In the face of mounting evidence that the conditions for approval for various development projects around the Island are routinely being ignored, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission has appointed a special committee to look into the issue and possibly draft new rules for enforcement.
The commission has no enforcement officer to ensure the conditions for all DRIs approved over the years — now totaling over 600 — are followed as intended.
At a commission meeting on May 29, several Oak Bluffs residents appeared to complain that conditions imposed by the commission for the World Revival Church on the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road were not being followed.
This is not a first; the commission recently heard evidence that conditions for several other projects, including the Morgan Woods affordable housing project and the Vineyard Golf Club, both in Edgartown, were not being followed.
Commissioner Ned Orleans said much of the problem lies in a gap in enforcement between the commission and individual towns.
The commission drafts and approves conditions, but town building inspectors must make sure the conditions are followed.
And that can sometimes be a daunting task, given that the conditions for many projects are lengthy and detailed, ranging from requirements for outdoor lighting and landscaping materials to environmental monitoring.
Mr. Orleans said residents often take enforcement matters into their own hands.
“[The residents] have become the quality controllers; not because it is right, but because that is how it works on this Island,” he said.
The commission briefly discussed sending a letter to Oak Bluffs building inspector Jerry Wiener seeking more information about the World Revival Church issue. But Mr. Orleans instead urged the commission to examine the problem more broadly. “This issue has plagued this commission for all these years, at least as long as I’ve been here and we need to look at the bigger picture,” he said.
“I am personally disgusted with the level of enforcement of our decisions . . . and the effort of this commission to [address the issue],” chairman Douglas Sederholm said. “Remember we have injunctive power to enforce our conditions, and if that means using a portion of our budget to sue people, then I personally don’t mind doing it.”
But Mr. Sederholm instead advocated for a more collaborative approach and moved to appoint a committee to look into the issue of enforcement.
That committee will include Mr. Sederholm and commissioners Chris Murphy, Linda Sibley, Mimi Davisson and Christina Brown.
Following the meeting, commission executive director Mark London said the committee will explore a wide range of options, including issuing a certificate of occupancy only after certain conditions are met.
He said the commission will also consider drafting new regulations to outline what should be enforced by the building inspectors what should be left to the commission.
He said it was inevitable that enforcement would become an issue.
“There are hundreds of projects out there — many with a long list of conditions. It is not easy to keep tabs on which ones are following the rules and which ones are not. Many times we aren’t aware of [violations] until someone from the public informs us, and even then it is not always clear what can be done,” Mr. London said.