Dispute over turf field continues

The Martha's Vineyard Regional High School -MV Times

A brief status hearing was held Friday in Massachusetts Land Court between attorneys for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and the Oak Bluffs planning board over the planning board’s rejection of a special permit that would have allowed an artificial turf field at the high school.

Both attorneys, citing that their fees are being paid by taxpayers, called for an expedited discovery process. “Essentially we have two municipal clients here,” attorney Brian Winner, representing MVRHS, said. “So the taxpayers are funding this litigation in both directions, and we’re both very sensitive to that.”

Judge Kevin Smith agreed to keep the discovery period brief. He gave both parties until Nov. 30 to provide discovery, and scheduled a hearing on Dec. 2 for an update.

Winner said the so-called Dover amendment, which allows educational institutions to bypass some zoning regulations, is at the heart of the appeal.

Attorney Michael Goldsmith, who is representing the planning board, said there’s no dispute that Dover is in play, but he added that because the field is proposed over a protected water resource, a special permit process is allowed. “A board reviewing such can impose reasonable regulations if they are protecting public health and safety,” Goldsmith said. “That is what is at the crux of this case.”

The two sides agreed to continue talking about possible resolutions that would avoid trial.

“We’re going to explore that, and see if it matures into an architecture for settlement,” Winner said. “At some point in the future, we may want to discuss bringing in a mediator. Premature at this point, I think, to make a decision on that.”

Smith said the Dec. 2 hearing would be held via Zoom: “That way you could tell me if there’s going to be any motions, if there will be a trial, or if you are going to mediation, or that — heaven forbid — you’ve already resolved it. That would be ideal.”


    • Why should we accept your solution as the correct one? I have what I think is a better solution, let’s put it to a vote before the taxpayers of Oak Bluffs and see what the majority decides. An elected and representative MVC voted to approve this decision, let’s not forget that.

    • Susan, please explain how you expect the school to build and maintain 4 additional grass fields along with bringing the existing 4 fields up to competitive athletic standards? It’s not as simple as saying “Easy resolve….MVRHS, agree to natural grass fields. Done!”
      Your comment is disingenuous and doesn’t add a real solution to the problem.

      • John– I missed the comment from Susan where she was advocating for the building and maintaining of 4 additional grass fields along with maintaining the 4 existing fields.
        I looked — couldn’t find it ..
        could you link us to that comment . please ?

  1. More delays …. what a shame.
    An 11 million dollar project with no funding? MVRHS School Committee, Please stop litigation and propose funding for grass fields. Our students need this . You’re mission is to achieve excellence , approve budgets and manage the function of our school. Please read the letters on file from people who live close to the high school, our enviromental , conservation, food growers and scientific community that rejects this plastic turf. Read National headlines as professional teams reject plastic turf . Read about all the communities that have rejected plastic turf. Please don’t wager on a new infill product as harmless at the cost of our water quality. We have more land than most schools to build beautiful , environmentally friendly natural grass fields.

    • Please do the fields the way Becka wants, she knows best.
      GMO grass seed, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, lots of fuel, lots of water, lots of labor.
      There is nothing natural about natural turf. Better living through chemistry…

      • Albert — So we should go with what you want , because you know best ?

        Why would they use GMO grass seed ? Do you think there is no such thing as natural grass seed ?
        Why would they use chemical fertilizers ? Do you think there is no such thing as organic fertilizer ?
        Chemical pesticides ? are you worried that the students would have an ant crawl on them ?
        Chemical herbicides ? Do you think that a student would be injured if they stepped on a dandelion ? ( even though they are called dande “lions” they don’t bite )
        Lots of fuel ? Do you think 500,000 pounds of a toxic material ( some of which is made from fossil fuels) just assembles itself ?
        Does that 500,000 pound field just walk to the island on it’s own ?
        Put itself down ?
        Do you think it will just Pick itself up in 10 years and swim to Denmark to be recycled with no energy ? As if it would actually get recycled…
        And then a brand new 500,000 pound toxic piece of plastic and rubber will magically show up and repeat the process.
        Rain falls out of the sky you know.
        There is plenty of “natural” in natural turf, unless idiots put chemicals on it.
        And by the way– I’m still waiting for someone to show me any reputable study that a properly maintained natural field is less safe to the players, regardless of age or location of injuries.
        I would think someone could find one– But I haven’t seen one yet–
        I have seen about 10 that have concluded that turf fields are less safe.

