MVC adds Edgartown paths to special district
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) voted Oct. 4 to accept a proposed boundary amendment to Edgartown's Island Road District to include five "ancient ways," paths believed to date back to the 1600s and 1700s. Thirteen commissioners took less than a half hour to deliberate and decide, with 12 voting in favor and West Tisbury commissioner Jim Powell abstaining.
With the MVC's approval, parts of Ben Tom's Road, Middle Line Path, Pennywise Path, Tar Kiln Path, and Watcha Path will be designated as "special ways" in Edgartown's Island Road District of critical planning concern (DCPC), created in 1975.
"We're giving the town the opportunity to create regulations to protect these ways they wouldn't otherwise have," said MVC chairman Douglas Sederholm.
The commissioners agreed that protecting the paths from development outweighed other arguments about possible infringement of property rights or the unintended consequence of opening the paths to more widespread public use.
Now it will be up to the town, with recommendations from the Edgartown planning board and town byways committee, to formulate regulations regarding maintenance and development along the paths.
The commission voted unanimously to accept the nomination for consideration on Aug. 9 and held a public hearing about the issue on Sept. 20. By accepting the DCPC nomination, the commission's bylaws required that a public hearing and decision be made within 60 days, or by Oct. 8.
With its Oct. 4 vote, the MVC statutory authority puts in place a special moratorium prohibiting the town from issuing development permits within the area being considered. The moratorium remains in effect for the duration of the planning phase to establish the regulations, which may take up to one year from the date of the designation vote.
According to an MVC staff report prepared by coastal planner and DCPC coordinator Jo-Ann Taylor, dated Sept. 20, although regulations already are in place for another Edgartown special way, Dr. Fisher Road, the Edgartown planning board has expressed doubts about whether those rules are appropriate for the expanded DCPC.
Ms. Taylor wrote that there are two courses of action Edgartown may take. If the town is satisfied with the existing regulations, voters may approve the boundary expansion at town meeting by a two-thirds majority vote, and the new area would be covered by the same regulations. If not satisfied, the town has up to a year from the date of the MVC's vote last week to come up with new regulations.
Prior to a town vote to adopt the regulations, the MVC will hold a public hearing to determine whether the proposed regulations meet the guidelines in the DCPC designation. Once approved by the MVC, the town meeting may vote both the boundary amendment and the new regulations by a two-thirds majority vote. Then the moratorium will end, Ms. Taylor's report said.