MVC field dissenters decide not to file report

Meeting was dominated by discussion of climate change adaptation, mitigation, and energy goals. 

The six dissenting commissioners who voted against the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School athletic field project will no longer file a minority report illustrating why they dissented. -Lucas Thors

One week after lauding the idea that six dissenting commissioners would file a “first in the commission’s history” minority report outlining their differences on a sports complex for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) chair Joan Malkin explained those commissioners had a change of heart. 

“The six dissenting commissioners, including myself, have deliberated at some length as to whether we should include some sort of minority report,” Malkin said.

In a separate phone conversation with The Times, Malkin was asked when those deliberations took place, since the commission had not had a meeting in between. She said the dissenting group had on several occasions discussed their feelings on filing the report, and eventually arrived at the unanimous agreement, “and with great conviction,” that there would be no benefit served by submitting it.

“We all knew we weren’t going to change the outcome,” Malkin said.

When asked if the deliberation took place in a public meeting forum, Malkin said the six dissenting commissioners did not constitute a quorum, and did not feel they needed to meet officially. She added that she isn’t aware of public meeting law prohibiting this kind of communication.

“If we breached any kind of open meeting law, it would be of our own ignorance,” Malkin said.

The high school complex, which features a controversial synthetic turf field, was approved in a 10-6 decision. 

Malkin said no minority report, to her knowledge, has ever been filed in the commission’s history, although it is permitted in the MVC bylaws.

As the dissenting commissioners discussed the potential of filing a report — of which they created an unofficial draft — Malkin said it became clear to them that the report would do more harm than good.

“Our greatest concern was that the report might do harm to this institution that we are either appointed or elected to serve,” Malkin said. “It increasingly seemed to us as we discussed it further and further that it would turn out to be divisive and polarizing, rather than inclusive.”

In the end, the commissioners chose not to file the report, believing that it could set an unfortunate precedent, according to Malkin. “Whatever convictions originally motivated us, we look to the future to make sure that our voices are heard,” she said.


Talking climate change

MVC climate change planner Liz Durkee said her approach to climate change is to take the challenges the Island faces and turn them into economic, social, and infrastructure opportunities that improve the quality of life here.

“All these impacts are connected,” Durkee said. “We have to address the whole puzzle, not just the individual pieces.”

Durkee highlighted two important projects for the Island — the stormtide pathways project, and the salt marsh migration project.

The Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown has finished the first year of a stormtide pathways study that identifies 700 channels where stormwater will flow as storm surges grow and sea level rises.

This data will be compiled into an easy-to-understand GIS map that will allow for real-time water level forecasting, and most importantly, critical data for first responders and municipal planners, Durkee said.

Although the Federal Emergency Management Planning Agency (FEMA) flood maps are the gold standard for predicting flooding events, Durkee said there is the opportunity for much more detailed maps that rely on the most current data, as opposed to a compilation of historical data.

“FEMA flood maps are not accurate for identifying flood risk for several reasons: They use historic data, they do not include sea level rise, and what they call the 100-year flood is now happening about once every 20 or 30 years,” Durkee said.

When she was the Oak Bluffs conservation agent, Durkee said, she started working on a project that measures and predicts salt marsh migration.

“Salt marshes will become inundated as the sea level rises unless they can migrate inland. They can’t migrate if there are structures in their way,” she noted.

She and a number of other conservation planners came up with the idea of creating a salt marsh district of critical planning concern (DCPC) in order to facilitate a managed retreat from the coast.

Coastal geologist Rob Young has been hired by the MVC to look at the science behind the data, as well as the economics behind some of these long-term plans.

Young and Durkee will identify at-risk properties for inclusion in the DCPC, and when those properties go on the market, the town gets the right of first refusal to purchase. 

The town would then sell the property to the Land Bank at fair market value, and they would remove all the buildings and septic systems — conserving the land and potentially saving the salt marshes. 

“This is a model concept that we are looking into,” Durkee said.

Additionally, the Island and Gosnold recently received almost $174,000 from the Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program, which will be used to create a 20-year Climate Action Plan for the two communities.

Part of that money will go to external consultants and a dashboard website to share information and updates with the community and municipal officials. The work is based around seven themes that relate to how climate change is affecting our way of life.

Rob Hannemann of the MVC Climate Action Task Force (CATF) said the remnants of Hurricane Ida and its impact on the Vineyard have provided a background for why there are so many people on the Island interested in mitigating climate change. 

“This is the new normal, but we don’t want the future normal to be even worse than today,” Hannemann said.

As chair of the energy working group of the CATF, Hannemann said the work they have been doing provides a comprehensive picture of the Island’s energy use and production, and lays out a road map to meet the energy goals established by the community.

