Following a late-night discussion that grew cranky at times, the Martha's Vineyard Commission voted narrowly last week to designate a district of critical planning concern for the shorelines of two shellfish-rich ponds in Chilmark.
The vote was 9-6 to approve the Menemsha and Nashaquitsa Ponds DCPC.
Jennie Greene, the appointed member of the commission from Chilmark, fought bitterly to block the DCPC.
"I think this is a slam-dunk that a couple of people put together. The town doesn't want it and we don't need it," declared Ms. Greene.
The vote took place at 11:15 p.m. on Thursday, after a long night of other business at the commission office in Oak Bluffs.
Ms. Greene was visibly angry throughout the DCPC discussion.
The DCPC nomination was made by the Chilmark planning board and the town conservation commission two months ago.
The boundaries of the proposed DCPC include a 200-foot zone from mean high water out, all around Nashaquitsa Pond on the Chilmark side of Menemsha Pond. The proposed DCPC excludes Menemsha basin and the Aquinnah side of Menemsha Pond.
The central purpose of the special planning district is to develop regulations for piers to protect the shellfish and finfish habitats.
Menemsha Pond and Nashaquitsa Pond are the two primary resources for bay scallops up-Island.
A public hearing on the DCPC designation was held two weeks ago.
The hearing was held in Edgartown at a meeting that included a separate hearing to designate the entire Island of Chappaquiddick as a DCPC.
Last week Robert Zeltzer, an elected member of the commission from Chilmark, said he had concerns about the venue for the public hearing on a Chilmark issue.
"I've been approached a number of times about the fact that this DCPC hearing was held in Edgartown. If there is a way to keep this [hearing] open, I would be in favor of doing so. These people are unhappy and I represent them," said Mr. Zeltzer.
The commission was under a statutory deadline to vote on the DCPC Thursday night.
Amid open recognition that the decision to hold the public hearing in Edgartown may have been poor judgment, commission member John Best said it was not reason enough to turn down the DCPC.
"I think you could probably take this to Chilmark and get 20 more people to testify — but if the commission denies this we are doing a disservice to the process. By approving this we are not doing anything that is detrimental to the town," Mr. Best said.
A few members called the ponds DCPC proposal an abuse of the process.
"This is obviously not in accordance with our regulations — I don't know how we can even vote on this DCPC," said Dan Flynn, a county appointed member to the MVC.
"I get the feeling there is something going on here — it's like, people can't get something through town meeting and they come running to the commission," said Kenneth Rusczyk, an appointed member of the commission from Oak Bluffs. "People are getting wise about how to use the Martha's Vineyard Commission to get what they want. I hate to say it, but I think we're being used," he added.
Linda Sibley, an elected member from West Tisbury, responded directly to Mr. Rusczyk's remark about people using the DCPC process to skirt town meeting.
"It's exactly the opposite. Any regulations adopted in a DCPC need to be voted at a town meeting," she said, adding: "When the Martha's Vineyard Commission designates a DCPC, it affords the town powers that are not necessarily there under zoning."
Michael Donaroma, an appointed member of the commission from Edgartown, echoed some of Mr. Zeltzer's concern about the public hearing. "I like the DCPC process — but I have a problem when our two Chilmark representatives are opposed," Mr. Donaroma said.
In the end the commission voted to designate the DCPC, after a brief flurry of procedural chaos. First Ms. Greene moved to reject the DCPC, but then she changed her motion to table the DCPC after some discussion about allowing the special district to die through inaction rather than take an active vote to reject it. The motion to table failed 8-7, and a motion to designate the DCPC carried 9-6.
A building moratorium will now remain in place for one year within the boundaries of the DCPC, while the town works to develop regulations for the special district.
The roll call vote of the commission on the Menemsha and Nashaquitsa Ponds DCPC was as follows:
Voting yes were James Athearn, John Best, Tristan Israel, Megan Ottens-Sargent, Linda Sibley, Richard Toole, James Vercruysse, Andrew Woodruff and Robert Zeltzer.
Voting no were Christina Brown, Marcia Cini, Michael Donaroma, Daniel Flynn, Jennie Greene and Kenneth Rusczyk.
In other business Thursday night, the commission held a public hearing on a proposal by the Tisbury Service Center to build a two-pump gas station at the former site of the Coca-Cola plant on State Road in Vineyard Haven.
The service center complex now houses a car repair shop and a paint-your-own pottery shop named the Vineyard Clay House. The businesses on the site have won approval from the commission in piecemeal fashion over the last two years.
Now the owner of the property is back before the commission with a plan to add gas pumps to the complex. The plan is under review by the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI).
At a public hearing Thursday night, spokesmen for the applicant presented an array of information about the project including a long presentation by traffic consultant William Scully about the traffic flow through the property and impacts of the project on the congested State Road corridor.
Mr. Scully said the project will have little impact on State Road because he said studies show that most people who buy gas are already out in their cars on the road doing other errands.
MVC staff planner David Wessling said Mr. Scully had done a lot of work on the project, but he said the traffic study is replete with problems. The chief concerns center on safety, traffic flow and a realistic assessment of the impacts on State Road, he said.
Mr. Wessling took the applicant's site plan and filled in drawings of all the cars that could be using the site at the same time. The drawing showed a small swarm of cars pointing in various directions.
"All the plans seen tonight are not quiet accurate," Mr. Wessling said.
The chief spokesman for the applicant was Hilary Schultz, an attorney who represents owner Steven Wehner. The project has been beset by legal tangles because of an apparent internal dispute among investors in the property. Recently, at least one portion of the dispute moved into the United States Bankruptcy Court.
The issue of ownership was briefly a topic of discussion on Thursday night. Mr. Clifford said the only issue before the commission is the identity of the applicant.
The applicant is the Tisbury Service Center, a company that leases the property from the Vineyard Service Center (the original applicant was the Vineyard Service Center, but the name was changed a few weeks ago).
Acting on the advice of counsel, the commission decided to continue the hearing to another session.