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.