Open and Shut Case

The plan to rehabilitate the old Oak Bluffs library by converting the building into affordable housing for seniors and a pharmacy must be referred to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission for review as a development of regional impact.

This is not a matter for judgment or interpretation; the project hits at least four criteria on the commission checklist for referral. And if the Oak Bluffs selectmen, who to date have been acting as general contractors on the project, do not refer the project, then they should be held accountable for their action, or more accurately, their lack of action. The town building inspector also has the authority to refer the project, as does the historic district commission and the wastewater commission, among others. The commission enabling legislation is liberally construed in this way.

So what are the selectmen waiting for?

Selectman Ron DiOrio’s comments last week in response to questions from the Gazette about the state of this building project were at best facetious, at worst evasive. “This is a good project for the town; everyone will benefit . . . and we always need affordable housing,” he said.

The need for affordable housing is not in question, in Oak Bluffs or in any other town on the Vineyard. But because there is a need does not mean that a development project — town-sponsored or otherwise — is above the rules or exempt from the ordinary review process.

Commission review is both required and warranted for the old library conversion. And indeed, as has been shown in the past, the commission, which has staff planners to evaluate the plan on a number of fronts, testing it for strengths and weaknesses, can be helpful.

Mr. DiOrio has spearheaded this project and at this juncture he would be wise to make a motion at the next selectmen’s meeting to refer the library conversion project to the commission for review as a development of regional impact.

We expect better leadership from our selectmen than Mr. DiOrio has shown.