Planning board begins MVRHS special permit review

Process will be based on Oak Bluffs water resource protection bylaw.

The Oak Bluffs planning board, shown here at a meeting in 2019, has released its official decision on the MVRHS sports complex. - Lucas Thors

The Oak Bluffs planning board has opened the public hearing on the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) track and field special permit application.

During Thursday’s planning board meeting, chair Ewell Hopkins stressed the importance of sticking to information pertaining to the Oak Bluffs water resource protection zoning bylaw that is applied to construction applications that may affect the Island’s sole source aquifer. The planning board special permit requirement for the high school project was sparked by concerns surrounding the synthetic turf field, and the potential for deleterious chemicals — mainly per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — that could leach from the field and into groundwater.

The purpose of Thursday’s planning board meeting was to review the inventory of assembled materials that will be considered during the special permit review process. These materials include the special permit application itself, construction plans, stormwater reports, and wetland resource area reports. Additionally, the planning board website contains materials on testing and analysis of turf products, the most recent state and federal guidance surrounding maximum PFAS contaminant levels and drinking water standards, as well as input from other local governing bodies. The prior Development of Regional Impact approval documents from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission are also available on the website.

Apart from the existing transportation action plan that was commissioned by the planning board from engineering firm Howard Stein Hudson, Hopkins said, the board is looking to collaborate with other communities that are dealing with these contaminants in order to combine efforts for testing.

Hopkins said representatives from Howard Stein Hudson will present the transportation action plan on Feb. 24, dealing with how the corridor handles traffic and pedestrian safety. At that point the board will also discuss any new information gleaned from collaborative testing with other communities. Hopkins noted he has been reaching out to experts in the emerging contaminants field, as well as manufacturers of synthetic turf products such as Brock USA and Tencate, so that their input can be considered during the public hearing process.

He does not anticipate any additional verbal testimony by expert witnesses, although the board does receive technical reports and written testimony that was publicly aired in other forums, and he plans on receiving additional materials from those witnesses. 

While reviewing the list of experts whose written testimony is being considered by the board, MVRHS school committee member Kim Kirk asked if Hopkins would share the list out loud as a matter of public record.

Hopkins said he would send the list over to members of the school committee, along with a list of studies that the board is still seeking, but did not read the list out loud in the meeting. Kirk said she was hoping to see a variety of experts with independent backgrounds on the list, and not people who testified for or against the field project during MVC proceedings. 

Hopkins said he can’t go through a list ad hoc that he doesn’t have infront of him, but that the list is available with names, bios, pictures, and a complete transcript of presentations given to the Oak Bluffs board of health, on the planning board website.


  1. How is this man, who has openly opposed this project on every level, supposed to be neutral in any of this? He has tried to stop
    This project at every level. Some legal and some not.

  2. This is atrocious. Clearly a conflict of interest. The sad thing is, this kind of thing happens with regularity and is just “part of the process.” And anyone who tries to shine a light on it is risking so much, most just accept it.

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