Yellow House complaint dismissed

Town was within its rights to take property by eminent domain.

A judge dismissed a complaint concerning the taking of the Yellow House by eminent domain. — Rich Saltzberg

A complaint against the eminent domain taking of the Yellow House in Edgartown was dismissed in Dukes County Superior Court on Monday.

Judge Mark Gildea ordered the complaint dismissed on grounds that the town was within its rights to take the Yellow House by eminent domain. “Because the plaintiff’s claims are barred, an attempt to amend the complaint or seek further discovery would be fruitless,” Gildea wrote in his decision. “Therefore, his alternative motions to amend the complaint and for additional discovery are denied. In addition his motion to consolidate the instant action with the first action is likewise denied.”

The Yellow House, a historic building in the heart of the downtown area, was taken by the town by eminent domain in 2017 after voters authorized the select board to use $1.5 million in community preservation funds and $1.5 million in town taxes to take the building, which had fallen into a dilapidated state.

A contract to lease and restore the building was awarded to Christopher Celeste, operating as Summer and Main LLC. The building has been renovated and opened in September.

The complaint, filed by Benjamin Hall, whose family owns numerous properties on the Island and formerly owned the Yellow House, alleged the property was improperly taken by eminent domain by the Edgartown select board. Hall alleged five counts in the complaint: declaratory relief, seeking a declaration that the taking was invalid; a count for violation of due process & equal protection & civil rights; certiorari or other relief; taking without compensation; and a count alleging due interest is required.

According to the decision, Hall filed his first complaint in August 2018 to nullify the board’s decision to award their contract to Summer and Main LLC; violation of his due process and equal rights, seeking certiorari relief from the board’s awarded contract to Summer and Main LLC; and a claim for taking without compensation as it relates to the linden tree.

After that complaint was dismissed, Hall appealed but was dismissed again. Hall filed a second complaint against the board in December 2019, which mirrored the first complaint, and included a demand that the Martha’s Vineyard Commission review the decision of the board. The matter is currently pending before the appeals court.

In July 2020, Hall filed the instant action against the board with the same allegations as in the first two complaints.

In an email to The Times, town administrator James Hagerty said the decision was “good news for the town.”

The Hall family could not immediately be reached for comment.


  1. The legal system here in the US needs to change. When someone brings a frivolous law suit and loses they should have to pay both side lawyer fees. This has cost the town tax payers along with all the other frivolous suits huge amounts of legal fees over the years.

  2. Must be hard to be land rich with many properties empty collecting dust, this especially when the island has a need for summer and year round housing. The Halls, rightfully so, can do lawfully, what they want with their property until it becomes a public liability. Then someone has to take responsibility. This time Edgartown did.

  3. Ben, could you find something else to put your energies toward? Perhaps fixing up the empty houses that you and your family own, and making them available for (reasonable) rent by year-round workers might be a start. This obsession that you and your family have about the yellow house needs to stop. Of course it’s up to you where you spend your money and time, but this should be so over by now.

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