Get the trucks outta here

Tisbury selectmen rail against food trucks before approving one; set new mooring rates amid controversy.

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Chef Amy Johnson addresses the Tisbury board of selectmen about her food truck/trailer at 61 Beach Road. Selectmen weren't happy that the business was open before she got proper permits, though they didn't blame her.

Two Tisbury selectmen are adamant that they don’t want to see a proliferation of food trucks in town, but a truck without an engine run by a chef with a dream won them over Tuesday night.

Chef Amy Johnson has been operating Chef Amy’s at 61 Beach Rd. for several months without the proper permit, though town officials conceded it’s not her fault. Town administrator Jay Grande said with several people in new town roles, Johnson was issued a special permit, but no one told her she needed a hawker and peddler’s license for her business at the site of the old Hinckley’s Hardware in Vineyard Haven.

Johnson, who has a popular cable-access cooking show, told the board she never expected to operate out of a truck, but the expense of a building on the Island proved too steep. So she worked to buy the truck, fix it up, and set up on the vacant land, at least until a massive mixed-use development proposed for the site wends its way through the permitting process.

Selectman Jim Rogers questioned the process of Chef Amy’s being approved. He said Johnson’s project should have come to the board before she was allowed to open. He made it clear he didn’t approve.

“Nothing against you, Chef Amy; I’m 100 percent against food trucks in the town of Tisbury,” Rogers said. “I don’t want to see us go down that road. If you have one, you have 100. What it does to the look of the community is not a look I’m looking for in the town of Tisbury.”

Selectman Jeff Kristal was also outspoken about food trucks, mostly because it costs so much to run a restaurant in Vineyard Haven with the price of the sewer connections. Kristal, who noted he is a fan of Johnson’s show, couldn’t bring himself to vote against the venture. “I don’t have the heart to say go pack up and leave next week,” he said.

Bob Breth, a restaurant owner there to get a common victualer’s license transferred to become the new owner of Porto Pizza, put in a good word for Johnson. “She’s done a good job,” he said, noting the food truck is clean. “Give her credit. She’s worked hard at it.”

When the board voted unanimously to approve her one-year permit, Johnson threw her hands up in the air in jubilation, said thank you, and danced out the doors of the Katharine Cornell Theater.

Selectmen followed up their approval taking a second vote to look at regulations restricting food trucks and food carts in town.

Earlier, as she explained her new venture, Johnson said she is closed two days per week, and any day it dips below 20°. Otherwise, she’s open and ready to serve jerk chicken, badass ribs, and smash cheeseburgers, among many other menu options. “My goal is to keep it open longer,” she said. “As long as people are hungry and they’ll support it.”

And if the development gets built, Johnson said she’s hopeful she’ll be ready to move into a building and open her dream restaurant.

Mooring for more

It will cost more for a boat mooring in Tisbury this year. After lengthy debate during a public hearing, selectmen unanimously approved a 7.5 percent increase in mooring fees for the upcoming season.

Tisbury harbormaster John Crocker faced a lot of questions about proposed hikes in the mooring fees over the next four years. Ultimately, selectmen only approved an increase for this year.

Moorings for a boat less than 20 feet will increase from $98 to $105, and moorings for boats 20 to 30 feet will increase from $163 to $175. Those two classes make up the bulk of the boats in town, harbormaster John Crocker told the board, but all moorings, which are based on boat size, will increase by 7.5 percent.

The fees are still below the $325 charged for a mooring in Oak Bluffs Harbor, and the $200 charged for Edgartown. “I think we are way under the market in terms of mooring fees, compared to down-Island towns,” Crocker said.

The board stopped short of approving Crocker’s recommendation for a 10 percent increase in 2022, and another 10 percent hike in 2024. Instead, the board opted to take the suggestion of boat owners in the crowd to explore a flat fee for all moorings, similar to what Oak Bluffs and Edgartown employ. The town’s fledgling natural resources committee will be given until Memorial Day to deliver a report to selectmen on the pros and cons of such a fee structure.

