West Tisbury con com decision challenged in court

West Tisbury selectmen last week set in motion the search for a new police chief. They also learned that a property owner, unhappy with a conservation commission decision, has sued for relief in Dukes County Superior Court.

Selectmen Richard Knabel and Cynthia Mitchell last Wednesday approved the charge for the committee that will conduct the search for a new police chief and interviewed committee applicants. Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter, a West Tisbury police sergeant, abstained from the police business.

The committee will advertise for qualified candidates, establish the criteria for screening the candidates, interview the applicants, recommend the three strongest candidates to the selectmen, and complete the assignment by Sept 15, 2010.

Selectmen interviewed Bob Wasserman, Glenn Hearn, Faith (Hasty) Runner, Brian Athearn, Norman Perry, Pierce Kirby, David Merry, Al DeVito, and Jennifer Gardner. They asked each why he or she wished to serve, the qualifications that a police chief should have, and whether he or she had any prejudices or preconceived notions for or against any candidate.

Acting police chief Dan Rossi has stated publicly that he would like to be appointed permanently, and Mr. Knabel acknowledged that there is a “strong internal candidate.”

Bob Wasserman, an international security consultant who has assisted Tisbury with police issues, said that he has conducted other police chief searches across the country, and recommended that the town hold a public forum to allow residents to identify the characteristics of the police chief they would like to see.

“It is important for people to believe that this is an open process and to express their feelings. It is one of the most important appointments the board makes and has a direct impact on their lives,” Mr. Wasserman said.

Several of the committee applicants said that they would be seeking a new police chief who did the job as former chief George Manter, Mr. Manter’s father, had. “The police chief should be like George Manter — someone who cares deeply about the town and the people who live in it,” Brian Athearn said.

The selectmen have not decided on the size of the committee.

Selectmen are expected to make appointments next week.

ConCom in court

Prudence Burt, conservation commission (ConCom) chairman, received permission from the selectmen for the concom to consult town counsel regarding a law suit filed in Superior Court on behalf of Wesley Edens, chairman of the board of Newcastle Investment, chief executive of Fortress Investment Corporation, and the owner of 234 Middle Point Road.

On March 26 the ConCom denied Mr. Eden’s request to build a 255-foot erosion barricade or revetment, since reduced to 170 feet, plus annual beach nourishment, according to the complaint, filed May 15 in Dukes County Superior Court by attorney Eric Wodlinger of Boston, representing the owner of the property. The owner has also appealed to the state Department of Environmental Protection, seeking a superseding order of conditions setting aside the concom’s March rejection of the property owner’s plan. The DEP has not acted on the request.

The sloping, low-profile rock wall would be along the eastern shoreline of Tisbury Great Pond. The house is located on a point of land to the west of Long Point. Assessed at $11 million, the property is registered to the New-York-City-based Endofthedirtroad LLC.

According to the complaint, Mr. Wodlinger contends that the concom based its action on the Endofthedirtroad LLC plans on local wetlands rules, which are “no more stringent” than those in the state’s Wetlands Protection Act, and indeed rely on the state act’s definitions and must be “preempted by state law,” and that the state wetland protection statute should be applied to the case rather than local rules. Mr. Wodlinger asks that the town’s order be vacated and that the property owner be awarded costs, interest, and reasonable attorney fees.

Mr. Wodlinger also contends that expert testimony to the concom, at the public hearing on the project, contradicted the concom’s recommendation that “soft engineering,” technologies be tried to arrest the erosion that is threatening the property owner’s house, but that the concom did not credit the expert opinion as it ought to have.

The town has not yet been served, but the property owner has until August 17 to do so, according to town administrator Jennifer Rand.

In other business, Ms. Rand told the selectmen that acting police Chief Dan Rossi had briefed the parks and recreation committee and the committee approved his summer plan to add four new parking spaces across from the Lambert’s Cove Beach parking lot, and to move and post additional signs.

The selectmen also interviewed Joe Gervais and Brian Smith. Both seek appointment to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, following the resignation of Jim Powell. Selectmen made no decision.

The selectmen got a brief report from Ms. Rand following her meeting with representatives of the OpenCape project, which is designed to provide a fiber optic broadband network to institutions on the Cape, with a microwave link to Martha’s Vineyard.

Selectmen said they want further details and a better understanding of the plan.

In March, the nonprofit OpenCape Corporation received $32 million in federal stimulus funds and $8 million in local and state matching funds to construct a 350-mile fiber optic network, wireless microwave network, and regional data center. OpenCape is based at Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable.

On Martha’s Vineyard, a microwave network would use line-of-sight radio transmitters or antennas to be located at three locations. Currently the plan is to put transmitters atop the West Tisbury School, on the state fire tower, and also on high ground somewhere on Chappaquiddick, OpenCape president Dan Gallaher told The Times.

The microwave network would provide the Island with a “broadband highway” that might encourage service providers to enhance coverage, and Island towns could also invest in links to the system, he said.

Island school superintendent James Weiss, also attended the meeting with OpenCape representatives. He told The Times that to date the project’s plans have been “poorly communicated” to his office. The superintendent also requested greater details.

According to Mr. Gallagher, the all-volunteer effort of OpenCape is just now ramping up, thanks to the funding commitment. Once engineering studies are completed, permitting applications will be submitted to West Tisbury officials. “None of the Island towns have ever requested a presentation or anything like that on the Island,” he said.

The federal stimulus grant requires that this project be completed by January 31, 2013. There are currently two private companies planning to provide fiber optic service to the Island. With that possibility, budget restraints, and the timeline for completing the project, the OpenCape project will only install a microwave transmission system on the Island, Mr. Gallagher said.

However, Mr. Gallagher said that OpenCape would watch to see if the private efforts receive the government grants for which they have applied. If that funding is not received, OpenCape will meet with Island officials to see what next steps might be taken to also bring fiber optic cabling to the Island.