Step 3 – Public Hearing

The full Commission holds a Public Hearing, normally as part of a Commission meeting held on Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m.


A notice for the Hearing is posted in each of the town halls and is sent to the permit granting boards in the town where the project is located. In addition, as a courtesy, abutters and abutters to abutters within 300 feet are sent a notice of the hearing.


The main aim of the hearing is to allow Commissioners to gather the information they need to judge the benefits and detriments of the proposal by hearing the Applicant's presentation and by hearing testimony from staff, local officials and the public. The hearing also serves to enlighten the public about the proposal so it can give informed testimony. In addition, the hearing provides an opportunity to the Applicant to modify the proposal in response to concerns raised by Commissioners, local officials and the public.

Site Visit

Often, a site visit is scheduled, usually during the Pre-Hearing LUPC meeting, to allow the Commissioners a chance to familiarize themselves with the property. The DRI Coordinator will fill out the Site Visit Checklist indicating how the site should be prepared before the visit. The Commissioner may use this time only to ask the Applicant questions of clarification specific to the site. The public is welcome to attend the site visit but is asked to refrain from comment.

Staff Report

Before the Public Hearing, the Commission staff will prepare a Staff Report giving information any other information that may be useful during the decision-making process.

Hearing Officer

A Hearing Officer, usually the Chair of the LUPC, chairs the Hearing. He or she has the responsibility of ensuring that it is conducted civilly and effectively, and that all parties wishing to testify are afforded an opportunity. The Hearing Officer may give priority to people who have not yet spoken, who are unable to return for another session of the Hearing, who are bringing up new issues, or who are without written testimony.

Written Testimony

Public officials and members of the public are encouraged to submit comments in writing before and during the Hearing. Any documents submitted about a project become part of the public record. The Commissioners consider it their responsibility to read all written testimony. Documents up to two pages long will be copied and distributed to Commissioners and the press. To have longer documents distributed, 25 copies should be submitted. All documents are available for consultation at the Commission office.

Information received one week before a session of the Hearing will be distributed to all Commissioners in advance of the Hearing. New information from the Applicant including changes to the proposal, and technical information from the public should be submitted in writing no less than three days before the session of the Hearing to allow for staff comments. If new information is provided after that date or if the

information needs additional staff analysis, the Hearing Officer may choose to continue the Hearing to another date or to keep the written record open after the close of the Hearing to allow the staff to comment, and to allow the Applicant and public to react to these comments.

Hearing Procedure

The following is the typical agenda for the Public Hearing. The Hearing Officer may vary the order based on the particular situation.
  • Staff Report: Staff then Commissioners a summary of the Staff Report.
  • Applicant's Presentation: This presentation summarizing the project will be limited to 20 minutes. If an Applicant anticipates a need for a longer presentation, particularly to explain complex technical information, please inform the DRI Coordinator who will discuss extending the time limit with the Hearing Officer. Please contact the DRI Coordinator if you need any special equipment, such as a projector. After the Applicant's presentation, Commissioners may ask questions of clarification.
  • Testimony from Public Officials: Representatives from Town boards and other officials are invited to comment on the proposal. The board should designate one official spokesman (other members are free to testify as individuals).
  • Public Testimony: The floor is then opened for public testimony. Usually, people in support of the project will speak first, followed by people with concerns or objections, although the Hearing Officer may vary this.
  • Commissioner's Questions: Then Commissioners then ask questions of the Applicant, public officials, members of the public and each other.

Time Limits

The Hearing Officer may set reasonable time limits for testimony with a view to hearing all relevant testimony while ensuring that the hearing is completed in a timely fashion. The Applicant and members of the public with technical testimony should contact the DRI Coordinator at least three days before the hearing so that the Hearing Officer can set a timetable for these presentations.

Giving Oral Testimony

In order to give effective oral testimony, it is suggested that speakers:
  • Organize their thoughts in advance;
  • Start by stating their name and address;
  • Keep testimony short and to the point, addressing only issues directly relevant to the project as proposed;
  • Avoid repeating information or opinions already given (other than briefly noting their support for a given point of view);
  • Avoid reading more than about one page of text; longer texts should be summarized;
  • Maintain a tone of politeness and avoid talking about personalities.

Hearing Closure

The Public Hearing will be closed when the Hearing Officer determines that the Applicant has had a reasonable opportunity to present the project and that local officials and the public have been given an opportunity to provide written and oral testimony on the project. Any information submitted after the close of the Hearing will not be considered during deliberations about the project.

For more complex projects, the Hearing Officer may continue the Hearing for the sole purpose of leaving the written record open, primarily to allow clarification or confirmation of information already discussed at the Hearing. The date of the closure of the public record will be announced before the close of the public session of the Hearing. At the subsequent Commission meeting, the Hearing Officer will normally close the Hearing without taking new testimony. However, if substantial new written information was submitted that the Hearing Officer deems was not adequately discussed at the Hearing, he or she may hold another session of the Hearing to take further testimony.

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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