Updated 4:30 pm, Thursday, Aug. 28
In a decision dated August 21, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts overturned a February 2011 Superior Court decision in favor of the Hall family and ruled that the town of Edgartown and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) properly created a District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) that included regulations to restrict access and development of five special ways.
The Hall family owns 125 acres of mostly undeveloped land in close proximity to the five ancient paths or ways known as Ben Tom’s Road, Middle Line Path, Pennywise Path, Tar Kiln Road, and Watcha Path, according to court documents. In October 2007 the Halls brought suit challenging the DCPC designation on three counts, two of which were dismissed by the court.
The narrowly construed 2011 Superior Court decision in favor of the Halls rested on the supposed criteria of public access as a prerequisite for including the ways in a DCPC. The three-judge appeals court disagreed and reversed the earlier ruling which now returns to Superior Court.
The ruling does not provide public access or public rights to the road, but only maintains the public interest in the road and keeps the DCPC regulations in place. Those regulations limit development and vehicular access but do allow for special permits.
Ron Rappaport represented Edgartown and Brian Hurley represented the MVC.
In an email received late Thursday, Ben Hall Jr. said his family is disappointed in the Appeals Court decision.
“We are evaluating the decision and further avenues of appeal, if we decide that might be the way to go,” Mr. Hall said. “As it stands, it would appear now that no one could ever possibly have a reasonable chance to challenge a decision of the MVC regarding a DCPC no matter how unconstitutional and no matter how abhorrent, and even if, as here, the Commission violated its own decision that created the Special Ways District in 1975, originally defining Special Ways as including only public ways.”
Mr. Hall disagreed with the notion that he did not participate. “The Appeals Court decision makes express note of a lack of our participation but, in a bit of obvious personal animus and Kafka-esque chicanery, omits reference to its express refusal to let us appear and participate in oral argument after refusing to grant me a short extension of time to finish and file a brief.”