The following is an abbreviated version of a letter that was sent to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

Thomas Bena’s Stillpoint project has been on my mind a lot. Thomas is a friend and what happens to him is important to me.

Several years ago he came to me to talk about a project he had in mind. His friend Claudia Miller had a large piece of land right on Mill Brook in West Tisbury that had already been approved by West Tisbury and the Martha's Vineyard Commission as a subdivision with 12 house lots, including two that already had houses and 10 approved and ready to build lots.

The property was up for sale — 52 acres with beautiful unspoiled land bordered by both Crocker Pond and Priester’s Pond and the brook connecting them. Thomas explained that while Claudia Miller had rebuffed other attempts to buy or protect parts of the property, she would give him a one-year window to put together a plan so that he could have the lovely existing barn for the nonprofit educational center he envisioned and protect the fragile area around the ponds and brook. Truly an amazing opportunity.

What he eventually worked out was a plan to sell the two houses, put the six lots along the ponds and brook into conservation and have Stillpoint (now a nonprofit entity) take on a mortgage to buy the remaining four lots. One of those lots contains the barn that inspired Thomas to begin Stillpoint. Exactly what would happen to the other three lots was left to be decided by Stillpoint at a later date.

Thomas asked me what I thought.

The one-year clock was already running and I tried to explain that while this seemed like a truly wonderful project, a gift to the whole Island, there was no way he was going to get through the town review and the MVC review in less than a year. I suggested rather than try to keep all the balls in the air and risk loosing everything to a developer who would put a seasonal home and all its accessory structures on every lot, he should convince his board of directors to move forward as soon as possible and lock up the deal.

Stillpoint did move forward, great buyers were found for the two existing house lots and Thomas worked with the Land Bank and numerous donors to forever protect the six lots along the water. All of the deals closed at the same time and they made the deadline.

And then began the long dance.

Stillpoint applied to the town for a change of use permit and was promptly referred to the Martha's Vineyard Commission because of an arcane Commission rule that any property that is ever reviewed as a development of regional impact must always come back to the Commission for any change. The original referral was for a land subdivision and this was for a change of use for an existing barn.

Since then I have listened to every public hearing and land use planning committee meeting the Commission has held about Stillpoint and I am glad I have. After many years of serving on the Commission, I was sure Stillpoint would be greeted with open arms and gratitude. But the process has opened my eyes, and my unquestioning support of the Commission as a force for good has turned into disbelief. Instead of looking at the big picture and congratulating Stillpoint for the good they are doing the organization has gotten lost in the minutiae — questioning every detail, questioning things that cannot possibly be said to have an Island-wide impact and seemingly searching for ways to derail this wonderful project.

For example, the MVC asked Stillpoint to develop a traffic study, then took the worst case scenarios, added them all together and multiplied by 365 days a year to determine how many possible people might pass through. Wow, surprise, what a big number.

If the Martha's Vineyard Commission applied the same distorted logic to the recently approved taqueria in the mixed use development next to the SSA in Vineyard Haven, the 75 seats turning over twice an hour, 10 hours a day, 365 days a year, it would drop 547,000 people on Main street and that doesn’t count the take-out customers who don’t sit.

Of course it is a silly number, and of course it would be silly to ask for such a number.

One of the problems with the MVC and its land use planning committee is the total lack of consistency. Where is the consistency at the Commission when they easily and without question approve the considerable expansion at the Outermost Inn without questioning the effect of noise generated at the inn on the federally-protected tribal lands next door?

Where is the consistency in torturing Stillpoint endlessly over staff housing while allowing the Vineyard Wind project to slide through with 40 or 50 or more full-time employees and no staff housing?

It can’t be repeated often enough that Stillpoint is a nonprofit, educational organization that is subject to all the same rules as any other nonprofit with town rules, IRS rules and state rules. The Outermost Inn and the taqueria are for-profit and there is a big difference; they are there to make money and the nonprofits are here to benefit us all.

Like anyone who loves the Island and cares that we retain some sense of what makes this place special, I remain grateful for the MVC. However, the inconsistent treatment of Stillpoint when compared with other DRI applicants makes me wonder if we are seeing the end of the Commission.

Or, could this be a moment for the MVC to move towards a more clear, consistent and objective approach?

Chris Murphy lives in Chilmark.