Construction-heavy summer in Edgartown’s historic district

Residents say it was not pleasant to live downtown this season.

Residents from Edgartown's Historic District at Tuesday's Planning Board meeting. — Brittany Bowker

Horrific. Awful. Brutal. Relentless. Residents of Edgartown’s historic district described a construction-heavy summer that amplified South Water and South Summer streets with constant noise, dust, and dirt.
Ivan Bradbury addressed the Edgartown planning board Tuesday evening. He was accompanied by about 10 other downtown Edgartown residents — mostly seasonal.
“I’ve been living on South Water Street for 22 years, and I’ve never seen construction like this,” Bradbury said. “From 7 am to late at night, six days a week. It’s horrific. It has to stop. It can’t continue like this.” 

Harry Taylor, a South Summer Street resident of five years, agreed. “It’s horrendous,” Taylor said. “We haven’t been able to do anything about it.” 

One resident said she lost a group of annual summer renters. Another said the construction was so bad, his children left. “I’m not a complainer, and I understand the importance of completing projects on time and on budget,” he said. “But there is zero courtesy. My adult children had to leave. It was not pleasant to be here. I ask for some limitation, because it is relentless.”
Edgartown’s historic district is a notably tight-knit zone with narrow plots with setbacks as close as five feet. Right-to-build bylaws allow construction in Edgartown from 7 am to 8 pm, Monday through Saturday, according to planning board clerk Doug Finn. 

“I agree with putting some tweaks on this,” said planning board member Scott Morgan. “I’d like to see a limit on the amount of workers on a job site. Or not allowing them to start so early.”

Changes to this bylaw have to go through a painstaking process of strict, bureaucratic amendments, often through the selectmen, and are left in the hands of voters at annual town meeting. Planning board member Fred Mascolo and Morgan agreed the deck would be stacked against the group’s cause. 

“It sounds good on paper, but when it goes to a vote, I think it will be hard to get the majority from the 4,000 people who live here year-round,” Mascolo said. Mascolo touched on the Island’s trade workforce, and how more than half of Edgartown residents work in construction.

“[Construction workers] need to work, and need their jobs,” Morgan said. “It’s expensive to live here year-round.” 

Only three out of the 10 or so speaking out at Tuesday’s meeting were year-round residents registered to vote in Edgartown. But it was noted that seasonal Edgartown residents pay much higher taxes than local residents do. “Taxation without representation,” Bradbury said. “Like the Boston Tea Party.”

The planning board and historic district residents agreed that middle ground must be found.
“You have a right to your peace, and at the same time, they have a right to make a living,” Morgan said. “There has to be a middle.”

Bradbury suggested a midsummer special town meeting. 

“We’ve tried that before, and you know what happens? We never make quorum,” Mascolo said. ”Everyone’s working.”

Mascolo suggested the residents form a group and speak as one voice to Edgartown selectmen. “There’s strength in numbers,” Mascolo said. “Hang on to that.” 

In other news, the planning board approved the re-endorsement of an ANR plan on 79 Turkeyland Cove Rd. in Edgartown — Wyc and Corinne Grousbeck’s $14 million estate — the property Barack and Michelle Obama are unofficially eyeing. Agent Doug Hoehn of Schofield Barbini & Hoehn (SBH) Inc. brought in copies of the ANR plan endorsed by the planning board in 1998. ANR stands for “approval not required,” and outlines a division of land into lots.

“At the time, the property owners decided to hold off and not record [the plan] in case they wanted to tweak,” Hoehn said. These types of plans don’t have to be recorded, according to Hoehn: “It’s been sitting in my drawer ever since.” 

When the property went on the market in 2015, the homeowners asked SBH to work on getting the ANR re-endorsed by the planning board.
“They asked us to start working on this two years ago, held off, and recently asked us to finish,” Hoehn told The Times. 

Perhaps paving the way for a big sale?

“I don’t know,” Hoehn said. “Who cares?”



  1. Seasonal residents pay higher taxes than locals? I don’t think how much time you spend at your property has anything to do with the tax rate

    • jackie– in v.h , years ago, they managed to pass a resolution taxing seasonal residents at a higher rate–
      i am a year round V.H resident, and I am appalled that my town has such a ridiculous taxation without representation policy.

  2. I understand their frustration. They should try this understanding. Once upon a time, neighbors complained about their houses being built. Welcome to the neighborhood.

  3. It’s been brutal as well in my neighborhood for the past two summers. I am pretty sure that Nantucket does not allow construction during the summer months and perhaps we should consider the same. I know that when I begin work on my garage there will not be one hammer stroke during the summer months when everybody’s windows are open and the town is full of traffic.

  4. God forbid these people leave their comfort zone and actually talk or confront their other wealthy neighbors about the work they chose to be done on their homes during the summer. No, instead let’s complain about the workers, because we all know its their fault they’re working on all those houses downtown in the summer. Give me a break. Let be real, most seasonal residents have little to no interactions with islanders who do not directly work with them , and it seems to be getting worst.


    • Oh come on. No one is complaining about the people doing the work, they are complaining about loud construction next door or down the street for 13 hours a day during their vacation. Many of these people work hard, too, and enjoy having time away.

