Land Court decision spawns drive for warrant article

Oak Bluffs property owners John and Susan Zarba have begun circulating a petition to place an article on the 2020 annual town meeting warrant. — Rich Saltzberg

Oak Bluffs property owners John and Susan Zarba, who recently prevailed in a complex Land Court case against the town, have begun circulating a petition to place an article on the 2020 annual town meeting warrant. The article seeks to block the town from appealing the Land Court decision. The case was a fight over zoning decisions made by the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals and former building inspector Mark Barbadoro. After the Zarbas built their guesthouse, Barbadoro determined it was 2.1 feet too close to the Oak Grove Cemetery, and therefore had a setback violation. He also determined the Zarbas had a parking violation. The Zarbas appealed to the ZBA, and the ZBA backed Barbadoro’s findings. The Zarbas subsequently sued in Land Court, and won a final victory on the parking issue in August 2019. They went on to win on the setback issue in December 2019.

In their petition, the Zarbas allege “there is no social or economic gain” for Oak Bluffs, even if it were to triumph in an appeal. Oak Bluffs hasn’t indicated whether it will appeal the decision. However, town counsel Michael Goldsmith has filed a post-trial motion with the Land Court seeking a revised decision. On behalf of the town, Goldsmith argued the court erred in a portion of its analysis of the survey work done by William Austin, the town’s surveyor. In an opposition motion, the Zarbas contend what Goldsmith pointed out amounts to a clerical error that does not alter final angle determinations. As of Jan. 15, the court hasn’t ruled on the motions. Susan Zarba confronted Oak Bluffs selectmen Tuesday night about their disposition toward an appeal. Selectman chairman Brian Packish told Zarba the board would decline to comment, on the advice of counsel. Earlier in the evening, the board spent two and a half hours in executive session. At least part of the session was dedicated to litigation with the Zarbas. In addition to the recent Land Court case, the town has another legal matter with the Zarbas. It’s a defendant in an active federal lawsuit.


  1. How many lashes does it take before the Town of Oak Bluffs realizes this is a loose loose case. There is no nothing to win. Oak Bluffs tax payers need to tell the selectman that wasting more tax dollars on 2 feet of land next to a cemetery in which no one cares about, except maybe some corpse in a grave, is as wasteful as one can get. The town has already lost possibly $200,000 on legal bills so I guess the reasoning is why not add to this mistake?

  2. This is a joke right? Oak Bluffs really intends to keep paying Goldsmith more money? How much has been spent already – at least $200K? Goldsmith was beaten badly by a lady without a lawyer and now he wants to waste more money. Incredible!

  3. I hope as a resident of Oak Bluffs Goldsmith is now providing pro bono services to the town after getting beaten down by the judge. How much has he already cost us taxpayers? For what end? Stop chasing wind mills. This is OB, not La Mancha.

  4. I’ll bet these people have convinced themselves they are fighting for the common good. You got away with one. Don’t push your luck is my advice.

  5. Anyone notice how the Vineyard Gazette has not printed one word on this entire Zarba mess. Why? My guess is their hero law firm got toasted badly. But news is news.

  6. How can those off island get access to this petition?
    I know there are many who have an interest in helping the Zarbas.

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