Commission Decides to Review Chilmark Girl Scout Camp Plan


The Martha's Vineyard Commission last week voted to review as a development of regional impact (DRI) a plan to demolish and expand a Chilmark summer camp owned by the regional council of the Girl Scouts of America.

The commission considered the project on Thursday after a rare discretionary referral by the Chilmark selectmen. The two commission members from Chilmark said the regional planning agency should grant a review any time it is requested by a town board of selectmen.

"It seems pretty straightforward to me," said commission member Christopher Murphy of Chilmark. "When selectmen from any town ask us to review anything, we should do it."

Chilmark selectmen said they referred the project to the commission so neighbors would have a public forum to voice concerns about increased noise and traffic. As a nonprofit educational organization, the Girl Scouts are exempt from some local zoning requirements.

At least one commission member during the concurrence review also questioned whether the project as designed attempted to avoid commission jurisdiction. The Girl Scouts proposed a new 1,996-square-foot building - four square feet shy of triggering a mandatory DRI referral.

A Girl Scout official asserted that the proposed size had nothing to do with the commission checklist.

The project would essentially double the size and use of the old 900-square-foot Camp Wampanoag building, located on a 3.5-acre parcel off Middle Road and purchased by the Girl Scouts in the late 1950s.

Edgartown attorney Edward (Peter) Vincent Jr., who represents the Girl Scouts, presented to the commission a list of proposed activities for the property that could be added to the deed as a restrictive covenant. But commission members replied that the proposed limits were too vague and unspecific.

Commission member John Breckenridge of Oak Bluffs was the lone person to vote against reviewing the project as a DRI. The commission is expected to hold a public hearing on the proposal in the coming weeks.

The commission on Thursday also postponed until this week a vote on an upscale members-only recreational facility proposed in Katama, and continued until mid-July a public hearing on an expansion to the Woodland Business Center in Vineyard Haven.

The Woodland project currently before the commission is a proposal to build a 5,000-square-foot building with three retail units on a half-acre vacant lot behind the present business complex. The commission earlier this spring approved a 970-square-foot retail building in the middle of the Woodland center, where an unused greenhouse currently stands. Conditions of approval included a new traffic design for the parking lot.

Traffic remains the main area of concern. The Woodland center is located on the busy State Road corridor of Vineyard Haven, one of the most highly traveled routes on the Island.

Robert Wood of Vineyard Auto Supply, which is across from the vacant lot, said he had no problems with the proposed new building. And though he praised Humphreys bakery, which opened a store in the Woodland center last August, he noted that it added even more traffic to the already busy driveway.

"Have you ever tried to pull out on that highway in July?" Mr. Wood asked commission members. "It's terrible. On a rainy day, you couldn't get out with a bulldozer."