Chilmark wins herbicide appeal in Land Court

Chilmark defended the town's right to prevent the use of weed killer in Squibnocket pond. — Michael Cummo

Chilmark has prevailed in its two-year legal battle with the Squibnocket Pond Association, a group of six Squibnocket residents, that sued the town for the right to use the herbicide Rodeo to control the growth of phragmites, a non-native invasive grass, around Squibnocket Pond.
In a decision issued Dec. 29, 2014, Judge Gordon H. Piper reversed his ruling issued Jan. 8, 2014, which found the Chilmark bylaw that banned the pesticide around the pond was invalid because it was more restrictive than the Massachusetts Pesticide Control Act.

The stage was set for a reversal after state Representative Tim Madden and Senator Dan Wolf filed a joint petition to authorize the town of Chilmark to prohibit the use of certain chemicals in the pond. Governor Deval Patrick signed the bill into law in November.

The legal tussle began in May 2013, when the Chilmark zoning board of appeals told the group of six landowners, headed by Charles Parker, that they could not use Rodeo. The riparian group challenged the decision in Land Court that June and won.

In February 2014, on the advice of town counsel Ron Rappaport, town selectmen voted unanimously to appeal the state Land Court decision. Mr. Rappaport based his advice to appeal on a Wisconsin supreme court ruling from 1991, which held that local governments often have a better idea of their needs than does the state.