The Herring Creek Farm Trust has filed a new lawsuit against the Martha's Vineyard Commission, appealing a recent decision by the commission to eliminate a private beach association from a development plan for the farm.
The 32-lot luxury home development plan for the farm was approved by the commission in November. The approval was accompanied by some 22 conditions. One condition eliminated a 250-member private beach association from the plan.
"The trust now challenges the condition imposed by the MVC, which prohibits the trust from selling any rights in the trust's private beach," declares the 16-page complaint.
The complaint was filed in Suffolk Superior Court on Dec. 22, although the commission has not yet been served with the complaint. Yesterday, MVC executive director Charles W. Clifford said he did not know about it. Commission attorney Eric Wodlinger, a partner at Choate Hall & Stewart in Boston, said the commission will vigorously defend its actions.
The complaint asks the court to annul the beach club condition and declare it unconstitutional. It also asks for damages and attorneys fees. Property damages are claimed to be in excess of $10 million.
The 7-6 decision by the commission to approve the 32-lot development plan for the farm concluded a contentious development review that began 10 years ago and is the longest in the history of the commission.
Herring Creek Farm owners Neil and Monte Wallace have been in court with an array of actions against the commission since it first turned down a 54-lot subdivision plan for the farm seven years ago.
A superior court trial on the decision to reject the 54-lot plan began last year, but was put on hold when the farm trust filed the new, 32-lot plan for the farm.
Formerly a working farm whose mainstay was beef cattle, the 215-acre Great Plains farm fronts the Atlantic Ocean, the Edgartown Great Pond and Crackatuxet Cove. The Wallaces bought the farm in 1969 from the late Benjamin Harrison Cohan, who had farmed a large area of the Katama plains.
Ten years ago the Wallaces began the effort to develop the farm.
The complaint filed last month over the beach club condition on the 32-lot plan reads like a condensed version of earlier Herring Creek Farm Trust court complaints, detailing the history of land use regulation in the area of the farm, including the districts of critical planning concern (DCPCs) adopted over the years by the town and the commission to protect the rare and fragile environment in the coastal Great Plains.
The 32-lot cluster subdivision plan still needs approval at the town level from both the planning board and the board of health. A public hearing is set for next Tuesday. The hearing is expected to be continued to a second session to allow town boards to comment.
The development plan is accompanied by a complicated septic system plan that calls for eventually installing high-technology nitrate-removing septic systems.
Edgartown health agent Matthew Poole said this week that the board of health will wait to comment on the development plan until the presentation is complete.
"We are going to wait to see their presentation before commenting. But I think it's safe to say that the septic system plan is complicated," Mr. Poole said.
The public hearing begins at 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday in the Edgartown town hall.
Meanwhile, attorneys for the trust and the commission are expected to appear in court in Boston today to discuss the fate of the pending case on the 54-lot development plan rejected by the commission seven years ago.
Richard Renehan, a partner at Hill & Barlow in Boston who represents the commission in the case, said this week that he believes there are only two clear options for the trust: go forward with the trial or drop the complaint.
"What we will tell the judge is that they have to get rid of the case or we will commence with the trial. There is simply no reason to delay this any longer. I expect that the judge will say that the time has come," Mr. Renehan said.
Michael Connolly, a partner at Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo in Boston who represents the trust, could not be reached for comment.
Judge Stephen E. Neel, an associate justice of the superior court, is presiding over the case.