June 1 Selectmen’s Meeting

For those following the saga outlined in “Now Filming in West Tisbury“, the video of the June 1 meeting of the West Tisbury board of selectmen is now available on the MVTV (Martha’s Vineyard Community Television) website.

At present a thumbnail from the video is visible in the Recent section. If you don’t see it there, input the date in the search box — 06.01.16 — in the search box and it should come up. The segment about the MVFF (Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival) proposal takes up most of the video. It begins at about 0:16:00. I’m on toward the end, at 0:55:00. If you can’t listen to the whole thing, do skip ahead to selectman Richard Knabel’s comments at the very end. They begin at about 1:06:30. He was speaking as a citizen, not as a town official, and he pretty much nailed all the major objections to the project.

In the interest of transparency, most town and county government meetings are taped and made available by MVTV. Like almost everyone else, I love the idea but rarely watch any of them — except, of course, when something like this is going on. Hmmm.

Special thanks to videographer Lynn Christoffers, who as usual at West Tisbury meetings was behind the camera. A photographer by trade, she’s also the author of the very popular and very good Cats of Martha’s Vineyard.

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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3 Responses to June 1 Selectmen’s Meeting

  1. Hal Davis says:

    These are excerpts from the Martha’s Vinyard Times accont:

    No members of the MVFF attended the Wednesday night meeting. In a telephone conversation Thursday morning, [festival founder and executive director Thomas] Bena said he didn’t think it would be appropriate to attend because he had not been notified that the MVFF proposal would be on the agenda. He said he was saddened by the community’s reaction to the project.

    “I wish people would call me or email me or come to our office,” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping the whole planning process looks like. There are already mistruths being spread and I don’t think it would be helpful for me to get online and start saying, well this isn’t true, and, that’s not true, and, you said this, and, I said this — I wish people would come and have a conversation.”

    “Now we’re here, so let’s have that conversation. Does anyone have any better ideas?”

    Once an application s presented, the project would be sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) for review as a development of regional impact.

    Mark Reisman, a resident of Old County Road, led off discussion.

    “They are temping a loophole, claiming they are an educational and agricultural organization.”

    “Unless animals are strapped to their seats and forced to watch movies while eating their food, the barn will have a commercial and not an agricultural purpose,” Mr. Reisman said.

    He explained that the MVFF will show movies in a 6,000 square foot barn-like structure that is “twice as large as The Grange and slightly larger than the Ag Hall” with plans to build a parking lot that is the largest public lot in West Tisbury. He added that there would be a commercial kitchen and that food and (likely) alcohol would be sold.

    Mr. Reisman called attention to Mr. Bena’s past appearance before the Chilmark planning board where he asked for a moratorium on construction of all buildings over 3,500 square feet.

    Jon Hartzband, an abutter, noted that this is Mr. Bena’s third attempt to buy property in West Tisbury.

    “According to their own web site, last summer they held 65 events, in addition to their March film festival which had over 1,000 people,” Mr. Hartzband said.

    Ina Andre, an abutter who with her husband owns Cleveland Farm on Old County Road, … said she Googled Mr. Bena and found out he wrote a letter to the Vineyard Gazette in 2012 entitled, “Respect rural character,” which explained why Mr. Bena wanted stricter by-laws in Chilmark.

    “This sounds more like a hostile takeover, it does not sound like something a neighbor would do,” said Ms. Andre to more applause.

    [Among the comments:]

    WT family Mike Marcus, West Tisbury • 3 days ago
    Why a farm? Farms are for agriculture and livestock. A simple MLS search reveals the following: Lola’s is for sale. A building is already there, so it even though it is more expensive, they would most likely save on building costs. The mini golf course is for sale. They may be able to remove the golf course and turn it into a barn with a theatre and restaurant. The grocery store across from Cronig’s in VH (it’s the one in a red barn) is for sale too. That’s only 1.5 mil and already has the barn on the property! It’s small, but Bena claims this operation will be small and “low key.” All of these are in commercially zoned areas. I wonder if the MVFF has even considered a commercially zoned home? I get the allure of a film festival on a farm, but we have such limited farm land on our island, it would be a shame to see any of it turned into a commercial venture.

    WT family WT family • 3 days ago
    And if they really want a rural, residential setting, then Bena’s family has 8.5 acres off North Road and Bernier has 10.4 in Chilmark as well. Either of those are just as appropriate as the Walsh property.


  2. Let’s hope everybody had — as they said in the ’70s — “their ears on!”


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