MVC denies liability in suit over workforce housing

The MVC has responded to a suit filed by Adam Cummings, who owns this Circuit Ave. building. -Eunki Seonwoo

On Tuesday, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission filed a response to a lawsuit by Lampost building owner Adam Cummings. Cummings went to court after commissioners denied his request to lift restrictions on short-term rentals at the Oak Bluffs location. 

The original complaint, filed in Dukes County Superior Court on Sept. 9 by attorney Thomas D. Orr on behalf of Cummings, who is operating as Windsor Circuit Ltd., argued for the annulment of the commission’s decision, saying it “caused [Cummings] to sustain damages.”

On May 5, Cummings’ proposal to reduce the number of workforce housing units at the 6 Circuit Ave. location from 10 to four units was met with overwhelming opposition by the commission, and subsequent denial in a 15-0 vote, with one abstention. 

The request came after Cummings was found to be profiting from using the units for short-term rentals through Airbnb, and was served with a compliance notice — a warning — for misuse of units in June 2021. After that, Cummings responded with a modification request to decrease the amount of units required for workforce housing, in an attempt to remain in compliance. 

Preceding the denial were several lengthy and contentious hearings and deliberations regarding the verbiage of the conditions for workforce housing, with terms such as “as needed” ultimately creating a rift between Cummings’ then attorney, Jonathan Holter, and commissioners. Eventually, commissioners decided that Cummings’ interpretation of the agreement was cause for concern, due to the vague nature of the housing conditions. 

Citing the acute housing crisis and the negative impact of rampant short-term rentals Island-wide, commissioners highlighted the need for housing for Islanders who work and live on the Vineyard. 

Despite the commission’s past efforts to prevent misuse of alloted workforce housing, the fact that Cummings and his lawyers found ways around the terms directed the discussion toward honing in firmly on verbiage, with back-and-forths regarding definitions of “workforce,” “temporary housing,” and “unit,” working to close any possible loopholes.

The suit against the commission claimed the denial of Cummings’ modification request violated Massachusetts general law by depriving Cummings of his constitutional right to “exercise and enjoy certain rights, privileges, and immunities to own and develop property free from threats, intimidation, and coercion.” 

The response from the MVC, references the plaintiff’s “fact,” that the initial request involved the “conver[sion] of the top three floors of the property into residential housing in the form of apartments and dormitory-style housing,” and argues that the proposed modification stated that “residential housing was specifically designated as workforce housing.” 

The reply filed Tuesday on behalf of the MVC offers few other arguments, and simply “denies any liability.” It states that Cummings is “not entitled to the requested relief.” 


  1. It appears that Cummings agreed to conditions the MVC put forth then changed his mind. Rather than being upfront about that he chose to do whatever he wanted. Maybe he needs to learn that one shouldn’t agree to guidelines one isn’t going to honor. And if one wants to shift those guidelines after the fact be honest about it and return to the MVC.

  2. This is just terrible. Why can’t Mr. Cummings be happy with the leniency he received to create the extra apartments for workforce housing? Instead he has to threaten and intimidate with reverse arguments that he is the injured party. Cease and Desist Mr. Cummings. You’re showing yourself to place greed above honor and the community. Shame on you.

  3. Details matter in the interpretation of the law. The lack of affordable housing on the Vineyard is a crisis that needs no legal argument. We all know people who are leaving the Vineyard because they can find no place to live that they can afford. This past summer also demonstrated the acute shortage of workers that impaired many Island businesses. We do not need more high-priced summer rentals that workers cannot afford. Mr Cummings arguments against the MVC’s ruling are a matter for the courts. Inexact wording or other legal loopholes may support his lawyers’s arguments. What these arguements will not do is meet our community’s urgent need. We should avoid a short sighted focus on individual rights to the detriment of our community. Increasing affordable housing will benefit us all.

    • Let the invisible hand of market economics handle the situation. Having the government do social engineering inevitable causes negative consequences. It is not the government’s role to provide affordable housing.

  4. Seems pretty simple to me, he got the MVC commission to agree dangling the carrot in front of them with workforce housing, then when everything was built, he’s decided he is now entitled to do whatever he wants with the building. Shame on him.

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