Vineyarders rally to support Island family

West Tisbury planning board members attract the public’s anger with comments. 

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Brad Tucker (right) with Liz Ragone explaining to the West Tisbury planning board during a Zoom session why a second curb cut is "paramount" for their farmstand to operate.

Emotions flared at the continued public hearing of Brad Tucker and Liz Ragone’s request for a special permit to install a second curb cut at 844 State Road during the West Tisbury planning board Zoom meeting on Monday. 

A total of 132 people attended the public hearing, many of them supporters of the family, who came after hearing about the situation by word of mouth or via Tucker’s Islanders Talk Facebook posts about how much he needs the second curb cut for their farmstand at Radio Farm, and the recent loss of his dog Ralf

The board discussed the second curb cut request during a previous public hearing in August, and conducted a site visit. 

Before the hearing began, board member Leah Smith extended her condolences to Tucker and Ragone. The Zoom chatbox was already chiming with people’s messages of support for the farmstand and the second curb cut.

“I’m sure I speak for all of us on the planning board when I say how very sorry we are for the loss of your dog, Ralf,” Smith said. “I personally have lost beloved dogs and know what a devastating emotional blow it can be, so I really sympathize with you. I think that’s very tough and hard to have all of these things happen at once.”

“Thank you,” Tucker said, choking up. 

Smith continued by saying the board is “really here to discuss just one matter,” which is the location of a curb cut to access the farmstand. She said the board has “read many letters people sent in support of Brad and Liz’s farmstand,” and they made it “obvious people are under a misconception on what the planning board is doing in this public hearing.” 

“We have not at any time opposed the farmstand itself, and that issue is not before us now,” Smith said. “Whenever a new curb cut is requested on a state road, the planning board must review the request before it is sent on to the state, which has the final say … the planning board is simply trying to carry out our duties to consider the impact of a new access on public safety, and on the neighborhood and the appearance of the town of West Tisbury.”

Smith said the board has “consistently turned down” a second curb cut on the same property that has a curb cut nearby. According to Smith, the board suggested “alternative arrangements” for the farmstand after the site visit, such as making the curb cut “at the farmstand, and have that serve both the house and the farmstand.” 

Board chair Virginia Jones echoed Smith’s points, emphasizing the board’s role is to “judge the adequacy of ingress and egress for a particular lot and the proposed use.”

“Farmstands come under a different part of the law, but they’re not affected by that [which] would require a curb cut from the state,” Jones continued. “However, there are very narrow conditions that guide farmstands just because it’s agricultural, which I will tell you that the town supports absolutely, does not mean you can do anything that you wish or you plan or think you can do.”

Jones said while she was on the board, about 30 years now, the properties around Tucker and “through that part of town” are “protected in perpetuity for agricultural purposes.” However, there are some exceptions, and Jones said she thinks Tucker’s property is not covered by this protection. She also listed other issues with State Road, such as a need to reduce speed limits and intersections alongside visibility problems. One way Jones was in favor of increasing safety was “consolidating curb cuts into just one.”

Tucker addressed some of the points made by the board. He started by correcting Jones’ statement that the farmstand was not an agriculturally protected property. 

“In fact, we are perhaps more agriculturally protected than the other farms in the neighborhood. This is the first building and farm on this entire stretch of roadway, built in 1890. The farmstand has been active since 1910,” Tucker said. “We are chapter 16A, an agricultural preserve, ‘in collaboration with the [Martha’s Vineyard] Land Bank.’” 

The board may also have a misconception about the property, according to Tucker. “Trying to use an alternative entrance, it just doesn’t work. Not only does it not work, it’s dangerous, because it’s one lane, it’s long, so people trying to exit and people pulling in, they naturally back out onto the state highway with not much visibility at all,” he said. “There’ve been dozens and dozens of people that have intended to stop by, but they’ve driven by and seen the fence up or the gate closed, per the order of the planning board, and they pass right on by.”

Tucker said people assume the farmstand is nonoperational when they see the closed gate, but he said, “We’ve been able to operate for almost two months now.” However, the farmstand has lost its opportunity to sell during the bulk of the season. 