        • Don, I don’t know what is best, everyone else does.
          Everyone else knows that all sports playing surfaces have down sides.
          (The hardwood floors on basketball courts are too hard.)

          GMO grass seed grows better sports field turf.
          Chemicals turn grass into a sports playing surface.

          • Albert- of course whenever you have people running around as fast as they can and run into each other, you will have injuries.
            That’s part of the risk.
            And I don’t know what’s “best” either.
            So when I think about this I have some criteria that I base my final opinion on.
            That’s why I tend to define the issues do some research and form a conclusion.
            First– the injury rate. Early on the proponents of the turf field claimed it was safer as to injuries to the players
            But as far as I can tell, it is not.
            I ask for more information.
            But I go for grass
            Second – environmental impact.
            This one is not as clear cut. Yes, there are PFAS in it, Will it leach into the groundwater ? Probably some, but at rates that are harmful ?
            That’s still up for debate– but, they don’t call them “forever chemicals” for nothing. Maybe no problem next year, but a few billion parts here and a few billion parts there, and pretty soon you are talking about real pollution.
            So again, I will error on the side of caution, and go for grass.
            Third– the cost– this is not clearly defined.
            Perhaps a million a year ? Undisclosed private donors ?
            I will be neutral on that– not enough information about what a grass field will cost, vs a turf field.
            Nope– not gonna happen, that has been thoroughly debated here, and you have read about it.
            Grass again–
            Fifth– Fertilizers , pesticides, herbicides etc..
            Organic may cost more, and require some creative thinking and management– but., not an issue. it can be done organically. I have no problem with GMO seed by the way..
            sixth — water — really, are you kidding?
            Have you ever been near a golf course at sunrise or sunset ? Given the acreage of golf courses and the water they consume, the football field is a drop in the bucket of the aquifer. My opinion is that’s a red herring argument.

            So, of my 6 criteria:
            2 strongly favor grass
            1 favors grass
            1 is unknown
            1 (fertilizers etc)) is organically manageable and not
            really a valid argument in my opinion
            1 is a red herring

            I appreciate your civil tone and thoughtful comments.

          • Albert– i disagree — natural turf requires no deadly chemicals.
            Grass is one of the most successful living organisms on the planet. The innumerable diversity of them never — I’ll repeat it — NEVER has required any deadly chemicals to proliferate and be one of the most dominant organisms on this planet.
            if you want to debate this issue, please come up with something rational..

  2. I’m glad they agreed to an expediated discovery process that will only take 4 1/2 months and try to keep the legal fees under a few hundred grand.
    And then they can decide if it will go to court and cost a few hundred grand more .
    OR– they could spend about 2 hours reading everything that has been published on this forum, along with comments, and put the quarter million dollars they save and plant some grass seed.
    Susan has it right.

  3. Never a fan of lawyers but this is what happens when people on island boards but their personal agendas in front of facts. It seems according to the Grassfield proponents the rest of the world is wrong but we are right. does anyone know what our legal costs are all ready? And what about the Martha’s Vineyard Commission legal cost today for their personal agendas. It seems on one court case they MVC was afraid of losing so they settled out of court too bad they didn’t try to resolve the other one. Taxpayers legal fees keep adding

    • Bob– The grassfield proponents had the legal ruling in their favor.
      It seems the turf proponents are the ones that can’t accept that they are wrong.
      They are the one’s suing after all.

  4. Personal agendas seem to be pulling at both sides, I feel it as well. I feel strongly about the outcome yet really have no skin in the game anymore. At least i’m done paying for the medical bills from the old field, my kids will be in PT forever.

  5. Many comments here are the same as they were 10 years ago. “IF” natural grass could sustain the use, DO IT! It’s grass right now, if you think you can fix it naturally DO IT! Stop delaying fixing the field at all. That’s all that is happening now. With the same incorrect info being said, funding is there. Environmental schools have turf fields, DO SOMETHING

    • I appreciate your efforts and passion for football Zeke.
      Please explain ” funding is there”. I am trying to wrap my head around this . I was told in a SC meeting that there is no funding . If taxpayers can pay for lawyers and we should be a able to fund action on fields. I totally agree that we should start fixing the fields now. Mediation is needed now to at least start action.

  6. Just plant new grass. It is better for the island and for the kids. We don’t need faux grass’s chemicals leaching into our water table below the field.

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