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MVC Votes Not to Vote on Roundabout Issue

Last night Commission members voted not to vote on whether to revisit roundabout decision

In light of the against the roundabout in five towns this spring, member Lenny Jason said he wanted to and announced at the June 7th meeting that he planned to make a motion to rescind the November 2011 roundabout vote at the following meeting on June 21st. Last night, Chairman Chris Murphy put a stop to that plan.

Even though on June 7th, Murphy said all Jason had to do was announce his intention to call a vote, last night Murphy responded to Jason’s motion by saying, “I have to rule that this motion is out of order and I cannot allow it.” Murphy cited the commission’s bylaws that, according to MVC legal counsel, don’t allow for a vote to be rescinded. Murphy then passed around a letter from the lawyer that advised against allowing the vote.

Commission member Douglas Sederholm said he was against revisiting the roundabout approval. "Regardless if this is the roundabout or an ice cream stand, it's important that we do our job the right way. And the right way is to have predictability and finality in what we do. Once we make a decision, it's done and people can rely on it," he said.

However, commission member Brian Smith felt differently, "This is a very sloppy process that we went through. It was a very poor decision...we didn't even have a site visit. We didn't even go and see what this is actually going to look like...we didn't talk about how many trees are going to be knocked down...is counsel really saying that if we really screw up and really make a bad decision that we can never go back and fix it? We can never say we made a mistake?"

Commission member Katherine Newman agreed with Sederholm that the issue should not be revisited. "We closed the hearing. There was no forcing of closing the hearing. We make all these decisions and we try to do our best all the time. But the bottom line is with any trial, with any vote, there are two sides. The difference between the sides can be minuscule. The vote is the vote, it's the end,” Newman said.

Jason made a motion to appeal Murphy’s decision not to vote. "I think the question is who we're supposed to be fair to. We normally have an obligation to be fair to the applicant, but I think we also have an obligation to be fair to the community. So we ignore the 3,200 names on the petition that said don't do this? They have no recourse? We are their recourse," he said.

In the end, there was a 4-9 vote against Jason's motion, meaning there will be no further discussion of the roundabout approval issue and the approval that was made in November still stands.

Once the decision was made that the commission would no longer be talking about the roundabout issue, Murphy closed the discussion by saying, "I hope we can put this to bed for the time being."

For Susanna Sturgis, a strong opponent to the roundabout, this was just another disapointment.

"Once again, most of the MVC managed to dodge, duck, and generally ignore all the reasons why this project is so unpopular with so many Vineyarders. The majority chose to take the letter from MVC counsel as gospel, even though he strongly implied that it wasn't. If I heard him right, commissioner Erik Hammarlund, a lawyer, was saying that it was illegal to even vote on rescission. Wow. We all knew that the motion to rescind was largely symbolic because the MVC lacked jurisdiction over the roundabout, but it was an opportunity for the commissioners to at least acknowledge the results of the non-binding referendums. They didn't rise to the occasion. I don't think they've learned a damn thing from this whole sordid and ongoing mess."

For Sandra Lippens, owner Tilton Tents, the fight is still not over. Tilton Tents sits right on the corner of Barnes Road and Vineyard Haven Edgartown Road, and when it comes to the building of the roundabout.

“They are bound by Roberts Rules,” said Lippens of the MVC voting process. “We would not be here if Chris Murphy had not voted to break the tie. Chris Murphy decided to vote with the Oak Bluffs Selectmen. It isn't over till the fat lady sings, and I'm the fat lady."

Susanna J. Sturgis June 22, 2012 at 11:05 PM
It's a wise writer who gives due credit to her editor!
madeline fisher June 23, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Thank you for an accurate report on the MVC meeting...much appreciated!!
Sonia Groff June 23, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Thank you for reading it! Fairness and accuracy are a priority.
Shirley DiMatteo July 18, 2012 at 12:26 PM
How are cyclists going to negogiate this new traffic pattern. I have tried this on a bike on several smaller round a bouts in Massachusetts and it is a nightmare. It is especially dfiicult and threatenig when accompanying young cyclists. A site visit was never made??????
Susanna J. Sturgis July 20, 2012 at 11:27 AM
That's an ongoing concern of Vineyard cyclists. I don't think it's been solved. The current plan includes a request light: pedestrians and cyclists can stop the traffic in the roundabout so they can get across. The experienced (fast) cyclists will probably be OK. They'll ride with the car traffic in the roundabout. The less experienced (of whom there are many many in the summer), the young kids, the bike tour groups, the ones with trailers? It gives me the willies thinking about it.

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