The fourth lawsuit in as many months was filed this week against the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, an unprecedented volume of litigation that is driving up legal bills and is expected to translate into higher assessments for Island towns.

Oak Bluffs homeowners Lisa Kim and Eunu Chun are the latest litigants to appeal a decision by the MVC. In a complaint filed Wednesday, Nov. 9, in Dukes County superior court, they claim the commission exceeded its authority when it denied their request to demolish and rebuild their historic home.

In the past year alone, the commission spent more than $400,000 defending its 2021 denial of the Meetinghouse Way subdivision in the outskirts of Edgartown. A civil trial was held in June in Dukes County superior court, and final briefs were filed in the case two weeks ago. The case now awaits a ruling by the presiding judge in the case.

Other more recent court appeals have begun to pile up.

Island Elderly Housing sued the commission in August over a stringent set of conditions that accompanied approval of a small expansion to the Aidylberg housing complex in Oak Bluffs. The conditions would require a complete redesign of the plan, and the nonprofit housing agency has gone to court against the MVC seeking to overturn the conditions, calling them unreasonable.

In September, the owner of the former Lampost building in Oak Bluffs appealed a denial of his proposal to relax a requirement that apartments in the building be restricted to workforce housing. And the owners of a historic home on West Chop filed suit in October over the commission’s denial of their request to demolish the house and replace it with a new structure.

Meanwhile, this past summer the commission settled out of court with the Harbor View Hotel which had sued over a strict set of conditions that accompanied approval of a spa expansion at the Edgartown hotel. Settling a case out of court marked a first for the regional land use commission that was established by an act of the state legislature more than four decades ago.

Over the years the commission has consistently been upheld by the courts, including in landmark cases such as Island Properties, which was argued all the way to the state Supreme Court in 1977, soon after the commission was established.

But the new legal pressures on a variety of fronts come at a time when the public memory has faded of the commission’s unique founding mission to protect the ecological and historic values of the Vineyard, seen more than 40 years ago as important to the commonwealth at large.

Interest in serving on the commission also appears to be waning — the state election held Tuesday saw only eight people running for nine at-large seats — and no new faces save a write-in candidate from Aquinnah.

In a letter that went out to all six Island select boards and finance committees last month, MVC executive director Adam Turner detailed the court appeals that were already pending.

“As I am sure you are aware, the MVC has been challenged with litigation this year,” Mr. Turner wrote in part. “We

acknowledge that they present budget issues and, accordingly, we are planning an increase in the commission’s legal expense budget line.”

As dictated by its statute, the commission prepares and adopts its budget in November and December every year. Some funding comes from grants and contracts, but the bulk of the budget is paid by Island towns through annual assessments.

Mr. Turner’s letter did not estimate how much the commission is expected to spend to defend itself legally. In a brief phone conversation last week, he said the actual amount to be budgeted is still under discussion.

“We’re beginning to look at it,” Mr. Turner said. “I think the letter speaks for itself — I just wanted to be transparent with all the towns.”