarded, Bridge Housing Corporation president Dick Mezger said that, as a next step, "We will be regrouping and getting started on the detailed design and construction, and on the realization of much needed, quality affordable housing for Tisbury and for the Vineyard."
Assuming the abutters do not appeal the decision, Ms. Vukota said the timetable for the project will include fine tuning the development plans and putting financing into place.
"I'm thrilled for the families who can potentially move in there," Ms. Vukota said. "I think it will make a huge impact on at least 30 families who don't have housing right now."
The support structure for the development of affordable housing on the Vineyard is stronger today than it was when Bridge Commons was proposed in 2002, Mr. Mezger said. "We look forward to interactions with entities such as the Island Housing Trust, the Island Affordable Housing Fund, the Martha's Vineyard land Bank, and the Community Preservation Committees - and with the neighbors - to move ahead in a manner as positive, effective, and neighborly as we are able," said Mr. Mezger.
Doctor Morris faces extradition hearing
Dr. Gerald C. Morris returned to Edgartown District Court on Aug 31, for a bail review hearing. After listening to arguments from both sides, Judge Donald Carpenter hiked the $750 bail set at the doctor's earlier arraignment on Aug. 30 to $5,000.
Dr. Morris, a family practitioner and internist, was arrested at his office in the Martha's Vineyard Hospital on Tuesday, Aug. 29 on a fugitive from justice warrant issued by the Ventura County, California, Sheriff's Department, posted bail following his hearing and was freed from the Dukes County Jail.
Dr. Morris is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 29, by which time he must choose to waive extradition to California and go voluntarily, or a governor's warrant will be issued, Island Assistant District Attorney Laura Marshard said.
"The issue is now whether he is going to waive extradition, and that's a decision that only the doctor can make," Ms. Marshard said. "Otherwise, California has indicated to me, directly, that they will seek a governor's warrant." A governor's warrant, the mechanism that allows California authorities to come to this state and take custody of Mr. Morris, takes a few weeks to process, Ms. Marshard explained.
"We're really acting to assist California to pursue their charges," she said.
During Dr. Morris's bail review hearing, Ms. Marshard read from an interview conducted by a Ventura County investigator, in which Mr. Morris admitted to responding to an advertisement in the New England Journal of Medicine, soliciting doctors for an unspecified endeavor.
Dr. Morris, 35, is wanted in California on three felony charges of conspiracy to commit a crime; sale and possession of a controlled substance; and unlawfully prescribing a controlled substance. The California warrant was issued on Aug. 22, according to a spokesperson for the Ventura County Sheriff's Department.
During the bail review hearing, Ms. Marshard said that Dr. Morris had admitted to some level of involvement in the crime to the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. She asked that Dr. Morris be held on $100,000 bail. Attorney David Lawler, who is representing Dr. Morris, said that the bail should not be raised because his client does not present a flight risk.
Judge Carpenter said he took both appeals into account, and set the bail at $5,000 cash, a typical amount, he said, for fugitive charges such as Dr. Morris is facing.
According to Tisbury police detective Mark Santon, the charges stem from an Internet drug sale scheme that is national and international in scope and involves money laundering, identity theft, and the sale of prescription drugs.
The Martha's Vineyard Hospital chief of the medical staff, Dr. Michael Goldfein, ordered a precautionary suspension of Dr. Morris's medical privileges. Ms. Marshard said she has received calls from the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, indicating that they are aware of the charges.
Bail revoked in
West Tisbury assault
A Barnstable Superior Court judge ordered Scott Donavan, 34, held without bail on charges arising from a violent home invasion and the sexual assault of a West Tisbury woman on Monday, Aug. 28.
The decision to hold Mr. Donavan without bail was made at a bail review hearing presided over by a Barnstable Superior Court judge by means of an electronic video connection between the Dukes County courthouse and Barnstable Superior Court.
