Dover Amendment of 1950 in today’s world of environmental considerations


To the Editor:

The recent decision on the lawsuit brought by the town of Oak Bluffs versus the use of artificial turf on the MVRHS campus brings into sharp focus how towns, cities, and residential taxpaying individuals and districts continue to be thwarted in their efforts to constrain religious and educational institutions from using this antiquated Dover Amendment to inflict their will on the people.

It was brought to my attention that the Buffalo Bills football team insisted, and their wishes were complied with, on the removal of their artificial turf playing field. Their injuries were deemed more severe compared with falls on natural ground. In Massachusetts, however, owing to the existence and use by these two powerful institutions, personal injury possibilities plus determinants to the environment appear to be ignored currently, as in the past, by the power of the age-old Dover Amendment of 1950.

As the homeowner, since 1978, of the historically significant 1880s first parsonage of Grace Episcopal Church, I am a primary abutter to the formerly small Montessori Nursery School here at Main Street and Tashmoo Avenue, in Vineyard Haven. It is is currently immersed in a three-year, partially completed, ambitious growth effort to double its population, provide staff housing, and incorporate its elementary grade classes, housed until 2025 at the Jabberwocky facility, all of which lead inevitably to increased traffic and parking issues on Tashmoo Avenue, the only two-way street in town.

The erection on Locust Avenue — parallel to Tashmoo off Main St. — of a three-story building requiring no consideration of impact on neighbors, removal of trees serving as a buffer at a lower elevation, onto a private home has allegedly created drainage issues for the owner, and plans are to put one or more additional structures on the same property. All of these innovations are occurring despite the fact the available terrain available is a much reduced amount, owing to the sale of two separate parcels of that former Tashmoo Inn, on which now stand two residences.

In 1950, we were yet unaware of the grievous impact human endeavor and population growth would inflict on our planet, causing today grave concerns re pollution, water shortages, and the impact sewage and septic overuse would have on our fragile environment. We have already borne witness to the degradation of our Island ponds, by the dramatic increase in residential septic systems primarily.

In the mid-eighties, two other women and myself aroused concern in our neighborhood, which caused the previous owner of that same property to cease and desist from creating condos on that site. We were alarmed even back then at the proximity such a huge complex would have ecologically, on our environment, located only one short block distance from one of Tisbury’s only two minuscule town beaches and the decades-old historical VHYC at the end of Owen Little Way, just off Main Street.

Our voices in that decade were heard by the then owner and heeded. I fear because of the great need for childcare and staff housing that the Dover Amendment will ignore the wishes of the neighborhood, and inflict the monumental increase in student and staff population year-round, with much increased potential for septic overload, especially in torrential downpours, and in descending movement onto our still relatively pristine beaches. Unlike the West Tisbury Charter School, which located its campus far removed from taxpaying, residential, peaceful neighborhoods, the expansion of the Montessori School, however significant be the need, is detrimental to this well-known Main Street, where so many of the famous literati had/have their homes. It is ill-placed, to put it bluntly. A tiny, innocuous, nursery school on that site in the 1980s, which we residents advised against to the planning board, the NIMBY attitude, was ignored.

Now, 40 years hence, this Dover Amendment of 1950 may succeed, and permit a non-taxpaying entity, i.e. educational institution, to persuade a judge to overturn the will of the taxpaying public and confront us with increased environmental degradation. And yes, as a great-grandmother, grandmother, parent of four, and teacher of 40 years, 10 of which were spent in a junior bilingual kindergarten in a large city, I am sympathetic to parental and childhood needs.

The Montessori School is a superb addition to our Island, and the director I believe to be excellent. And until the advent of this three-year growth program, the school was accepted by neighbors for 40 years. However, because of its vast expansion plans, doubling in population, traffic, septic usage, proximity to recreational areas’ critical location, it appears to be an unfolding environmental disaster. I fear the imposition of the Dover Amendment upon our neighborhood.


Doreen Kinsman
Vineyard Haven