High school field project requires special permit

D’Andrea asks for six-figure fee for records pertaining to athletic fields project.

The MVRHS school project is being referred to the special permit process.

Two potentially impactful developments in the polarized saga of the Martha’s Vineyard High School track and field replacement project have begun to unfold. 

In an Oct. 21 letter from Oak Bluffs Building Inspector Tom Perry, Schools Superintendent Matt D’Andrea was informed the synthetic turf and track project “must apply for a special permit from the planning board” in order to move forward. Perry’s letter stated that because the project area is located in the Water Resource Protection Overlay District and because the project appears to include toxic materials, the special permit is required under town bylaw. The synthetic turf field is not mentioned in his letter, but opponents of the project have pointed to potential contaminants contained in the plastics used for the turf.

Perry could not immediately be reached for comment.

“We are grateful the town of Oak Bluffs is taking the threat these highly toxic, bioaccumulating chemicals pose to the Island’s water supply seriously,” the Field Fund wrote in a statement to The Times. 

The project won a narrow victory with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission after an extensive public hearing process. 

Asked about the special permit requirement, Terry Donahue, a longtime advocate of the project, said proponents will do whatever it takes to convince Oak Bluffs that the project is safe. Donahue said he continues to advocate for the project on behalf of the children who’ll benefit from it.

“It’s been debated to death,” he said, adding that no scientific evidence has arisen that shows the field is toxic or dangerous to kids, and that the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, over six meetings and through 80,000 pages of documents, found the detriments to the project to be “de minimis.” Donahue claimed the project would prevent 200 pounds of nitrogen from leaching into local water bodies, or a ton of nitrogen each decade. And due to a padded underlayment, Donahue claimed, the project would reduce concussive injury by 25 percent. 

“For eight years what it’s been is irrational fear,” he said of project critics.

Meanwhile, a records request made by the Field Fund to Martha’s Vineyard Regional School District officials has yielded a letter from D’Andrea — a letter with a request for a $121,508.33 fee. Dated Oct. 26, the letter identifies D’Andrea as “Records Access Officer,” and comes in response to a request for Vineyard Athletics Inc. correspondence, the correspondence of principals of Vineyard Athletics Inc., and correspondence relative to the funding of scientific consultant Dr. Laura Green. In support of the six-figure records fee, D’Andrea wrote that the school district had already handled one or more large records request from the Field Fund free of charge, and another cannot be managed without charging for it.

Asked whether he believed the requested fee was actually viable, D’Andrea emailed, “It is not my job to determine what is viable. My responsibility is to determine the extent of work involved to meet the request, and apply the fee allowed by law.”

Asked if the school district had ever requested a six-figure fee, D’Andrea wrote, “We have had previous requests that were also very extensive that would have required a significant fee. During my tenure, to my knowledge, we have not received a fee for a records request. We always try to accommodate if the request is reasonable — as we have in the previous requests.”

D’Andrea wrote the letter was written in collaboration with the Braintree law firm Murphy, Lamere, and Murphy. 


  1. Thank you OB for taking steps to safeguard our water. Mr. Donahue…you state you’re in this for the young people..are you not concerned about their water quality? That water they drink, bathe with and are surrounded by?

    • I am amazed by this type of comment. You want to twist the words into something that was not said. That is a sad tactic. Not surprised in the least. Do you believe that the TetraTech representatives were just lying in their report and testimony at the MVC hearing. Go back and read it. Tested, answered. You just don’t like the answer so they must have faked the data or lied. That is the information referred to in this article.

        • Susan– to answer your question–
          I have noticed that some people will twist what someone says while twisting what someone else says in order to twist everything to be seemingly true. — Get IT ? Me neither– it’s called double speak..
          And since you didn’t say it , I will. — It is my opinion that the representatives of the company trying to put this “Pile Of Offal Plastic” (POOP) — my acronym — on the fields at our high school have indeed misrepresented some of the facts here..

  2. Students “deserve “ a well cared for sports field . Letting this public space fall into disrepair and then call for 2.5 acres of plastic is unnecessary. With PFAS leaching into our island wells, ponds and shellfish areas , this project is so 10 years ago. Our public spaces should use best practices during a global climate and plastic crisis.
    Sportsmen and woman are rejecting this turf. Many towns are rejecting this turf. Our our Island shellfish, conservationists and farmers have rejected this turf.
    Make a plan ,fix the area and plant some gorgeous , sustainable, regenerative grass.
    Break down this divisive subject and let MVRHS and it’s sport fields , education model and foward thinking be an example for our Island , the State and the Country As we move into a documented perilous period for our planet, consider that every action has a reaction . This plastic field has more negatives than natural grass . Clean water is a gift from our taps now, how will you feel when we can’t do that .