Mike Baptiste, co-owner of Tashmoo Boatyard, suggested the town find a way to get more revenue from seasonal visitors, saying the mooring fee increases were a lot to ask of resident boat owners. “This is a little bit of a hike here,” he said. “Let’s get some more rental moorings and hit those people.”

Jeff Canha, a Vineyard Haven fisherman, also balked at the price jump, and was the one to suggest a flat fee. “If you could show me what this would go to, I’d probably be able to swallow it like a butter knife sideways,” he said.

Lynne Fraker, another fisherman, said Crocker had done little to demonstrate the need for the increase when he went before the natural resources committee. “What does it cost to maintain a mooring? Where is the shortfall in the harbormaster’s budget? That’s what people were asking, and they couldn’t really get any answers.”

Crocker did provide selectmen with a cost-benefit analysis, and spoke about the benefits of a boat owner having a mooring. He mentioned the use of the town dock, the dredging that needs to be done, and the harbor staff that the funds help to employ. As a boat owner, Crocker also downplayed the cost of a mooring in relation to other costs, like storage and maintenance of boats. “A couple hundred dollars for the mooring is the least amount I spend.”

Meters are coming

Selectmen endorsed the idea of parking meters for the 25 to 30 spots at the old fire station parking lot.

Planning board member Cheryl Doble, left, and Police Chief Mark Saloio pitch parking meters to the board of selectmen.

The decision came after hearing a presentation from Cheryl Doble and Police Chief Mark Saloio, representing the parking task force.

Doble told the selectmen the task force liked the idea of parking meters over a kiosk system that uses paper tickets, because it is easier for police to enforce with a quick visual. The lot could generate some revenue for the town and provide more spaces for the busy Main Street businesses, she said.

The town currently leases spaces, and has had minimal success at that. Instead, some of the spots in the lot are used by people making quick stops at nearby Cumberland Farms.

Rogers said he hoped the task force would take a look at the system used in cities where people pay for parking on an app, and there’s no need for meters.

The meters can have an in-season price (likely $2 per hour), and the task force recommended limiting parking to four hours maximum. Doble said they’re hopeful that by adding public parking, it will relieve some traffic congestion on Water Street.

“We look at this as a good first step,” Saloio said. Once it’s up and running, the town can evaluate and continue to look at emerging technologies, he said.

After the vote, Loberg joked about the town’s “first” for the Island. “Are there meters anywhere else on the Island?” she asked, with several people saying no. “Woo-hoo Tisbury — a first.”

In other business, selectmen heard a detailed report about a project proposed by James and Phil Hale of Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard. The Hales are seeking a letter of support for the $2.5 million redesign as it seeks Martha’s Vineyard Commission approval, as well as other permits. Selectmen will take up the issue Feb. 4, and urged the Hales to continue to meet with stakeholders between now and then.

“This project is not a 58-unit subdivision on Meetinghouse Road,” Phil Hale said referring to a controversial project in Edgartown. “It’s being brought to you by a boatyard that’s been a boatyard a long time — two men that live in town and were brought up in town.”

The Hales conceded there has been some pushback to the project, including concerns about shellfish. “We’re trying to listen to the feedback and make this a plan that works for all of us,” James Hale said.

Selectmen also approved an application process for one-day liquor licenses, setting the fee at $100 per day. It will allow for licenses for events like Beach Road Weekend, and a proposed oyster festival at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in May.

Tuesday’s meeting started with a moment of silence for Thomas Pachico, the town’s retired health agent, who died the day after Christmas. “We do thank him for his service to the community,” Loberg said.

And it ended with the announcement that Fire Chief John Schilling will be retiring at the end of June. Grande said he’ll bring selectmen a recruitment plan at the board’s meeting next Tuesday.

