Court finds for MVC in hotel owner's appeal
Superior Court justice Judith Fabricant ruled that the decision by the Martha's Vineyard Commission not to allow an expansion of the Martha's Vineyard Resort and Racquet Club located on New York Avenue in a residential neighborhood of Oak Bluffs was "entirely reasonable." In a decision handed down on Oct. 20 Justice Fabricant dismissed a complaint from owner Jack E. Robinson appealing the MVC's decision.
In a 15-page ruling, Justice Fabricant said, "On the facts as found by the Court, it is apparent that the Commission's decision has a rational basis. The plaintiff's proposal would employ new construction to establish a large-scale commercial venture in a residential zone, well outside the commercial center of the town. In doing so, the proposal would contravene both the Commission's Regional Plan and the Town of Oak Bluffs master plan.... The Commission's decision not to add this large-scale project to the pre-existing commercial uses in the neighborhood was entirely reasonable."
The MVC reviewed Mr. Robinson's plans to expand his facility by adding eight guest rooms and two employee rooms as a development of regional impact (DRI) and in July 2005 rejected it. In October 2005, Mr. Robinson filed an appeal of the MVC decision with the court.
"I am pleased that the courts have once again upheld the MVC's process for reviewing DRIs," said MVC executive director Mark London.
Mr. Robinson, the former president of the Boston NAACP, has also filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination charging that the denial of his inn expansion "...further underscores the usage of this agency [MVC] to limit and eliminate participation in the Martha's Vineyard economy by African American businesses and organizations."
The MCAD began a formal investigation of the discrimination complaint last year based on an initial interview with Mr. Robinson and a determination that the nature of his complaint fell within the agency's statutory authority.
Attorneys for the MVC said that the discrimination claims lack merit and that the MCAD lacks jurisdiction to hear his complaint. Mr. Robinson has found little support on the Vineyard for his discrimination charges and his charges remain under review by MCAD.
Mr. Robinson's Martha's Vineyard Resort and Racquet Club was originally approved by the MVC as a development of regional impact in 1991. In March 2004, Mr. Robinson asked the MVC to approve an expansion of the five-room inn. His proposal called for the addition of 14 rooms and a significant increase in the size of the structure.
Throughout the hearing process, Mr. Robinson stressed the fact that his inn was one of the few resorts on the East Coast owned by an African-American and that the property played an important role in the Vineyard's cultural life.
Citing size and the impact on the character of the neighborhood, the MVC denied the permit by a vote of 7-3.
Mr. Robinson returned to the MVC almost one year later with revised expansion plans that called for adding eight guest rooms and two employee rooms. Once again, the commission denied a permit, citing the scale and impact of the project on the surrounding neighborhood.