Ending weeks of suspense and confusion about who will review plans for a private golf club on some 200 acres of Edgartown Great Pond land, the Edgartown zoning board of appeals voted unanimously this week to refer the project to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact (DRI).

“We need experts from both sides to evaluate these things — the commission is the proper place to look at the golf course,” said Steve Ewing, a member of the Edgartown conservation commission who spoke during a public hearing on Wednesday night. Several others also urged the board to send the project to the commission for review.

More than 150 people jammed the basement of the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown for the hearing, which was marked by an outpouring of heartfelt speeches, both for and against the golf course project. The statements throughout the evening painted a clear picture of the changing cultural values that are now affecting the Island.

“Our feeling is there is a definite need for a golf club on this Island — we feel strongly that we should have another golf course,” declared Edgartown selectman Fred B. Morgan Jr., who is also president of the Edgartown Golf Club.

“If you look up need in the dictionary, you are just not going to see a picture of a golf course — the real need we all have is for a healthy environment,” countered resident Alexis Starke.

The hearing was conducted by board of appeals member Martin V. Tomassian Jr., who took the place of chairman Margaret Serpa. She could not participate because of a conflict.

The golf course project centers on land owned by John MacKenty, Jeremiah MacKenty and their sister, Katherine Bigelow. The MacKentys have agreed to sell about 200 acres of their land to Rosario and Barry Latucca, a father and son team from Natick who hope to build an 18-hole golf club on the property.

The Latuccas have applied for a special permit for a private, nonprofit club, a conditionally permitted use under the Edgartown zoning bylaws. The application was not accompanied by any firm plans, although a preliminary routing plan was unveiled on Wednesday night.

At the hearing, Philip J. Norton Jr., an Edgartown attorney who represents the Latuccas, began the presentation with remarks about the history of the zoning bylaws and the pertinent section that affects the Latucca application.

“Crackatuxet Beach Club, Chappaquiddick Beach Club, the Edgartown Yacht Club, the Reading Room, the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, the American Legion Hall and this golf course. All the Latuccas want to do is build a golf course — a first-class golf course,” Mr. Norton said.

He described plans to put a conservation restriction on the property, and to leave Kanomika Point in a natural, undisturbed state.

“There will be no houses anywhere on this property — ever. There will be no weddings in the clubhouse, no tennis, no swimming pools, no docks. The clubhouse will only be for the use of the members. All they want to do is build a golf course and run it properly forever and ever,” Mr. Norton said.

Rosario Latucca added his own remarks.

“I want to build this within the unique character of Martha’s Vineyard and I want it to be environmentally sound,” said Mr. Latucca, who also had on hand a team of hired experts who are working on the golf course development. The leading expert is Arthur Gaines, a well-known research specialist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who is a paid academic consultant on the project.

“I knew one way or another I was going to end up being involved in the project,” Mr. Gaines said. “It would either be at the front end, trying to shape how this would look, or I would be at the other end of the process trying to fight it. My decision was to come in on the front end and try and shape the design,” he said.

Mr. Gaines said his vision for the project includes creating an independent charitable organization called the Great Pond Center to monitor and oversee environmental programs for the land.

Other experts were introduced throughout the evening, including a turf management expert, a hydrogeologist, a local ornithologist and a consultant who will oversee an environmental impact statement for the project. None have yet completed their work.

Mr. Gaines acknowledged bluntly that a golf course will change the environment at the MacKenty land, a combination of woods and pastureland which embraces the unusual marshy shoreline of the Edgartown Great Pond.

“This land is in transition and the forces that cause it to be a golf course are going to change that,” Mr. Gaines said. “I am not going to participate in a debate over whether a different use would be better, but our overall assessment is going to include many things, such as how can plants that are not wanted where they are, be moved.”

Mr. Gaines also spoke enthusiastically about a plan to take high-nitrate groundwater from around the Edgartown sewage treatment plant and use it to water the golf course.

Numerous letters from citizens were read into the record.

Some, including several from abutters, expressed support for the project.

“I am a golf widower with three sons who don’t visit me on the Island because they are unable to play golf here,” wrote one.

“We are now a vacation retreat and we need to provide additional recreational activities — golf is a way to walk out to the sea air away from the phones and stress of our lives. Clubs add to the fabric of our lives,” wrote another.

Others took another view.

“We think it would be a serious mistake — the great pond is a rare and remarkable resource,” wrote two riparian owners on the pond.

“I was unconvinced by their claim that the pond and environs would be improved,” wrote another.

Letters were read from two prominent Island conservation organizations that have taken an open stand against the golf project on the MacKenty land.

The people who crowded the hearing also spoke out in many ways.

“I do believe the Island could really use another golf course,” said Bill Meyers.

“I think the golf course is a more desirable development than the development of many homes,” said George Clark.

Kevin Klein, a resident of the Meetinghouse Village condominium complex, spoke in support of the project on behalf of most of the 24 homeowners.

Mr. Morgan, the selectman, spoke forcefully in support of the project.

“Golf courses are beautiful places — they are well maintained, and they are a habitat. You don’t lose a habitat when you build a golf club,” said Mr. Morgan. He said both the Farm Neck and Edgartown golf clubs are located on coastal ponds and have never been cited as a source of pond pollution. Mr. Morgan also bristled at the position of the two conservation groups.

“I get a little bit upset when I read those letters from conservation people — this is a means of conserving land you can use. Most of these [conservation] people conserve land by putting a couple of trails on it. This is conserving land by allowing people to use it in an organized fashion. There are so many advantages to having a golf club and it is absolutely ludicrous to think that these people aren’t going to be concerned about the environment, because they are,” he said.

Mr. Ewing responded in part to Mr. Morgan, noting that the two Island golf courses are located on ponds that are open to the ocean, while the Edgartown Great Pond is a closed pond that is artificially breached to the sea four times a year.

Mr. Ewing also observed that the Latuccas have submitted no real plans as of yet. “We’ve seen some preliminary plans, very basic plans and we’ve heard a little bit more tonight,” said Mr. Ewing. “There is a lot more to hear, and you need all the boards looking at it at the same time,” he said.

James Athearn, an Edgartown farmer and lifelong Island resident, drew applause when he spoke movingly about his own relationship with the land. “I am sure the golf course is going to be beautiful, like a garden is beautiful,” Mr. Athearn said. “But it is a work of man and a work of man isn’t the same as the beauty of the natural land. I am intimate with the land — I know it pretty well, and there are a lot of uses of the land that can bring you in touch with its rhythm, such as clamming and blueberry picking and cranberry picking. This is what we mean when we speak of the character of the region.”

Lisa and Jenifer Strachan, whose family has owned a home on the Great Pond since the 1950s, also spoke about their own connection with the place. “We have lived on that pond and used it to put food on the table. We are not millionaires, but we have used the pond with respect,” said Lisa. “An environmentally safe golf course is an oxymoron — this will kill the pond.”

In the end, the board of appeals voted unanimously to refer the project to the commission for review as a DRI. Mr. Tomassian urged all who attended the hearing to continue to participate in the process.

“This will now go to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Those of you who oppose it and those of you who support it — you should go there,” Mr. Tomassian said.