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.”