Step 1 – Referral

Application to the Town

The process begins when the proponent of a new project seeks a development permit from a town. A development permit includes a subdivision approval or special permit from a planning board, a building permit from a building inspector, a variance from a zoning board of appeals, an order of conditions from a conservation commission, or any other "permit, license, authority, endorsement or permission required from a municipal agency prior to the commencement of construction, improvement or alteration made to the building or land." The applicant completes application papers and submits plans and documents as required by the town board or official.

DRI Checklist

The DRI Checklist consists of Standards and Criteria used to determine when a development is a DRI and must or may be referred to the Martha's Vineyard Commission for review. The standards and criteria relate to a project's likely impact on the environment, traffic, and municipal services, among other factors. Note that the Checklist includes any project that was previously designated a DRI, unless its DRI approval wasn't acted upon.

Action by Town Boards

The local board or official charged with issuing the permit applies the standards and criteria to determine whether the project is a DRI. If the board determines that a project is a DRI, it pauses its own review and refers the project to the Commission. The board, official or agent should complete the referral form and forward it plus all permit applications, plans, documents and other related materials supplied by the applicant to the Martha's Vineyard Commission, by certified mail.

Types of Referral

There are three types of DRI referral.

  1. Mandatory Referral—The application must be referred to the Commission and the Commission must review it.
  2. Mandatory Referral Requiring Concurrence—The application must be referred to the Commission but the Commission may or may not concur with the referral.
  3. Discretionary Referral (also called an In-Town, Out-of-Town or Island-Wide Referral)—Any municipal agency in the town where the development is located, the board of selectmen of another town, or the Dukes County Commissioners may ask the Commission to review any project that it considers might have significant regional impact. The Commission may or may not concur with the referral.

Concurrence Vote

Type b and c referrals allow the MVC discretion as to whether they require a full Public Hearing or not by subjecting them to a Concurrence Vote. For a Discretionary Referral, the Commission will hold a Public Hearing whose sole purpose is to consider whether or not the project is a DRI (see DRI Regulations for details). If the MVC does concur with the referral, the application is processed by the Commission. If the MVC does not concur with the referral because it does not believe that the project would have significant regional impact, the application is sent back to the town to continue the permitting process as the town sees fit.


When a town makes a type a referral, or when the Commission accepts a type b or c referral, the permitting process in the town is put on hold or "tolled" until the town receives the decision of the Commission.

Action by Commission

A file (open to the public during business hours) is created in which all documents related to the project are kept. The staff reviews the proposal and schedules a meeting with the applicant.



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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