In 2018, the working group developed a baseline for the energy system on the Island, determining how much energy and what kind of energy is used here.

“We have also created a model of the Island’s energy system so we can understand various pathways to lower greenhouse gas emissions,” Hannemann said. The group also published a set of working papers relating to transportation, building heating and cooling, and electricity supply and use, and have developed a draft set of recommendations.

Right now, the Island sits at around 20 percent renewable energy, but by 2030 that figure is projected to be close to 60 percent, which exceeds the Island’s energy goals of achieving 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.


  1. I’m disappointed the dissenting commissioners chose not to file their report. This country is built on those willing to dissent when deemed necessary.

    Endangering our island water, environment and the health of young athletes are issues worthy of dissent. If not now when, if not us who?

    • except there is no danger anymore elevated then the massive amounts of fertilizer for a grass field…….just because it keeps being said doesnt make it any more true. If there was ACTUAL evidence of harm no one would want it installed. This notion that any advocate for the turf is a toxic waste junkie and doesnt care about the environment, is false. these fields, or ones without the cork fill, are everywhere, installed at environmental schools, and there are NOT reports of athletes dying because of turf, or sickness, or any actual health related issues that cant be mitigated. These issues have been researched exhaustedly.

  2. It would be best to allow all of the dissenting opinions in order for the Commission to be honest and open. The attitude of protecting this “great institution” is largely a detriment to it and that should be recognized. I served on Commission boards and participated or tried to debate issues but was completely shut-down when I attempted to be critical. This led to literally years of misunderstanding by commissioners and ultimately it has become pro development while simultaneously attempting to reduce emissions. The Gazette in particular treats the MVC like it has some all-knowing holy perfect judgement and in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Publish and let all citizens decide.

  3. Wow this is a classic example of too many lawyers in a room. What do we think this is the supreme court now. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission is out of control but they do want to have control over the whole island. These Extreme liberal commissioners lost a vote so now they want to pout like a little child. But the island gets what it deserves as term limits do not seem to matter and they keep getting reelected.

  4. I am pretty sure the dissenting voters are all grown ups and free to make decisions you may disagree with. The voluminous public record on this project has not disappeared. What would a dissenting opinion accomplish that a no vote didn’t? For those complaining that this is not published, you can vote them out at their next election cycle as they did not serve to your liking. Make sure you put this same fervor into the polluting vessels that will be gracing Vineyard Haven harbor for the wind farm project. Make sure you condition those repair/maintenance parts that touch island soil with a cradle to grave recycling plan. Make sure you test for PFAS all materials that will touch island soil when this project gets reviewed. The MVC should condition that worker housing is built first before the project start and that that housing has no impact on polluting the island. Ie, no pfas containing plastic! Hoping this is how all projects get treated by the MVC going forwards.

  5. Why is there blowback to publishing dissenting reports? One of the most treasured features of our system of governance is openness. In our Supreme Court the dissenting opinions are held as valuable as those who voted on the opposite side and some of the most insightful opinions expressed have been dissenting opinions. Publishing intelligent, well thought out opinions will not change the vote but it would lead to better understanding. On the contrary, choosing not to diminishes significantly the overall credibility of the MVC, and more than that, encourages secrecy and that is truly unfortunate.

    • Perhaps you did not follow all the meetings on this project. The dissenting votes all expressed themselves eloquently during the entire process. It is in all of the zoom calls for the public to consume.

      Secrecy. That is what the minority did behind the scenes when coming to this decision. The endless back door lobbying was in secret. How about we have the commissioners let us know how much lobbying they received from opponents vs the actual applicant. Applicants in this case didn’t get to do what their opponents got to do. It is a fascinating read and watch. Invest the time and look at it from a different view. You might think differently about the entire process.

  6. The decision of the turf-field dissenters to pull their document—in effect to pull their punches—is disturbing. First of all I do question the bland disposal of the issue of open meetings. Second, it does appear that the group came under some kind of pressure that caused them to pull their report. Possibly even from spouses. Who knows?

    I think we need to know exactly why the group did a sudden 180. And we need to see the report.

    The idea that dissenting views weaken the institution is specious. I was there at the hearing regarding the appointment of the new director. My recollection is that it was a very close vote. I believe that Mr. Turner got just one vote more than the runner-up. But the commission decided to do another vote and “make it unanimous.” Why? Are Vineyard residents children who must be presented with a “common front,” kind of like what parents do? This supposed “feel-good” maneuver was inherently dishonest.

    This kind of massaging is patronizing, it is nontransparent, and it is actually misleading. Suppressing this dissenting document comes down to falsifying the public record, by omission. We need to see the dissenting group’s report and it needs to be part of the public record on this project.

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