 

25 COMMENTS

  1. It would be ridiculous to install physical parking meters. If the town wants to go that route then definitely go the app route — there’s no meter maintenance, no plow damage or vandalism, no unsightly meters in the ground, and no need for parkers to hunt for change or find a broken meter.

    • I am not impressed with the idea of meters at all, but I totally agree with you- IF you must have them- use the app system.

    • A previous article indicated that the proposed meters would be credit/debit card only, so “hunt for change” is a moot point issues. Also: More people have credit/debit cards than smartphones (still 20% without, according to Pew Research poll in 2019).

      A useful app-based system would need to involve NO physical equipment beyond a sign (if there’s a kiosk, as at the Park & Ride, maintenance and plow-damage remain an issue, as with meters, and a malfunction takes down the whole lot rather than just one space).

      Meters’ #1 advantage over such a system would be ease of monitoring. Checking green (OK) v. red (Expired) lights on 25 meters would require only a 2-minute circuit of the lot, and the enforcement officer’s Mk. 1 eyeball. Possible #2 advantage: No learning curve. Reading the meters is as simple as tire-chalking. Unlikely that an app system, to matter how well designed, will require zero staff training or monitoring equipment.

  2. VH better say no to food trucks. VH cant fill the present restaurants and food spots. Plus this means more work for Health Agents and/or a hiring of more to pick up the slack. Although food trucks claim to be as clean as restaurants they are open to the air and chemicals, exhaust and insects even ticks.

    • Best drama post of the day. Ticks? Really? Toss in skunks and raccoons while you’re fear mongering, and maybe a nefarious seagull or two. Why “illegals” might even stand in line to buy jerk chicken and smashburgers. Heavens.

  3. BORING Tisbury meeting..Fill that whole lot with food trucks!! Let entrepreneurs have a reasonable chance. (meanwhile fix that road hmmm how long has it been since you could REALISTICALLY bring your family from the boat to the drawbridge on a nice bike trip, let alone OB without risking a life or maybe just a limb.) Looks like an abandoned lot! Glad you allowed that daring food (no engine) truck to take that HUGE risk to the public LOL HELLO?!?!?! Farmers Market local crafts, artesians, geez….cookies some kids baked? Utilize the land stop criticizing progress! “Hi welcome to the island as you see in front of you, we have a grocery store across the street and look at the majestic five corners lack of plant life so you can make out the Cumberland Farms ……Any of Ya’ll realize where you live? One of the richest places on the planet and you bicker over the look of a overrun food truck nation? LOL Meanwhile raise the rents and give the youth nothing to attain on this island unless you have the BIG$ means. Snap out of it! Love Reality

      • Thanks! A passion for a constructive world to accept the soon to be extinct ability to improve surroundings, without said snoring litigation regrets; yet mere actions, runs deep. Fogged lenses murk reality.

  4. Well I just heard over coffee that this property was supposed to be developed into housing by Sawyers. So can they not develop? This is another tactic by them for more and more and more money. Sure let trucks fill that disgusting lot and charge Sawyers a nice fee for every one of them. Could see this coming after the unrealistic grandiose stilted complex. jmho

  5. Are you kidding??? Parking meters??? As if Tisbury couldn’t get any uglier!!!! Now we get to have parking meters with flashing lights… so the parking attendants can have an easier job??? Are you serious, the town already spent over 30k for some kind of ATV so the parking attendants can drive like maniacs around town, and now they need another 30k to have flashing lights to tell them when to write tickets?!?! On top of that we have a selectman cheering it on as a ‘first’, great going ‘parking task-Force’. Maybe we should put meters in front of the police station we could re-coup part of the mega-salaries we pay them to sit around in that building coming up with ideas like this!!! More bad decisions from ‘the man in the high castle’. How about one good decision from the leadership to make the town better.

