Harbor View sues MVC over spa expansion conditions

Suit alleges MVC overstepped its authority, and calls for conditions to be modified or removed.

The Harbor View Hotel and MVC have settled a lawsuit. -MV Times

The Harbor View Hotel is suing the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to challenge the commission’s list of conditions tied to an approval of an expansion project for the Edgartown hotel’s spa.

“The conditions imposed by the MVC grossly exceeded its authority and violate its own enabling act,” the suit states. “The conditions should be stricken from the decision or amended as requested by the hotel.”

In July, the commission approved the modification project in a 9-5 vote, with some commissioners saying their yes votes came reluctantly amid concerns about commercial expansion, the Island’s character, and the project’s piecemeal approvals over the years.

The Harbor VIew seeks to build a 4,625-square-foot spa at the hotel’s Bradley Cottage, with seven treatment rooms, instead of building a previously approved 1,620-square-foot spa at the main hotel. Rooms at the Bradley Cottage will be reduced from 12 to four, and a room would be added at the Pease Cottage. There are no net changes to the rooms, since eight rooms are added to the main hotel and the Pease Cottage, and eight rooms removed from the Bradley Cottage. 

Portions of the project had already been approved in 2008 and 2018. In that time, the historic hotel went through two ownership changes and a fire in one of its buildings. Bernard Chiu purchased the hotel in 2018 before a complete renovation of the property.

In the 26-page suit filed in Dukes County Superior Court on Sept. 14, Harbor View attorneys allege the commission’s list of 14 conditions are “unsupported by the evidence, unreasonable, contrary to law, and arbitrary.” The suit calls for the conditions to be altered or eliminated.

The complaint was filed by Boston-based Goulston & Storrs PC attorneys Kevin O’Flaherty and Mariana Korsunsky. 

Conditions include restricting the spa to registered guests, restricting the hotel from using a property it owns at 119 North Water St., requiring the hotel to use its “best efforts” to create a long-term neighborhood preservation committee comprised of abutters within a 600-foot radius of the hotel, and requiring the hotel pay a $535,000 affordable housing mitigation payment.

The suit alleges that restricting the spa to registered guests and requiring charges for spa services to be made to a hotel room is illegal, and can make the spa “economically infeasible.”

Additionally, the suit claims the hotel offered significant compromises that were refused and instead the commission established “onerous” conditions to please hotel neighbors. It also claimed that noise, cleanliness, lighting, traffic, and property value concerns, including the pool bar, were not related to the spa, and should be stricken from the conditions.

“With the exception of traffic, these alleged impacts were completely untethered to any possible impacts from the minor and relatively innocuous modifications requested in the application,” the suit reads.

MVC executive director Adam Turner declined to comment.


  1. I hope the Hotel takes their suit to Federal Court as a violation of their 5th and 14th amendment rights under the “Takings” clause as an illegal taking. Both Substantive due process and Procedural due process rights are violated continuously by the MVC. Voting out of the MVC should be on every ballot in every town in every election until they are gone. Their subjective opinions via their montra of “Benefits vs. Detriments” is called “Arbitrary and Capricious” in any sane society and is illegal.

  2. Mr Muckerehide — here is the entire 5th amendment ;

    “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

    And then the 14th amendment —

    Section 1.
    All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

    Section 2.
    Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

    Section 3.
    No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

    Section 4.
    The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

    Section 5.
    The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

    I appreciate that you invoke the constitution here.. but have you ever read it ?
    How do either of the amendments you cite here have anything to do with this ?

  3. It is high time someone pushed back at MVC and their unbridled authority over things outside their purview. I hope the hotel will prevail and the MVC gets taken down a notch.

  4. Cmon Keller. The ”takings” clause is embedded in the 5th and 14th amendment. You may argue that this Harbor View issue is not relevant to “takings” but it is clearly part of the 5th and 14th amendments. Do you have to argue everything?

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