Edgartown selectmen went back to square one Monday in the effort to get five special ways declared a district of critical planning concern by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). They took action to refer the matter to the MVC for a second time, even though the original effort remains before the Massachusetts Appeals Court after four years of legal battles.
The MVC approved the district of critical planning concern (DCPC) for Ben Tom’s Road, Middle Line Path, Pennywise Path, Tar Kiln Path, and Watcha Path, protecting them from development, including clearing of trees and brush. Now mostly narrow, tree-lined dirt paths, the ancient roadways date back to the 1600’s.
Voters approved a bylaw protecting the paths from development in a special town meeting.
The MVC decision was challenged by attorney Benjamin Hall, Jr., representing his family. He said at Monday’s selectmen’s meeting, his family owns 68 percent of the private, undeveloped property along the old roads.
The Dukes County Superior Court ruled the MVC’s procedure was flawed, and annulled the decision.
Edgartown town counsel Ron Rappaport advised selectmen to resubmit their referral to the MVC, slightly changed to correct the procedural issues cited by the court, even though the original case is still before the appeals court. He said it might take another year for that court to issue a decision.
“I see this primarily as a cost saving mechanism, knowing we would likely get sued on this as well. We ultimately want to make sure that the wish of the voters gets carried out,” Mr. Rappaport told selectmen.
Mr. Hall said the court’s decision established that the MVC’s designation of the five paths as public ways was an error of law.
“These are not public ways,” Mr. Hall said. “Let’s stop the bleeding of money on both sides. This is an ill advised attempt to put back the same regulations that the judge found to be unlawful.”
Selectmen Michael Donaroma and Margaret Serpa voted in favor of referring the matter to the MVC again. Chairman Art Smadbeck recused himself because as president of a homeowners association, he is involved in a dispute over different special ways designation.
Also Tuesday, selectmen approved the shellfish committee recomendation for bay scallop season dates.
The recreational season will begin October 1 with a limit of one ten gallon basket per week. No dragging is allowed in Cape Pogue until Friday, October 21. No dragging is allowed in Sengekontacket all season.
The commercial season will begin October 24, with a limit of three ten gallon baskets per day, Monday through Friday.
Shellfish constable Paul Bagnall said he expects about 40 commercial boats will harvest scallops this year.