  3. let’s study this one out of existence. Someday someone will realize that this project is too expensive, even if it comes with the added benefit of polluting our waters and contaminating our children.
    If it actually goes down, I can’t wait to see the battle of where this giant pile of POOP (Pile Of Outdated Plastic) goes after it starts to fall apart.
    Vineyard one will be fully funded for decommissioning, as it should be.
    How about this project ?
    I see how much it is costing to remove lead from the east chop lighthouse site.
    In a few years we might be “woke” enough to realize that even small amounts of plastic are toxic, and might have to take thousands of tons of dirt off island to be buried..
    Is the commission so short sighted that they cannot foresee the possible liabilities 10 years down the road ?

  4. Oh Mr D’Andrea, c’mon. You’ve just shown your hand, and it’s a bad one. In what antedeluvian archive would it require a hundred grand of effort to retrieve these papers? A name and the Find function should be able to do it in two seconds. What’s in those documents that makes you so desperate to keep them out of the public gaze?

  5. Why not eliminate the sports teams that use these fields and focus on other more intellectual teams like a math team or debate team. No kid from the Vineyard is going to make a living playing professional sports yet many may prosper in the pursuit of intellectual excellence. Use the sports fields to construct affordable housing for school employees. Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to expose reality.

    • Spoken like a TRUE NERD ! I can’t wait for a Brazilian-born soccer-style placekicker who emigrated to The Vineyard, kicks the game winning field goal for The New England Patriots in Super Bowl CXII , as MVP Tom Brady III led The Pats on a late 90 yard drive to tie the game versus The New York Giants ! A third string wide receiver, Chad Larsen born in Menemsha, recovered the onside kick following Brady’s score leading to the biggest upset since, well, The New York Giants ruined The New England Patriots perfect season ! So there !

  6. The MVC already vetted and APPROVED this project. Stop playing politics Mr Chairman. Let the kids start playing in this complex so that they can be competitive & thrive athletically.

  7. This is just wrong. Whatever happened to the democratic process where the majority wins? Five of the 6 towns voted yes. The MVC, after months of public hearings and multiple tests and expert opinion supporting the field, voted with a majority in favor of the field. But, a special interest group Trumps them all? Democracy is a dying process.

    • “Since the proposed material for this track [and field] has greater quantities than that associated with normal household use, and these materials appear to meet the definition of toxic or hazardous materials, MVRHS must apply for a special permit from the Planning Board under section 8.2 of the Zoning By-Laws.”
      Zoning laws are also part of a democracy.

      #turnoffthepfastap #PFAS #greenwashing Vineyard Conservation Society Mass Audubon Felix Neck Nantucket PFAS Action Group Safe Healthy Playing Fields Julian Cyr Dylan Fernandes POCCA Cape Cod

      • Zoning laws were invented as a way to perpetuate segregation by other means. They remain in the toolkit of the most odious caliber of person: the NIMBY.

  8. group sports teaches life lessons that can not be taught in academia… courage… the fact that we can not do it alone… that skill is there for all of us and a task is often harder for others than ourselves… and that standing in line to shake the hand of an opponent who has kicked your ass for forty minutes and saying “nice game” is probably the best aspect of the conflict… As a coach we had three basic requirements for an ambitious starting player..1. You have to love the game ( if you would rather be squidding than be at practice, go squiddin’) 2.You have to approach practice with a businesslike demeanor… 3. Find someone who is better than you and emulate them… Life lessons folks…. And it is not just players.. through hockey I have seen divorced parents who would not speak to each other on the first day standing together in the stands laughing six months later…. and synthetic turf? Apparently nobody who wants it, has played on it…. It sucks!!! just sayin’

  9. I just don’t see how the environmental impact and financials justify any advantage that might be gleaned by turf. If we think it does then I propose that make a promise to keep all the material from the turf field replacement here on the island, in plain sight, so we can all actually live with our choice rather than shipping it away out of sight.
    A Turf field would look prettier and shinier for those who that is a priority and that sums up the benefits. Turf will be wildly expensive to install, more expensive than one might imagine to maintain and another fortune to replace every 8-10 years aside from all the very real toxicity concerns.
    Turf fields have zero correlation to athletic success, scholarships and most importantly health. This has been made apparent by the higher than average athletic scholarships earned by our athletes throughout MVRHS history.
    Those for turf seem to only have data supplied by the salesman and not from any none stakeholders. Im also so bummed that the turf folk seem to pit the grass folk against children…huh, thats weird.

  10. I am not a man with a lot of education.1 watched the dumps get capped in our 3 big towns and thought mmmm.. nobody cares Mrs Look in West Tisbury got the town to build bins and started recycling glass paper and metal I hauled trailer loads for free to Dayvil glass plant and watched it get melted. Brought back slag balls for presents and always aload of septic tanks for Ernie Pachico.The paper trailerloads went to Norwood to make asphault shingles and over to Grossmans for a return load of lumber During VIET NAM the price of scrap went way up and every one was hauling it.Dont worry.Its not the field. Its the dumps you should worry about….

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