Goodale property heads to zoning hearing

Neighbors push back against landscapers use of 55-acre property.

A Jan. 26 aerial photo of the property. Neighboring property owners are pushing back against a ruling that a landscaping company is agricultural.

The Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals will continue a public hearing Thursday over a landscaper’s use of a property off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, following months of complaints from neighbors.

The issue stems from the use of a 55-acre parcel of land, known colloquially as “Tree Farm,” owned by Goodale Construction off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, next to the Eversource facility. The property is zoned in the town’s residential 3 district.

The hearing is an appeal to building inspector Tom Perry’s decision to allow Working Earth to continue its landscaping operations on the property. Perry determined Working Earth’s use is considered agricultural, exempting it from the residential zoning.

The continued public hearing begins on Feb. 17 at 6 pm. The hearing will be held in-person at the Oak Bluffs School cafeteria.

Over the past year, neighbors and direct abutters to the property have complained of activity going on at the property. On July 21, in a joint letter to the Oak Bluffs planning board, dozens of neighboring property owners described “loud and disturbing activities” taking place on the property over the previous several months.

“We believe that Goodale’s has been conducting prohibited activities on the parcel for at least one year,” the letter states. “These include land clearing, material storage, building construction, and use of construction equipment and large trucks with back-up alerts.”

The letter goes on to say the continuous noise from the site has “disrupted the health and safety” of abutting properties and asks for strengthened enforcement and penalties of the zoning bylaw to prevent similar activities occuring in the future.

Following complaints from abutters, Oak Bluffs building inspector Tom Perry sent a cease and desist to Goodale Construction owner Peter Goodale on July 7 regarding the property.

“We have no record of special permits or variances for this property to allow for the commercial activity that is being conducted. This parcel is located in R3, which is a residential zone.

On Oct. 6, Goodale sent a letter to the board requesting permission for a zoning bylaw defined “contractors yard.”

On Nov. 24, Perry wrote an email to an abutter stating one business was allowed to remain.

“[Local inspector Matt Rossi] and I conducted a site visit here on Wednesday November 17th to observe the progress of the vacating of the contractor stored materials and equipment. All the materials and equipment that were to be removed have been taken out. The one landscaper that is remaining has been determined to be an agricultural use and is therefore exempt from zoning, they can remain.” 

In another letter from neighboring property owners on Dec. 10, the neighbors said they did not believe a landscaping business can be construed as agricultural use.

“We implore the zoning board of appeals for a commonsense ruling that a landscaping business is not an agricultural business, to do otherwise invites additional landscaping businesses to claim protection aas agricultural business on the Goodale site and other sites,” the letter states in part. “This would lead to a condition in Oak Bluffs where landscaping businesses in effect, are protected land uses since they would henceforward be considered agricultural.”

Speaking to The Times by phone, Goodale said he withdrew his plans to the planning board when he found out it was not something the board could approve.

“Since those things were drawn up, the overwhelming majority of companies that were on that property had been removed from that property per the building inspector’s decision,” Goodale said.

The one remaining company operating on the property is Working Earth.

“Some of these people think they’re my abutters when they’re not,” Goodale said. He referred to an 11.8 acre property to the north of his parcel that is owned by James “Jamie” Norton. The property was cleared in 2019 for farm use.

Goodale said he is not working on a new site plan for his property at this time.

“They fall under the horticultural use and so that’s what’s before the ZBA,” Goodale said. “They are growing plants.”

The group of neighbors contends that non-agricultural components remain on the site and “a new section of the site was added with plantings to provide the appearance of a semi-agricultural use,” according to a Feb. 14 letter to the zoning board.



  1. The same problem has been happening in Edgartown down in Katama. The landscape contractors try and pretend they are an agricultural business. It is a problem on the island on where all commercial trades people can store their vehicles and equipment.

  2. Exact same problem has been happening in Edgartown between 5’th and 4’th street. Once again, landscaping company/residential area/truckloads of landscaping debris and this quote hits the nail on the head, “These include land clearing, material storage, building construction, and use of construction equipment and large trucks with back-up alerts.” Definitely a problem on the Island. After living in a peaceful wooded area for 30 years, I’m suddenly living next door to a dump site.