Mr. Donovan is scheduled to return to court on Sept. 21 for a dangerousness hearing to determine if he should be held without bail, Island Assistant District Attorney Laura Marshard said.
Police arrested Mr. Donavan, a level two sex offender, on Monday, following a day-long search. He was arraigned in Edgartown District Court on Aug. 29 and ordered held on $1 million bail.
Mr. Donavan was arraigned on nine charges: home invasion; assault to rape; armed assault in a dwelling (a firearm); assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a knife); assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (a rock); kidnapping; aggravated rape; and larceny of a motor vehicle.
The case will ultimately be sent to Dukes County Superior Court where Mr. Donavan could face the possibility of life in prison based on the penalties associated with the charges.
According to the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB), which defines four classifications of sex offenders, Mr. Donavan is a level two sex offender. His classification dates to a 1998 conviction for aggravated rape.
According to the SORB web site, www.mass.gov/sorb, which was updated on Aug. 28, there are six level two and one level three offenders living in Edgartown, four level twos in Oak Bluffs, five level twos and one level three in Tisbury, one level two and one level three in West Tisbury, and one level two in Aquinnah. There are no registered sex offenders in Chilmark.
Coast Guard rescues boaters off Devil's Bridge
Three men fishing aboard a 28-foot center console boat out of Portsmouth, R.I. called the Coast Guard for help after their boat, the Fighting Lady, began taking on water off Devil's Bridge, a hazardous stretch of ocean off Gay Head.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Robertson said Station Menemsha received a call at 9:10 pm Monday and dispatched a 47-foot motor lifeboat.
In the meantime, the Millennium, a passenger fast ferry that operates between Quonset Point, R.I. and Oak Bluffs, also responded to the scene after hearing the distress call. Millennium stood by ready to offer assistance.
When the Coast Guard arrived, the transom of the small craft was almost under water. The Coast Guard removed the three crewmen and towed the boat back to Menemsha Basin.
Petty Officer Robertson said that safe in port, the boat was judged to be watertight. He said the boat had a low cut transom that might have allowed water to come in over the stern and flood the boat.
A story in the July issue of Seaworthy, the damage avoidance newsletter from BoatU.S. Marine Insurance, reported that the chief cause of boats sinking while underway is water over gunwales/transom. BoatUS bases its report on claims filed with the company.
MVC reschedules discussion on West Tisbury home
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) postponed deliberations scheduled for this evening over whether to review a West Tisbury couple's plans to build a 15,575-square-foot-house on their 30-acre property as a Development of Regional Impact (DRI).
Instead, the Rattner/White house project has been moved to the MVC's agenda for Sept. 14 at 7:30 pm at the Stone Building in Oak Bluffs.
MVC staff member Paul Foley, DRI analyst/planner, said he changed the scheduling to allow more time for a public hearing about possibly designating the Mullen Way neighborhood in Edgartown as a District of Critical Planning Concern. That hearing will begin as scheduled tonight.
Also, the Rattner/White project has been reclassified as a discretionary concurrence DRI review, which necessitates advertising the hearing seven days before it is held.
Steve Rattner and his wife Patricia (Maureen) White applied to the West Tisbury planning board for two separate building permits to move an existing 3,300-square-foot house to an adjacent lot, and to build a new 15,75 gross-square-foot home (including porches and basement) on the site of the existing house.
The planning board recently referred both projects to the MVC for review as DRIs. The MVC's land use planning committee (LUPC) voted Aug. 21 to recommend that the full commission review the housing project as a DRI, a designation not usually applied to single-family dwellings.
If the MVC votes to review the project as a DRI, a public hearing will then be scheduled.
Chilmark police officer injured in crash
A Chilmark seasonal police officer received a serious head wound after his cruiser slid off the road and struck a utility pole while rounding a curve on a rain-slick portion of State Road at 11:15 pm Saturday night.
After passing a vehicle with no tail lights traveling in the opposite direction, Officer Matthew Gebo, 21, turned his cruiser around. He was attempting to catch up to the other vehicle when he slid sideways off State Road, according to police reports.
