Tisbury town master plan shaped by residents
The people of Tisbury have spoken, and their planning board listened, as evidenced by a preliminary town master plan presented in a public meeting on Nov. 16 at the town hall annex.
The draft master plan evolved from the results of an extensive questionnaire the planning board sent to all Tisbury year-round and summer residents two years ago, which generated an impressive 42 percent response. In addition, community members produced helpful reports, notes, and comments on town problems, which the board included in the planning process.
"We feel the master plan is our effort to take the results of the survey and concerns expressed by people in the town to give you this checklist," Tony Peak, planning board chairman, told the handful of people in attendance.
The draft plan also follows regional policies recommended by the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) and "smart growth" policies adopted by the state of Massachusetts. The planning board also coordinated its planning efforts with other town boards, committees, and organizations.
At this point, the draft plan consists of principles and objectives to provide a framework on which to base more detailed planning in the areas of natural resources, cultural resources, municipal services, circulation, housing, energy, economic development, and area plans. "Instead of just looking at these as individual elements, we wanted people to be able to see how they actually fit together in a specific area of our town," said Mr. Peak.
Two of the natural resources objectives are to restore access to Tisbury's harbor, beach, and wooded areas, and to avoid sprawl and destruction of open spaces. The goal for cultural resources is to maintain Tisbury's New England town character by preserving and encouraging its small-scale, tree-lined streets, historic structures and neighborhoods.
In looking at municipal services, the planning board recommended keeping non-emergency municipal functions in downtown Vineyard Haven, while relocating fire and other emergency services out of the downtown area.
The board plans to complete an analysis of needed municipal services in preparation for a proposed new facility to house the fire department, ambulance service, and possibly the police department. If Tisbury voters approve building the emergency services facility, the planning board then will determine the best use for the vacant fire station and other existing town properties.
In improving the town's overall traffic circulation system, access to and use of Vineyard Haven's waterfront will play an important part. Pedestrian traffic will be given priority, and alternate means of transportation - including bus, bike, and water transit - will be encouraged.
While small-scale supplementary access ways are proposed for relieving congestion on main roads, the master plan's goal is to avoid street widening. Another recommendation for improving Tisbury's traffic circulation is to connect more neighborhoods by avoiding dead-end streets and restricted access neighborhoods.
Regarding housing, the draft plan promotes more rental units and smaller homes as opposed to just single-family detached units. The plan also recommends allowing greater densities and mixed uses in the business districts for affordable housing opportunities. However, the plan cautions against increasing densities in settled neighborhoods, where vacant lots may serve a community purpose, such as a children's play area.
Energy goals include promoting energy conservation and renewable energy technologies. Working towards a sustainable year-round employment pattern and bolstering the seasonal economy are included in economic development goals. The development of aquaculture and agriculture as part of a long-term sustainable economy will be encouraged.
Using the draft master plan as a guide, the planning board already has moved forward with studies of specific areas of town, such as the upper state road area, downtown Vineyard Haven and the waterfront districts.
In August, the board put forward a separate draft plan for the upper state road area, which included a connector road system linking State Road and Edgartown Road. Tisbury's voters approved the connector road concept on Nov. 1. The next steps will include completing engineering work, cost analysis, funding, and a timetable for construction.
As the connector road project progresses, the board will complete plans for downtown Vineyard Haven followed up with public meetings. Included in downtown planning will be traffic and circulation studies in concert with the MVC and Steamship Authority (SSA).
The board also plans to study zoning, particularly as it relates to housing regulations, limits on affordable housing, waterfront zoning, tree preservation and landscape regulations.
The planning board encourages the public to attend meetings, write letters, or call 508-696-4270. "Public input shows us anything we may have overlooked or if we're not explaining something as clearly as we can, and also shows us if there is any resistance to any portion of the plan," said Mr. Peak.
The draft master plan is available on the town's web site at www.tisburygov.org.