A public hearing to discuss a proposal to include five ancient ways as special ways in Edgartown's Island Roads/Special Ways district of critical planning concern (DCPC) and to amend the special ways regulations will be held jointly by Edgartown's Planning Board and Byways Committee on Dec. 18 at 7:30 pm on the second floor of town hall.
Georgiana Greenough, assistant to the Edgartown Planning Board, said that the purpose of the hearing is to offer the public the opportunity to discuss and ask questions about proposed regulations regarding maintenance and development along the paths.
Last August, the Edgartown selectmen and planning board proposed a boundary amendment to the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) to allow the addition of parts of Ben Tom's Road, Middle Line Path, Pennywise Path, Tar Kiln Path, and Watcha Path to the existing Island Road District that includes the Edgartown segment of Dr. Fisher Road.
The move to include the five paths in the DCPC stemmed from complaints from representatives of Edgartown's Meadows Road Association that Attorney Benjamin Hall Jr. cut trees on property along Middle Line Path that he did not own. However, Mr. Hall's parents own property along Middle Line Road, and it was his position that his family has an easement that they are allowed to maintain, which entitled him to cut the trees. Mr. Hall did not return a phone message left for him this week asking for his comments on the upcoming public hearing.
The selectmen and planning board agreed to refer the nomination of the five byways to the MVC. After accepting the nomination for consideration and holding a public hearing on Sept. 20, the MVC approved the amendment on Oct. 4, which triggered a special moratorium that prohibits the town from issuing development permits within the area being considered.
Since then, Edgartown's planning board and byways committee have been working on proposed changes to the town's special ways bylaw, in consultation with MVC senior planner Bill Veno. Some changes were deemed necessary, given that the existing bylaw that protects Dr. Fisher Road, a pedestrian path, does not include any provisions for paths with vehicular traffic such as Pennywise Path, for example.
On Tuesday night, the planning board and byways committee met and made some additional minor revisions to the draft regulations that will be discussed at the Dec. 18 hearing.
Four of the changes proposed for the special ways bylaw concern use by motor vehicles. The planning board and byways committee recommend that the bylaw contain more explicit acknowledgement that some segments of a special way may be routinely traveled by motor vehicles. They also suggest identifying existing segments known to be used by motor vehicles, to which the term "Special Vehicular Ways" would be applied. Although those are part of the special ways, in some cases different development regulations would apply to the segments used by motor vehicles.
The planning board and byways committee also recommend clarifying in the bylaw that existing surfaces of special vehicular ways can be maintained and repaired with the existing surface materials. In addition, the two committees propose the creation of a new special permit requirement and criteria for the planning board to consider requests for new driveways along the entire length of a special way.
In regard to use of the 20-foot special way zone along either side of a special way, the two committees recommend acknowledging and identifying existing fences and areas of removed natural vegetation, which would be grandfathered. For parcels of one acre or less, the committees propose allowing exceptions to removal of vegetation and erection of fences, the latter based on the height and transparency of the fence.
The planning board and byways committee also recommended adding excavation and filling to activities prohibited in the special way zone. They also suggested that the bylaw should explicitly state that new roads or utility rights-of-way permitted or created by the town in the special way shall restore its physical integrity.
Following the public hearing, Ms. Greenough said the planning board and byways committee will consider input they receive in finalizing the proposed rules and regulations.
According to staff notes provided by DCPC coordinator Jo-Ann Taylor during the MVC's public hearing on the special ways DCPC, the commission must approve the town's proposed regulations for conformance with its guidelines at another public hearing.
Then the town meeting may vote both the boundary amendment and the new regulations, which requires a two-thirds majority vote, and the development moratorium ends.