Midway through a trial that tested the boundaries of authority for the Edgartown historic district commission, a superior court judge this week annulled a 2014 decision by the commission to deny the demolition of an old house.

Judge Moriarty found the commission's decision was deficient. — Steve Myrick

Ruling from the bench in the Edgartown courthouse Wednesday morning, the Hon. Cornelius J. Moriarty 2nd said the decision to deny a certificate of appropriateness to demolish a 19th century home at 8 Pease’s Point Way was deficient because the commission failed to detail the reasons it denied the application.

The ruling abruptly ended a civil trial to settle the dispute just as the town attorney began to present his case. The trial began on Tuesday.

“I find the decision of the commission is deficient,” Judge Moriarty said. “I’m going to annul the decision, simply because there is an inadequate statement of reasons. The law is the law.”

Judge Moriarty will now decide whether to send the matter back to the historic district commission for reconsideration. If he does, it must also be decided whether the commission can consider new engineering reports and other information that emerged after its original decision to block the demolition nearly two years ago.

Attorneys on both sides of the case will have until April 22 to file briefs on the two issues.

Judge Moriarty said he has only limited authority to allow the demolition.

“Unless there are some extreme circumstances, I can’t order the board to issue the certificate of appropriateness,” he said.

Homeowner Linda Simpson was the first witness called in the case. — Steve Myrick

Linda Simpson and John Ettinger, who are both New York attorneys and seasonal residents of the Island, bought the home on Pease’s Point Way in 2006 after renting it for a number of summers. In 2014, they went before the historic district commission seeking to demolish the home and garage and build a new home and carriage house on the half-acre lot which borders Upper Main street at the entrance to the village. The home is currently valued at $2.3 million, according to assessors records.

The commission denied the application in a one-page letter. The homeowners appealed in superior court

“The house is quite simply, old,” said Alan Rose Jr., an attorney from the Boston law firm Rose, Chinitz & Rose representing the homeowners, in his opening statement Tuesday. “It is not historically significant as the terms are defined in the bylaw. The house, the owners, the architecture, none of this is historically significant.”

Michael Goldsmith, an attorney with Reynolds, Rappaport, Kaplan and Hackney in Edgartown representing the town in the case, had another view.

“They held a gem, a little piece of the town’s history,” Mr. Goldsmith countered in his opening statement. “Is this a candidate for the wrecking ball? Absolutely not.”

Ms. Simpson was the first witness called in the trial. She testified about her research to determine the historical significance of the home and her family’s decision to demolish the structure and build a new residence.

Home on Pease's Point Way caught in legal crossfire. — Mark Lovewell

“My husband wanted a big white house that looked like it had been in Edgartown forever,” she said.

Following Judge Moriarty’s ruling Wednesday, Mr. Rose spoke forcefully about the commission’s action.

“This is another example of the historic district commission not following its bylaws and a judge throwing out their decision,” he said. “Their illegal conduct has a terrible impact on people who live in the district and want to redevelop homes in a way that is consistent with the bylaw.”

In a statement, historic district commission chairman Susan Catling said the commission awaits the next step in the legal process.

“The commissioners understand that this house has a rich history and look forward to their counsel’s opportunity to submit briefings on further proceedings, as requested by the judge,” she said.