The Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s expanding legal budget was broached at the Edgartown select board meeting Monday, as town officials weighed the financial impacts of the commission’s recent flurry of legal challenges, as well as new staff hires.

In a letter sent to towns last month, commission executive director Adam Turner warned that the unique regional planning agency would have to increase its budget line item due to ongoing litigation, although he did not specify the amount. Four project applicants have filed suit against the commission in the past four months, appealing decisions that involved the denial of historic home teardowns and stringent conditions in its decisions, among other things.

The commission has also spent about $400,000 defending its decision to deny the Meeting House Place subdivision, planned for an area off Meshacket Road in Edgartown.

According to its statute, the commission prepares and adopts its budget in November and December every year. While some of its funding comes from grants and contracts, the bulk of the budget is paid by Island towns through annual assessments.

Edgartown’s former representative on the commission, James Joyce, brought the budgeting issue before the select board Monday.

Mr. Joyce lamented the lack of town oversight in MVC hiring, saying that the commission has made two new hires without town input. Although one new hire was to replace a former employee, another will only partially be funded by a two-year grant, with the rest of the employee’s salary falling on the towns, he said.

Select board member Arthur Smadbeck agreed that the commission’s use of grant funds merited further discussion.

“You have to have some discipline,” selectman Arthur Smadbeck said. “The body receiving the grant has to have some discipline about what they’re going to do before they get that grant…that’s one of those discussions that never seems to happen.”

Edgartown pays about 40 per cent of the commission’s nearly $500,000 budget, town administrator James Hagerty said. As the town prepares to finalize its FY2024 budget, he added that the number could near $1 million in the coming years.

“The only way to not pay is a home rule petition that pulls you out, which [Edgartown] once did,” Mr. Hagerty said.

But on Monday, Mr. Smadbeck was balanced in his analysis of the commission’s current budget issues, noting that the line of communication between the commission and the town has always been strong in his eyes.

“Adam Turner has been very, very responsive to the town and he’s very sensitive to running up those bills,” he said. “When they make a decision that gets legal action they don’t have much choice than to visit it…it would be better if we didn’t have so many of these cases…but the selectmen traditionally haven’t tried to micromanage.”

Selectman Mike Donaroma remembered his own experience with the commission.

“When I worked at the commission, they didn’t really have to get permission from the town because they thought they knew better,” he said.

The town agreed to revisit the issue at the FY24 budget meeting in January.

“Eventually this will come to a tipping point,” Mr. Hagerty said. “Whether it comes from the citizens or comes from the town we need to have that discussion.”