The Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association has sued the town of Oak Bluffs for the second time this summer, seeking to reverse conditions imposed by the town’s zoning board of appeals (ZBA) in its approval of a special permit for the construction of an auxiliary structure at the Camp Ground Tabernacle.

The appeal against the ZBA filed Aug. 12 with the Massachusetts Land Court follows a similar lawsuit in July against the Oak Bluffs planning board over conditions listed in its approval of the Tabernacle project.

“The conditions imposed by the planning board have led to the difficult decision to appeal their action and by extension the action of the ZBA to preserve our rights and help work towards a mutually beneficial solution,” reads a statement from the camp meeting association released Monday.

Phase 5 of the Tabernacle renovations would also restore the Tabernacle's roof, with financial assistance from Oak Bluffs. — Jeanna Shepard

On July 11, the Oak Buffs ZBA approved a special permit for the construction of a 1,300-square-foot addition on the back of the Tabernacle. The new structure would provide 10 public bathrooms, storage and backstage access to the wrought-iron structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The final piece of a long-running five-phase restoration, the project also includes replacing the Tabernacle roof.

The ZBA’s approval carries a condition that only rough plumbing and no plumbing fixtures be installed at the auxiliary building until a method of wastewater removal is approved by the town. In the appeal of the ZBA’s decision, the MVCMA claims the board reached beyond its jurisdiction and that its conditions are so restrictive as to amount to a denial.

The lawsuit’s language closely mirrors that of the MVCMA’s July appeal of the planning board’s conditional approval, as the religious organization appears to double down on its claim to zoning exemptions.

“In its approval, the zoning board imposes conditions that exceed its authority under the zoning bylaw and under [section three] of the Massachusetts Zoning Act … which exempts religious uses from certain zoning restrictions,” reads the lawsuit filed with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Land Court.

Planning board chairman T. Ewell Hopkins told the Gazette last month the planning board will file a response to the July lawsuit. That response has not yet been filed. Zoning board administrator Robert Culbert wrote in an email to the Gazette Wednesday that the ZBA has no comment on the MVCMA appeal.

Wastewater was a major sticking point during the planning board’s public hearing process on the project to build an auxiliary structure and restore the Tabernacle’s roof. In its approval of the project in June, the planning board stipulated that the camp meeting association must show evidence of cooperation with the town wastewater department for connecting the bathrooms to the town treatment plant. A second condition in the planning board’s approval requires the association to hire a consultant to evaluate the storm water management plan.

“The MVCMA appreciates that the ZBA … approved the Tabernacle Restoration Phase [five] project, but by incorporating the planning board conditions in the conditions of the ZBA approval, the ZBA conditions further create uncertainty about the project,” reads the camp meeting association’s statement.

The Aug. 12 complaint asks that the Massachusetts Land Court nullify the zoning board’s imposed conditions and find that the Tabernacle addition is not subject to town zoning bylaws as a structure used for religious purposes. The petition also asks the court to award attorneys’ fees and costs.

“As a long-time partner with Oak Bluffs, the MVCMA has and will continue to work with the town to address the issues, particularly with regards to wastewater and look forward to a collaborative and timely resolution,” reads the MVCMA statement.