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.
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.
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.