Oak Bluffs will no longer fund the town’s controversial legal battle over plans for a new turf field at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, leaving the future of the ongoing litigation in limbo.

The select board Thursday voted 3-2 to stop paying for the planning board’s appeal of a Land Court judge’s decision from November. The judge had ruled that the planning board overstepped in its denial of the turf project, prompting the planning board to appeal the decision.

Select board members Emma Green-Beach and Gail Barmakian were the dissenting votes Thursday. Members Thomas Hallahan, Jason Balboni and Dion Alley voted in favor.

Mr. Hallahan told the Gazette Thursday that he believed the planning board did not have a strong case on its appeal, which centered around the powers that local boards have to enforce zoning regulations on educational projects.

He felt the issue had gone from “turf versus grass” to the Dover Amendment, a state law that gives schools and farms more zoning leeway.

“There was little room in overturning the case law,” Mr. Hallahan said. “We’re not in favor of spending the time and the funds on doing that.”

Select boards in Massachusetts hold the purse strings for municipal legal funding. Town counsel Michael Goldsmith has billed the town about $35,000 on the turf lawsuit, which started in 2022 when the school committee appealed the planning board’s denial. The planning board had hinged its rejection on concerns over the area’s water quality.

Ms. Green-Beach was against the funding stoppage and believed the town was accepting that it could not safeguard the Island’s main aquifer.

“I don’t understand how we can choose to bow to the Dover Amendment and allow it to take precedent over our ability to protect our groundwater,” she said.

In an interview with the Gazette Thursday, planning board chair Ewell Hopkins said he was only trying to defend the town’s right to enforce its own rules.

“We were appealing the authority of the town to enforce zoning regulations,” he said. “We now don’t have the resources to financially do that.”

He believed the select board was misguided in its vote Thursday.

“It is clear to me the legal proceedings are not understood by the individuals who made the decision to not continue the appeal,” he said.

The select board’s decision comes after high school principal Sarah Dingledy said morale at the school is low because of the ongoing litigation and the Oak Bluffs finance and advisory committee asked the planning board to stop digging into the town’s coffers for the suit.

Mr. Alley on the select board said that he felt the issue was tearing apart the community and now was the time to end it. He supported defending the planning board’s initial decision, but felt the court had spoken and given its interpretation on the Dover Amendment.

“I felt like we had gotten so far down the road, we needed to come back as a community to try and resolve this issue as an Island,” he said.

The planning board now finds itself in a similar position to the high school committee, which vowed last year to not use any of its budget on the legal appeals. Since then, the school committee has used donations to pay for its attorney fees.

Mr. Hallahan imagined the planning board could do something similar, but wasn’t sure if it was allowed under state law.

He hoped that the Island’s six towns could come together and hold a non-binding referendum to gauge people’s feelings on turf versus grass. That could be a barometer for how the athletic facility update could proceed.

“I think it would be helpful information, having a pulse on what the Island community thinks about it,” he said.