MVCMA ‘aggrieved’ by conditions on Tabernacle

The Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. -MV Times

The Oak Bluffs planning board and the town of Oak Bluffs are being sued by the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association (MVCMA) for exceeding their scope of authority by the conditions imposed on the approval of Phase 5 of the restoration of the Tabernacle. 

Originally approved by the planning board on June 8, in a 3-0 vote, the restoration project consists of a roof replacement and a 1,300-square-foot accessory structure for restrooms in addition to allowing alternative access to the Tabernacle’s stage. 

The conditions placed on the approval of the project address wastewater concerns and require “a statement of feasibility, sign off, or letter of intent from the wastewater department with forecasted flow,” in addition to — at the expense of MVCMA — a third-party assessment to specify any alternative environmental techniques. 

According to the written complaint filed with Massachusetts Land Court on July 11, the MVCMA is “aggrieved by the conditions in the approval,” and asserts that the conditions “are unreasonable … vague and indefinite.” The MVCMA cites that the requirements “could have the effect of rendering the approval a denial.” The wastewater condition, the MVCMA states, are “not permissible impositions” on the association’s “religious use” of the structure. 

Under zoning regulations, the MVCMA asserts that “neither the roof replacement nor the addition are subject to the site plan review bylaw.”

Regarding engaging a third-party assessment, the MCVMA asserts the conservation commission, which reviewed and approved the project, “found that the proposed system was subject to and complied with the Massachusetts Stormwater Standards.”

Also conditioned in the approval by planning board is a stipulation that the MCVMA be given a “final sign off,” which the association argues is beyond the planning board’s authority to require. 

The MVCMA’s complaint calls for nullifying the approval conditions, declaring the conditions as “not permissible impositions,” and granting the MVCMA attorney fees and costs. 


  1. Has anyone thought to tell the Campmeeting Association AND the Town of Oak Bluffs about the composting toilets that have been in use at the Bronx Zoo and Masquamaquet State Park in RI for many years. Look them up on line and see how these two major wastewater users solved their wastewater problems without a wastewater treatment plan expansion. It works if it is managed properly AND it is simple to manage.

    • Renee– Great comment.
      I don’t get the mentality that is so wed to the idea of taking about 1/2 pound of fecal waste, mixing it with 16 pounds of water and then spend extraordinary amounts of money to separate them, only to have the excess nitrogen from the process get into the groundwater and ultimately the ponds where it causes algae blooms and kills fish.
      I apologise to any of my English teachers that may still be alive for the run on sentence !

    • Thank you, Ms. Balter, for this excellent suggestion! I was just starting to wonder where all the smart people had gone…
      In recognition of their sensitive location at the head of Town Cove in the Mill Brook watershed, the West Tisbury Library chose to install foam flush composting toilets in their new building, including a maintenance contract with the supplier. This building experiences high traffic/use throughout the year. Five years in, these have worked perfectly.

    • People are resistant hanging on to their poo and cooking it in their house.
      Poo water is less than 10% of total sewer flow.
      Bath water is the big one.

      • Albert – I get your point but I would think the percentage of actual “poo water” is way less than 10 %. That makes it worse–we are taking 1/2 pound of poop, mixing it with the 16 pounds of water in a toilet flush and then mixing that with thousands of pounds of greywater..
        They used to build moats around the castles and encampments (cities if you will) and have krenalations at the top of the walls. The krenalations were good for 2 things– shooting arrows from a defensive position, and sitting on while they relieved themselves. The moat caught it all.
        They didn’t have a better technology and were ignorant of the health consequences.
        We now know about the problems excess nitrogen cause, and we have systems with advanced composting capabilities ( see Prudy’s comment ) to mitigate this problem. It does not seem like anyone will be taking showers there, so the volume of wastewater is relatively small.
        Ultimately, a composting system would likely be much cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
        Anna Eddy — we need your opinion..

  2. Renee – I don’t think you could tell the MVCMA how to do anything. They say they are trying to be a better community member at the service last week with Senator Warnock, then they sue the town the next day. But in the same breath they want our sewer capacity (10 bathrooms) and our CPA money. Sorry, get in line for a sewer hookup just like all the businesses on Circuit Ave. Exempt as a church? What is their religion anyway? Except for holding graduations, exactly what are they contributing to our community? I hope OB stands up to them because we don’t need to be bullied by the campground.

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