West Chop homeowners sue MVC over demo denial 

Owners of 1133 Main St. in Tisbury hope to have the decision made by the MVC annulled by the court.

Owners of 1133 Main St. in Tisbury have filed a lawsuit against the Martha’s Vineyard Commission following the commission’s denial of a request to demolish the property’s existing house. 

The request for permission to demolish the four-story, seven-bedroom, 8,500-square-foot dwelling — believed to have been built around 1890 — and replace it with a 7,178-square-foot, three-story structure was turned down by commissioners in August in a 7-3 vote, with one abstention.

The existing house is not listed on Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS), but directly abuts the West Chop Historic District. 

Through a handful of public hearings and deliberations, commissioners ultimately found the proposed demolition and replacement structure to be a detriment to West Chop’s aesthetic, and recommended alternatives, such as preservation, rehabilitation, restoration, relocation, and reconstruction, per the MVC’s updated policy on historic structures, which was approved in May. The policy, which aims to quell increasing demolition requests, ensures all demo proposals of houses over 100 years old undergo comprehensive review to determine historical significance, condition, and character. 

The lawsuit, filed by property owners Brian and Susannah Bristol via attorney Kevin P. O’Flaherty in Dukes County superior court on Oct. 4, argues that the commission’s decision “prevent[s] the Bristols from using, enjoying, and reasonably improving their property” by “forc[ing] the Bristols to spend unreasonable and infeasible amounts to rehabilitate the house.”

The suit argues that potential expenses for renovation would exceed what can be recovered through ever selling the property, and that “rehabilitating the house would be unsafe, prohibitively and unreasonably expensive, and overly time-consuming when compared with the time and cost entailed in demolition and rebuilding.” 

Additionally, the Bristols claim that the house has undergone “significant and substantial renovations and alterations of the years,” essentially denying that the building as a whole is over 100 years old.

Through the complaint, the Bristols argue that the court should annul the MVC’s initial decision, and “order a new decision approving the project.”