    • This is what happens when you hire department heads such as the police chief from off-island who recommends the parking meters, you lose island charm and replace it with all the wonders of down town Boston. If you add that to what Tisbury already has, in lack of charm, you have the fallout of the perfect storm of stupidity. A private park no one can use at five corners, chronic flooding, crumbling sea walls, school full of lead, a band stand from outer space, it goes on and on.

  6. Well, Did I read:
    “I don’t want to see us go down that road. If you have one, you have 100. What it does to the look of the community is not a look I’m looking for in the town of Tisbury.”
    and then…. WOO HOO! We are the first for gorgeous, beautiful….PARKING METERS? What?? This town is just getting more and more ridiculous. Food Trucks actually attract more traffic to all businesses they surround, there is a study on the food trucks in Boston and how they have contributed to the gentrification of some struggling neighborhoods. Not that Tisbury is struggling; but I wouldn’t be upset about a “Food Truck” lot even in the old Boch park area. But seriously, parking meters are more attractive than food trucks? (((shaking my head)))

    • Plus, food trucks are..wait for it…inherently mobile. Imagine First Fridays – they could line the streets of VH, providing affordable options for people, then head off to another locale on Saturday. I understand brick and mortar restaurants may feel threatened, but there’s already a VH institution that has successfully integrated a food truck into their business model. So why not the Copper Wok ‘n Roll, or Bakehouse Beach Buggy?

  7. Just making a statement..I remember when I first moved to the island, sight unseen, for a job (not even a great job, just a job) and the boat pulled into VH and I thought how unattractive this little area was and what did I get myself in to? Well, the island has a lot more to offer than the unsightly area where you dock and I stayed. VH hasn’t really changed that much in all these years.

  8. Parking meters?? How ‘bout making the parking free between 9 AM and 9 PM to encourage people to actually come to VH and shop or enjoy a meal. Put a 3 hour time limit on it so it’s not abused. One small surveillance camera could monitor it for abuse. Have a little faith in people and support your businesses!

  9. It seems the Tisbury selectmen have long since lost the confidence and respect of their constituents. Thankfully, I don’t live in that town. The selectmen seem to be out of touch with what people want/don’t want.
    A selectman cheering the parking meters is the epitome of that.

  10. I like parking- charging for parking. Meterless? Lots but charge like the park and ride. Bring it on

  11. I don’t understand why everyone e I. Tisbury is against change. It’s no long 1920. Those parking spots sit empty while everyone is trying to find parking in town. I know if I really needed a t place to park, I would have no issue paying the money. The whole town is out of date. Get with the times!

  12. On the “look” of food trucks
    “I’m 100 percent against food trucks in the town of Tisbury,” Jim Rogers said. “I don’t want to see us go down that road. If you have one, you have 100. What it does to the look of the community is not a look I’m looking for in the town of Tisbury.” Mr. Rogers– I don’t know when the last time you took a walk between 5 corners and the Net Result, but the best looking thing in that neighborhood is Amy’s food truck. The broken sidewalk is covered with inches of sand, it is poorly lit at night, and most of the the buildings in the area in disrepair and some of them are literally falling down. It has the feel of a bad post apocalyptic movie. If there were 100 food trucks down there, it would look one heck of a lot better. How about getting out of your chair, and taking a close look at what you are talking about. Then get out of the way , and let entrepreneurs build something that is worthy of our beautiful island.

  13. Food trucks!! Parking meters!! What’s next???? Wow, the island is changing, next you may get a real grocery store in VH, one that is actually modern. Oh my the horror of it all!! Look, the reality is the island as a whole needs to really open up to new ideas. Meters are not the worst thing in a parking lot and the price is not so out of place. Just use the app based meter, and yes the app based also has one physical kiosk where you can buy a physical ticket. It’s a win-win. Try parking in NYC, it’s 2.50 for 15 minutes! Food trucks are not the end of the world, keep them contained in certain areas and they will be fine. It will provide choices for people who do not want to sit down in a restaurant or who just want to try something different. Plus, very easy to regulate, just don’t let them park on the street. So please, just relax.

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