Martha’s Vineyard Commission rescinds Edgartown special ways votes

— File photo by Mae Deary

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) voted at a public hearing September 22 to rescind votes taken March 10 to designate five ancient ways as special ways of the Island Road District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) within the town of Edgartown, along with written decisions that followed.

The five roads were Ben Tom’s Road, Middle Line Path, Pennywise Path, Tar Kiln Path, and Watcha Path.

Judge Cornelius J. Moriarty 2nd, an associate Superior Court justice, found errors in the MVC’s October 2007 designation of the five special ways. He ruled on January 31 that the MVC had failed to make findings that would support its decision, as required by its enabling legislation. He also found that the roads added to the special ways zone “serve as the only means of access to large portions of Edgartown, including land owned” by the Benjamin Hall family, which brought the matter to court.

Judge Moriarty remanded the case to the MVC and gave the regional agency 30 days to reconsider the designation, and to clarify the reasons for the designation, particularly in regard to the issue of public access. The MVC approved amendments to clarify the designation at a public hearing on March 10.

“We’re presently in litigation for the March 2010 votes,” MVC DCPC coordinator Jo-Ann Taylor told the commissioners. “Counsel advised it would be more appropriate for the MVC to expend energy on the more substantive issues of the 2007 designation.”

Benjamin L. Hall Jr., who practices law in Edgartown, asked several times how much money the MVC has spent on litigation from the 2007 designation, which he said the public is entitled to know. MVC treasurer John Breckenridge, a commissioner from Oak Bluffs, said he would be reluctant to provide a ballpark figure and would get back to Mr. Hall with the amount.

Mr. Hall said the MVC’s rescission votes would essentially be of no real import, because the Edgartown selectmen intended to renominate the roads for a DCPC designation at a meeting Monday, and the whole process would begin again, with more litigation.

“This is a lawsuit where the commission was found to absolutely have acted unlawfully and it has gone to appeal, yes,” Mr. Hall said. “But then again in March activities were taken and it’s been decided the commission is going to rescind that, and that appeal is costing us a pile of money. And I think that this repetitive process of trying to continually try to find a way to box these things in is just outrageous.”

The commissioners voted to approve the rescission of the March 10 votes. On Monday the Edgartown selectmen voted to refer the nomination of the five special ways as a DCPC to the MVC for a second time.