Background and Mission

Creation of the Commission

In the early 1970's, development was exploding on Martha's Vineyard, with dozens of subdivisions and over 700 new houses each year. The community was concerned that rampant change could destroy the unique environment and character of the Island.

In 1972, Senator Edward Kennedy put forward the Nantucket Sound Islands Trust Bill, which would have turned much of the Vineyard and Nantucket into a national land trust, similar to the Cape Cod National Seashore. Most Vineyarders felt that turning large parts of the Island over to federal control as the equivalent of a national park went too far, but agreed that we needed much stronger local control over development.

On March 14, 1974, the people of Martha's Vineyard voted to endorse legislation to create the Martha's Vineyard Commission, a unique regional land and water entity that not only had planning responsibilities but also had extensive regulatory authority. On July 27, 1974, Governor Francis Sargent signed legislation (Chapter 637 of the Acts of 1974) transforming the former Dukes County Planning and Economic Development Commission into the Martha's Vineyard Commission. The MVC held its first meeting on December 5, 1974. In 1977, Chapter 637 was replaced by the Commission’s current enabling legislation, Chapter 831.

The Martha's Vineyard Commission Act – Chapter 831

The Martha's Vineyard Commission Act, Chapter 831 of the Acts of 1977 – officially An Act Further Regulating the Protection of Land and Waters of the Island of Martha's Vineyard – was adopted on December 21, 1977, outlining the Commission’s planning and regulatory functions.

Planning: The MVC’s planning jurisdiction extends to all seven towns of Dukes County. (The Commission's planning jurisdiction includes the Town of Gosnold.) The Commission is one of Massachusetts’ fourteen regional planning agencies, which help the communities within their jurisdictions plan and implement short- and long-range improvements with respect to transportation, economic development, the environment, land use, and community development.

Regulation: The MVC is one of two Massachusetts regional planning agencies (along with the Cape Cod Commission) that has regulatory powers over Districts of Critical Planning Concern and Developments of Regional Impact. The Commission’s regulatory authority extends over the lands and waters of Dukes County, with the exception of:
  • the Elizabeth Islands (Town of Gosnold),
  • the Indian Common Lands (the Cranberry Bogs, the Clay Cliffs, and Herring Creek, located in Aquinnah), and
  • lands owned by the Commonwealth or its constituent agencies, boards, departments, commissions, or offices, to the extent they are excluded from the responsibilities, duties and powers of the towns.

Office location:

Office location:

The Stone Building
33 New York Avenue
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

Telephone: 508-693-3453
Fax: 508-693-7894

Mailing Address

Mailing address:

Martha's Vineyard Commission
P.O. Box 1447
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

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