MVC sets public hearing for casino project

Despite radio silence from Wampanoag tribe, MVC moves forward with DRI process.

The Martha's Vineyard Commission is starting the DRI process with or without the tribe's cooperation. - Gabrielle Mannino

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) has set a public meeting to discuss a gambling facility being developed by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) as a development of regional impact (DRI).

In a letter dated May 8, MVC executive director Adam Turner informed tribe chairwoman Cheryl Andrew-Maltais the towns of Chilmark and Aquinnah both referred the casino project to the commission as a DRI. Under DRI protocol, MVC staff reviews the project and schedules a meeting with the applicant. A meeting between staff and Andrews-Maltais has been set for May 22.

From there, the project goes to the commission’s Land Use Planning Committee (LUPC) for a public meeting, which will be held on Monday, June 3, at 5:30 pm. A public hearing with the full commission has been set for Thursday, June 6, at 7 pm.

“The commission will receive testimony from all interested persons with respect to the proposed development, and would, of course, welcome the tribe’s participation in the public hearing process. At the conclusion of the process, the commission will vote with respect to the project,” the letter reads. “You should be aware that, under the Commission Enabling Act, the commission has authority to commence an action or other proceedings necessary to enforce its statutory authority with respect to any decision it may issue. The commission reserves all of its rights and statutory powers.”

Turner said the commission was only following protocol since the project was referred to them.

“I don’t relish this,” Turner said. “We simply addressed the impact of the proposed development. We have our own responsibilities, and I still hope that we can come to some accommodation with the tribe. I totally respect what they’re trying to do up there.”

The dates for the meetings can be changed pending receipt of documents or other materials. Since sending the letter, the commission has not received a reply from the tribe.

Andrews-Maltais could not immediately be reached for comment.

Commissioner Richard Toole asked if the tribe is in agreement with the commission moving forward with the DRI process.

“No, they’re ignoring us,” chairman Douglas Sederholm said.

All of this comes as the town of Aquinnah has renewed its legal battle with the tribe. In a hearing scheduled for 9 am Friday, May 31, in U.S. District Court, Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV will hear arguments from the tribe, town, and state officials about an appeals court ruling and how it applies to the tribe’s casino plans. The town argues that the tribe must follow zoning regulations, while the tribe says its project is under federal regulations under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).