Rare heathlands off Moshup Trail are at center of 18-year-old court case. - Mark Lovewell

Rare heathlands off Moshup Trail are at center of 18-year-old court case.
– Mark Lovewell

The state’s highest court heard arguments this week in a widely-watched land use case that will ultimately decide whether a swath of rare coastal heathland along Moshup Trail in Aquinnah will remain forever wild or be opened up for development.

The complicated 18-year-old case involves arcane issues of law and is the first of its kind to be heard by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The outcome could potentially have far-reaching effects on land titles throughout the town of Aquinnah.

Lead plaintiffs in the case are Aquinnah landowners James Decoulos and Maria Kitras, who want to establish their right of legal access to two landlocked parcels off Moshup Trail totaling about 30 acres. To reach their land from the public road, they are seeking an easement through conservation land. Without legal access to a public road, a property cannot be developed. They are joined by another plaintiff group that includes Aquinnah landowners Mark and Charles Harding.

Defendants include the town of Aquinnah, the Vineyard Conservation Society, the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, the state of Massachusetts and several private property owners, among them Caroline Kennedy and her husband Edwin Schlossberg Jr.

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