Superior Court Ruling on Bridge Housing Dismisses Neighbor's Attempt to Appeal

By JULIA WELLS

Marking one more win in court for the Martha's Vineyard Commission, a superior court judge last week threw out a neighbor's appeal of the Bridge Housing project planned for Vineyard Haven.

The Hon. Richard J. Chin, an associate justice of the superior court, ruled that Kenneth and Nicole Bilzerian have no standing, and he allowed summary judgment for Bridge Housing and the 30-year-old regional land use commission.

The ruling was issued July 7.

The 30-unit affordable housing project was approved by the commission in June of 2003, after the project was reviewed as a development of regional impact (DRI). The Bilzerians are abutters to the project, which is planned for 24 acres formerly owned by the Norton family off State Road in Vineyard Haven.

The project has not yet been approved at the local level and is currently pending in front of the town zoning board of appeals. The nonprofit Bridge Housing corporation, made up of local groups including church groups, wants to build 15 two-family modular duplexes on the property.

Relying on case law, in particular a 2003 case involving the Cape Cod Commission, Judge Chin found that the Bilzerians had no standing because they were neighbors but not an aggrieved party.

"The reasoning and holding of the [Cape Cod Commission] case are sound and should be applied to this case," Judge Chin wrote in the three and a half-page ruling.

"In this case, the Bilzerians were neither named parties in the proceedings before the commission, nor were they allowed to intervene in the proceedings," the judge concluded.

MVC executive director Mark London said yesterday that the ruling is a small but important victory for the commission, which has been buffeted by court appeals of DRI decisions in recent years. Over the last three decades, the courts have generally upheld the commission and the unique enabling legislation that created it in 1974.

"We are extremely pleased that the Martha's Vineyard Commission's process has again been upheld by the courts," Mr. London said.