      • Do I like mopeds? No, but I deal with it. Do I like being unable to find a parking spot in downtown Edgartown in the summer? No, but I deal with it. There are many things about living on Martha’s Vineyard that I do not enjoy, but in a sense I guess I agreed to these problems when I choose to live here. Summer construction, just like the piping clovers on norton point, are a constant on the island that can be relied upon year after year in the summer. So yes I think the argument that these ten people, and I stress ten, is laughable. I don’t think the inconvenience they are experiencing, in the densely populated area they choose to live in, outweighs the lively-hood of the 100+ people working full-time on the properties of their neighbors who willingly choose to have work done on their properties during peak summer months. This island is not an all-inclusive resort where every guest gets to live out their own little personal utopia. You have a temporary noise issue, deal with it, chances are next year it will be back to normal.

        • Ten people? These are the ten people who showed up. There are many more than ten people who are bothered by the construction noise during the summer when all our windows are open and we are outside in our gardens and yards and cookouts, not to mention the already over-burdened narrow streets chock full of construction trucks. And it doesn’t only affect summer residents.

          • Luckily we live in a democracy, so I urge you to push this issue to be on the ballot whenever you feel like it. I have a strong sense of how the vote will go. I also enjoyed that instead of vetting the conversation in the community you decided instead as a select group to show up to local committee meeting with zero opposition, how noble.

  5. Quintessential First World problem. Do they think when their houses were built or renovated the tradesmen took the summer off? What a bunch of snowflakes.

  6. By all means, don’t allow the work to be done until the off season. After all it’s just the actual islanders who will live in the construction zone.

  7. In the old Gazette archives, there’s got to be a story something like this. In 1856 a widow on North Water Street complained about the next-door neighbor building a widow’s peak.

    • maybe i didn’t get the joke or you used the wrong word? i’m thinking you meant, “widow’s walk” as “widow’s peak” is a name used to describe a hairline.

  8. There is a difference between seasonal and full time residents and full timers love to bring it up. But, seasonal residents pay full taxes for services that are hardly ever used. Yes, fire and police protect their property all year long, but the reality is they never need the schools or many of the other things they pay for in their taxes. So there is a difference, plus there is a 2% land bank fee which they must pay to buy here. That benefits everyone. So the reality is full timers get the benefit of part timers paying full time taxes without using the services, which means better service year round which benefits mostly full timers. The land bank fee also benefits full timers because it keeps the island pristine all year round not just in the summer. Construction workers and housekeepers and garden workers all benefit because they get the extra work from seasonal owners who generally do not let their homes go into disrepair in the winter. No, they actually keep it looking good. So why all the hostility all the time. Do you actually know what would happen if the part timers up and left? Trust me it would not be all rosy.

  9. Years ago it was common to ‘dig the hole and get the foundation completed in september’, and build the house all winter so it was ready for the owner to occupy in the spring. Now according to my contractor friends these new larger homes are taking 22-24 months to complete. I’d agree with Mr. Morgan that things need to be ‘tweaked’ with respect to allowable times during the day, weekends etc for the duration of a project. I have one down the street from me that is on year#2 and there are no less than 8 or 10 vehicles there every day. But I’m glad they are building something to improve the neighborhood and their bigger property tax bill will keep mine from rising.

  10. How much you pay in taxes is a function of the assesed value of your home here and most everywhere else in th US. You don’t get to cherry pick your public services. Even though the seasonal residents don’t use the schools directly, the workers who take of their houses, the firemen that protect their houses and the police officers who protect their property do. The relevant issue is not how much you pay in taxes or your full time status but whether you should be subjected to construction noise from 7 am to 8 pm, 6 days a week anytime during the year. I believe that Boston is 8 am to 5 or 6 pm. That seems more civilized.

    • Did you stop to think about how the 7am to 8pm by-law is a direct result of seasonal resident’s desires to cram 12 months worth of work into a 8-9 month time-period so that they do not need to be bothered during the summer. Trust me most carpenters on this island work many more hours in the winter than in the summer. Also last time I checked Boston is not considered a seasonal-city, nor is it in anyway considered a close comparison to MV. People own 20-30 million dollar apartments in NYC, do they complain about the traffic noises on the street?

      • I stand corrected. My Boston reference obscured my point which was that how much you pay in taxes and land bank fees should not give you any more noise consideration than everyone else. I am fine with 7 am to 8 pm, Monday to Saturday 12 months a year. Just don’t support suspension of work during summer or special consideration for seasonal residents.

  11. Horrific. Awful. Brutal. Relentless? I was a cop in Edgartown before we had a SWAT team. I lost count of how many time I’ve been called to this one. 33 years of misery. I learned the hard way from Officer Randy. Call for backup and flee the scene when help arrives.

  12. This generation living life in the historic district has it easy. Almost all the old homes have already been torn down. Like the ones with 1 board someplace in the house to keep it historical. Probably for tax-deductible reasons & to 1 up their neighbor. The sign up over the front door saying somebody built the place in 1776 always fooled me. Time for the tour busses to start rolling down North Water Street. That’ll quiet them back into their senses.

  13. Hmmm…Bradbury? He wouldn’t be related to the Ray Bradbury’s by chance. This sounds like something he could’ve dreamed up…

Comments are closed.

Previous articleTech security blip no danger, SSA says
Next articleIsland Grown Initiative will receive 2019 Creative Living Award