  3. i would like to give another perspective to consider. imagine you get up every day for work in the cold and in the hot and you work hard enough to get ahead and perhaps start your own landscape business. As you start to navigate your way through getting your business going and doing everything you can to stay ahead of all the additional cost of running a landscape business you are now faced with the problem of trying to store your things. Maybe you even bought your own house and you want to keep your things there but your told you have to have a special permit. As your trying to get a permit to run your business you start to look around and see a lot of homes being sold and then you notice that those same homes are being rented out for air b and b but they do not need a special permit. also why you are applying for these permits you start to think wow i spend 8000 a year in excise tax and my town says i can not park my truck from 2am to 6am which i have to have a commercial plate on and i have to resister each year for much more money then a regular car that resisters every two years but at the same time a air b and b two bedroom home can rent to 6 people who bring three cars to the island. A quick air b and b research of the area around goodales show one person owning 4 homes some of wish rent for over 50 grand a week in july. This is a 6 bedroom home rented out for 16 people? I understand excessive noise and i know me personally do not operate before 8 and we do not run machines but i do use machines to take care of my neighbors so they can be plowed in the winter as well as grading out their roads in the summer all of which i do for free. We landscapers also spend a lot of money in our towns and i know me personally spend 10 of thousands of dollars in oak bluffs alone. I am a small company and i know a lot of others spend much more than i do on taxes as well as in their local stores. I think what goodales is doing is trying to help people out who have no where to go. These people are your neighbors and they are trying to make a living for their families. These people build your homes, mow your lawns, plumb your house and any other thing that people can not do on their own. All of us in the trades get calls all hours of the day and we do all we can to help out others. I think people need to understand that we mean no harm and we want to do all we can to be invisible so that we can function in a place that dose not have space for us but dose allow for things like air b and b to prosper. I do agree when you have a landscape or contractors yard that you should do all you can to keep the noise down and also plants some trees to help. Noise is every where on the island and i personally can hear the steamship every morning and i live in oak bluffs. Sound here tends to travel a long distance especially in the winter. I can understand people concerns but also hope that those same people can understand where we are coming from and from there we can come up with a solution. I also want people to know that i am not a writer by any means and i am sure i have spelled things wrong and used the wrong grammar but at the end of the day i want you to hear a different perspective, i want you to take a moment to walk in someone else’s shoes for a moment with out judgement. I am hearing your concerns and i am putting myself in your shoes and i would like to propose less noise, more planting and perhaps an agreed upon time for people to be able to come and go. I think goodales and doing their best to help people and i hope people can see that

    • Excellent Comment! Growth is a difficult issue that we cannot ignore. We should all look at all sides of an issue and as said, make decisions together.

    • Very well said Dana…… Specific hours, plantings and fences to soften noise. Maybe even No Sundays? NIMBY….. YET we want you there for us to mow our lawns, fix my sprinkler system, grade my road ect. Else has been there and operated for years, not to mention the electric companies right there also. Let’s Firehouse next to a construction company or an airport and then complain about the noise. Not meaning to sound witchy but that is exactly what happened sometimes. I hope this gets resolved in a fair manner

    • you had me in tears. bravo. you are a true grit blue collar warrior something that was forgotten long ago when greed and money took sad Martha over. keep on keeping on.

  4. “Noise is every where on the island and i personally can hear the steamship every morning and i live in oak bluffs.”

    Hearing the steamship whistle blow is in no way comparable to the annoyance to the point of desperation of the landscaping machinery and constant backup alerts. I live one block from the SSA dock and the whistle does not wake me up.
    But nonstop mechanical noise is another thing altogether.
    Two weeks ago Thursday , at 5:30 IN THE MORNING, two or three trucks were scraping their blades on the asphalt and backing-and-forthiing on Main Street, Vineyard Haven, causing a nonstop barrage of metal scraping against asphalt plus beeping in at least three notes. It was ca. 53 degrees, so the snow that was left over was fast melting anyhow. This constant disruptive noise was not blockable via closed windows and ear plugs plus pillow over head. This went on for two hours. I lost two hours of sleep.

    This is torture via noise, and we must curb it.
    Noise is a major quality-of-life and, actually, health issue.
    Vineyard Haven is already becoming unlivable because of the noise pollution.
    Everyone wants to come to Gold Coast Martha’s Vineyard and make a buck.
    As making a buck is the American religion, there is general applause.
    In a very few years, there won’t be much of Martha left.
    BTW, my father worked as a landscaper and gardener, and he had a Jeep with two push lawn mowers and his hand tools such as rakes and hedge clippers. No leaf blowers. This new high-energy-input style of landscaping is not a necessity. Mainly it is a waste of fossil fuels and a source of noise pollution. Many of those who have set up shop as ‘scapers have no noticeable awareness of any horticultural issues or practices other than using big machines for jobs that can be done by hand plus “taming nature” via high chemical inputs into the Vineyard’s earth and groundwater.

    At the very least there should be a lot at the airport for storing such machinery.
    Whatever the AirBnB laws, they have nothing to do with landscapers’ businesses.

    • This response shows how out of touch you are. Complaining about Plow trucks, some who work 20-40 hour shifts straight to clear our roads is a little selfish. The noise inconvenienced you but they have contracts that need to fulfill your keep our roads safe. If you want to go out for 30 hours straight with your shovel and clear all of Main Street so it’s safe for people to walk and drive.

      • Excuse me, Josh.
        I looked out of the window and no snow was visible.
        This is not a matter of “keeping us safe.”
        It does seem to be a matter of “fulfilling contracts” by chalking up unnecessary hours.
        The thread is about landscapaers and their noise. I extrapolated to the noise issue in general, to say that it is a serious quality-of-life and health issue.
        And no, I am not “selfish.” I myself and other neighbors regularly clear snow from the sidewalks of Main Street with shovels and salt them “to keep us safe”—only to have the plows come along and cover up the sidewalks again with piles of wet snow that cannot be cleared. Then the contractors come along and try to clear the sidewalks with totally inappropriate, huge machines for this small-scale job. Because I guess for a lot of people it is now beneath them to wield a hand tool such a —wait for it!—shovel and wheel barrow.

        Landscapers are not “keeping us safe” when they torture residents with their noisy machinery. They are “making money.”

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