West Tisbury ZBA approves food trucks

Special permits granted after building inspector denied permits.

The West Tisbury zoning board of appeals will allow a food truck during the Vineyard Artisans Festival at Grange Hall. — Gabrielle Mannino

At a public hearing regarding food trucks, the West Tisbury zoning board of appeals approved two special permits for two food truck businesses in unanimous votes at its Thursday meeting.

The zoning board voted to allow Goldie’s Rotisserie at the Vineyard Artisans Festival for 32 event days throughout the year, in addition to two events at the end of the year, at the Agricultural Hall, and the Food Truck at West Tisbury School for spring and fall soccer seasons.

The zoning board’s decisions follow a stream of lengthy discourse concerning food trucks in West Tisbury, spanning multiple boards, and recently resulting in permit denials by building inspector Joe Tierney. Zoning board chair Lawrence Schubert explained that the board’s Thursday decision was not akin to overturning Tierney’s denial, but rather granting special permits for the businesses. Tierney was not present for the discussion.

Additionally, the board voted to waive the $200 zoning board fee for Andrea Rogers, founder of the Vineyard Artisans Festival, in her request to allow Goldie’s Rotisserie chef-owners Lexi Roth and Eva Faber to park their food truck at the Grange Hall — a suggestion that was echoed among the present supporters. 

In Tierney’s first denial of the food truck request, he cited food trucks as fast food, a declaration that was later nullified. Tierney’s second reason for denial points to town service business bylaws stating that the particular permit can be issued “only in connection with an agricultural use, including the sale of produce and related products customarily sold by farms and nurseries.”

In response, the Food Truck owner Josh Aronie asked for further clarification. “So if you’re selling food that has tomatoes and hamburger meat and chicken, those are all farm products … What does [Tierney] consider to be a farm product?” 

Schubert said, “We’d have to assume that we don’t know the answer,” since Tierney was not present to further explain his decision. 

Dozens of people turned out in overwhelming support for the food truck owners, reiterating the absurdity of the lengthy process. 

Nevette Previd, executive director of Vineyard Preservation Trust, in support of Rogers and the utilization of the food trucks at the Grange Hall, said, “We want to support our tenants, our partners, in any which way we can. And one way we can do that is provide them the opportunity to get you the best business they can do.” Previd added that because the Artisans Festival is a “consistent event that is beloved by thousands of people over the years,” it’s important to “provide opportunities to keep people there.” One way to do that, Previd said, is with food. 

In regard to the pre-existing town bylaws, Previd said, “the world has changed. Food trucks are here, they’re not going away,” she said. “They’re an important fabric of the kind of food offering we have on this Island.” She said it’s about allowing people to make money.

Rogers noted that food trucks have been present for the past four years at the event, and “for Joe Tierney to say he wasn’t aware is remarkable.” Rogers questioned why the issue is even coming up now, as opposed to months ago. “The show is this weekend,” she said. “It would be a hardship to do it without food.” 

Laura Silber, member of the Artisans Festival and West Tisbury voter, praised Goldie’s for its contribution to the festival, and was just one of many who expressed frustration with the long battle, adding that many “owe their careers” to Rogers for her work with the festival. “Frankly, I’m embarrassed for my town that we’re even here today,” she said.

Zoning board board member Jeffrey Kaye, sporting a sweatshirt which read “Straight Outta West Tisbury,” expressed his desire to keep the Artisans Festival in the town, which the addition of food trucks may very well help to do. 

On the granting of the special permit, he said it’s about “harmony” in the town, and what “benefits West Tisbury.”