MVC rules change would allow missed meeting vote


The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) approved changes to the agency’s bylaws on Thursday, including a provision that would allow a commissioner to vote despite having missed one meeting. It also accommodated a change in address for a commissioner who formerly lived in Chilmark

The MVC process under which it considers a development of regional impact (DRI) or district of critical planning concern (DCPC) may take several or more months. Under the previous rules, a commissioner who missed one public hearing was ineligible to vote.

“Stop & Shop is the best example of that,” MVC executive Director Mark London Told The Times.

Under the new rules, commissioners who miss one session of a DRI or DCPC hearing may continue to participate, provided they watch the video, listen to the audio, or read a transcript of the meeting they missed. Commissioners must sign an affidavit and may not miss the last meeting in the DRI process.

The MVC began a review of the agency’s bylaws in December.

Other changes bring the MVC bylaws up to date with respect to changes in the Open Meeting Law.

Another change, Mr. London said, clarifies the language in the current bylaws regarding the residency of appointed members. Appointed members now need only be a resident of the Island and not a resident of the appointing town.

Last year, Aquinnah selectmen said they did not have a candidate to fill the town’s appointed position and asked to appoint Jim Miller, an employee of the Wampanoag tribe and resident of Oak Bluffs, to the MVC. The MVC lawyer advised that the language of the MVC’s enabling act was “somewhat ambiguous and could be taken to mean any resident of Martha’s Vineyard.” He advised the MVC to revise its bylaws to reflect the change.

Residency underpins another change. Elected Chilmark commissioner Doug Sederholm recently moved to Edgartown.

“The purpose of this change is to codify the situation we currently have with Doug Sederholm, namely that when an elected commissioner moves during his or her term, he or she may stay on as a commissioner,” Mr. London explained in a memo to the commissioners prior to the vote.

Written decision

Also Thursday, the MVC issued its written decision to deny the expansion of the Alliance Church expansion.

On December 19, the MVC denied the Church formerly known as Nova Vida a permit to expand its building and church activities. The 4-3 vote was based largely on the impact an expansion would have in the residential neighborhood on Ryan’s Way, off the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.

The MVC took up the planned expansion as a development of regional impact (DRI) after representatives of the church asked for a permit to expand on their existing property in Oak Bluffs by a total square footage of 9,000.

The size and use of the church have been the subjects of ongoing debate between neighbors and church representatives ever since the MVC first approved the 150-seat church as a DRI in 2008.

In other business, the MVC voted to approve a slight modification to NSTAR’s underground cable project Thursday. The modification included a request from the utility to use a shorter horizontal directional drilling (HDD) cable in the event that the longer HDD cable was unable to drill through rocky sediments.

The 4.5-mile cable would leave the mainland near Mill Road in East Falmouth and come ashore near Squantum Avenue, in the Mink Meadows area of West Chop.

NSTAR, the public power utility that supplies electricity to Martha’s Vineyard, and Comcast are installing an undersea cable from Falmouth to Martha’s Vineyard. The hybrid cable will carry fiber-optic strands for Comcast to use to distribute television and communications services, as a backup to the lines it already uses. Representing NSTAR/Comcast, Les Smith of environmental engineering and consulting company Epsilon and Associates, presented commissioners with a powerpoint presentation which detailed the need for a shorter cable.

“The approval is a contingency in case the longer cable fails,” Mr. Smith told commissioners. “Given the time frame, we’d like to get the contingency in advance because we don’t want the equipment sitting around. It’s dangerous having barges out there in the middle of winter and if they’re not going to continue to drill, the hole can collapse and they’ll have to start all over.”

Where the cable goes from land to sea, engineers plan directional underground drilling to install a conduit. Drilling equipment located on land will bore a small tunnel under the ground, then under the seabed, to avoid disruption of fragile barrier beaches and sea grass beds.

In the middle of Vineyard Sound, special underwater trenching equipment will bury the cable three to six feet below the seafloor.

The hybrid cable itself is about 5.5 inches in diameter. The route across Vineyard Sound is not a straight line. Engineers mapped a route that avoids some of the more environmentally sensitive underwater regions.