Mr. Gebo was transported by Tri-town ambulance to Martha's Vineyard Hospital. Following a series of X-rays he was transferred to Mass General Hospital in Boston by Coast Guard Falcon jet.
He was released the next day and is now recovering at his home in Westboro, Chilmark Police Chief Tim Rich said Tuesday. "I'm glad he is all right," said Chief Rich. "That is the main thing."
Congressman sponsors service academy forum
Congressman Bill Delahunt will sponsor an information forum for local high school students and their families interested in educational opportunities at US Service Academies. Forum participants will outline the procedures for pursuing a congressional nomination to the academies. Tenth Congressional District residents who graduate from high school by June 2006 are eligible to apply for the academic year 2007-2008. The application deadline for potential nominees is Nov. 1, 2006.
The free two-hour forum is scheduled for 7 pm on Thursday, Sept. 14, at the Martinson Elementary School at 275 Forest Street in Marshfield. Registration begins at 6:30 pm.
For more information on the forum, or about the nomination process, call Mr. Delahunt's office, toll-free, at 1-800-794-9911. Applications forms are available online at www.house.gov/delahunt/ svcacad.htm.
High School cited as exemplary employer
Martha's Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) has been selected one of 12 companies in Massachusetts to receive an Exemplary Employer Award for 2006 by Governor Mitt Romney and the Governor's Commission on Employment of People with Disabilities.
Armand "Chip" Bergeron, program coordinator of Martha's Vineyard Community Services (MVCS), nominated the high school for the award.
MVCS runs an employment program for people with disabilities on the Island through the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. The high school participates. Mr. Bergeron said MVRHS was chosen for the nomination as an employer that goes "...above and beyond in the area of employing people with disabilities and providing upward mobility for people with disabilities."
Through an arrangement with Mr. Bergeron and Kendra Yale of the MVCS Island Employment Services Program, the high school staff provided job training and adaptations in the school building to employ Steve Soriano, a young man born with cerebral palsy. He sorts and delivers all of the school's mail.
Mr. Soriano first visited the Vineyard as a camper at Camp Jabberwocky, and became the first employee of Chilmark Chocolates in 1985. For many years, he worked there on Friday through Sunday, traveling back and forth to the Island from his family's home in Braintree. MVCS helped Mr. Soriano achieve his goal of living on the Island full-time, helping him find housing at Hillside Village and arranging for employment at the high school.
"He's doing an outstanding job and has been a terrific employee," said Mr. Bergeron, adding that the high school employs other people with disabilities as well. MVRHS principal Peg Regan, accompanied by Ms. Yale, will accept the employer award on behalf of MVRHS at an awards ceremony at the State House in Boston in October.
State Police nab
New Hampshire fugitive
State Police Officer Bob Branca was on routine patrol Sunday when he stopped a vehicle with a loud exhaust and a New Hampshire license plate.
Further investigation revealed that the driver, Michael H. Willoughby, 25, was wanted in New Hampshire on larceny charges, according to State Police Lieutenant Bob Moore.
Mr. Willoughby was arrested for being a fugitive from justice and arraigned Tuesday in Edgartown District Court.
Widening differences between the leadership of The West Tisbury Congregational Church and its minister, the Rev. Tom Roan, led to an emotional parting of the ways last month.
Although Mr. Roan officially resigned on Aug. 16, he is now on paid administrative leave until Nov. 16, under the terms of a contract that was scheduled to end on Jan. 1, 2007.
"We just decided it was best to part ways," said church moderator David Pritchard. "It just was not working."
The decision to end Mr. Roan's ministry was approved at meetings of the church board of deacons and the board of trustees on Aug. 28, at which emotions boiled over after one member of the congregation objected to the outcome.
West Tisbury police were called after a member of the congregation allegedly pushed a church official.
Mr. Pritchard said the church has begun the process of forming a minister search committee.