“I’m not sure how I’m going to move forward. We don’t have funding, we don’t have a lot of resources. Liz and I started this mid-COVID just out of passion,” Tucker said, adding his ties to Martha’s Vineyard as an 11th-generation Islander whose family has been active in the community and have also farmed. “I just feel obligated as a member of said ancestors to do this. It makes me feel great. I think we’re doing a great thing for the community, and it’s very discouraging that the fact something as simple as an entrance has become this much of an issue … the cut is paramount to operate.”

West Tisbury highway superintendent Richard Olsen agreed that the visibility would be better with another curb cut, and a friend from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, who wished to remain anonymous “so we can apply with them,” had no issues with another curb cut for the farmstand, according to Tucker. Tucker added that between where his farmstand is and Cronig’s, there are 17 driveways with double entrances. 

“I really appreciate you guys mentioning Ralf, because Ralf has been right beside me the whole way, and now it’s become something that I want to do for him,” Tucker said to the board. “I know I wasn’t supposed to even bring that up … but I truly appreciate you saying that to me, because this has been one of the most difficult times in my life.”

Tucker said if he can’t have the second curb cut, he will need to find other options, which would most likely mean moving off Martha’s Vineyard. 

After some back-and-forth between Smith and Tucker about the viability of a second curb cut against an alternative method, Tom Hickie, who is the landowner of farmstand property, began the stream of public comments that supported Tucker and Ragone.

“A farmstand isn’t the mall. You’re not going to have 50 cars at a time. The traffic is not going to be that big. People at the [Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair] might stop by to get something, or whatever. I just don’t understand why we’re so against a little driveway,” Hickie said. “Brad’s done a wonderful job down here.”

A number of attendees said that West Tisbury is a town struggling to keep residents. People also supported the idea the curb cut would increase safety on the property. 

“It’s just heartwrenching that this farm is failing and in West Tisbury, our agricultural town, because of a curb-cut issue,” Candace Nichols said. She added her difficulty finding the entrance to the farmstand during the summer. “This family needs your help, and we Islanders, we don’t have a lot left.”

“He’s a son of West Tisbury,” Josh Goldstein, who was classmates with Tucker at West Tisbury School, said. “I spent nine years on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and I know about curb cuts, I know about traffic studies, and I know Brad. I know that he will work hard to make his place as safe as can be.” 

Attendee Nour S. Langendorfer pointed out that in regard to “state authority versus the administrative agency,” the board has the authority to allow the curb cut, even if it needs to later go to the state. Additionally, the state “actually must show deference to the board’s decision.”

“This is the only time they’ll say no to you. It’s if the board’s interpretation of its statutory mandate will be disturbed only if … the interpretation of this board is patently wrong [or] unreasonable,” Langendorfer said, citing the 2010 case Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound Inc. vs. Energy Facilities Siting Board. “The board here has complete authority to authorize this curb cut and vote on that during this meeting. It’s not something that needs to be kicked back to the state.”

Langendorfer also said she doubts “this board conducted any sort of traffic or safety study,” so she is siding with what Tucker said about the curb cut as someone who sees the vehicle volume daily. When Langendorfer was talking, an attendee whose Zoom name was “Bubble” interrupted and said points made based on the 2010 case were “total BS,” forcing Smith to mute people. Langendorfer continued by saying the board should respect the “will of the neighborhood.” While Langendorfer was saying there is a need to “protect the small farmers and artisans” because they are “a dying community on the Island,” a sharp “Oh, bulls___” from Jones prompted people in the Zoom chat to erupt with comments of shock. Langendorfer concluded her points. Jones later said she thought she was on mute, and highlighted her “lifelong support of agriculture,” adding she was “horrified and hurt” by some of the comments made in the chatbox toward her.

Jones was not the only board member who attracted the ire of Islanders. After making comments about the board’s site visit, board member Amy Upton made a comment about Ralf that prompted another flurry of comments in the chatbox.

“The death of your dog is shocking and alarming, and so sad for everybody here. What an awful story,” Upton said. “But, in a way, doesn’t it indicate just how dangerous this stretch of road really is?”

“Please do not use that,” Tucker said, lifting his face from his hand. 

“Your dog was killed by a hit-and-run driver —” Upton began.

“I’m well aware of that. Please do not use that, I’m begging you,” Tucker said. 

An attendee member shouted, “That’s wrong! Totally inappropriate.” 

Smith interjected to bring order to the meeting. She also made a point that the pre-existing curb cuts were made before West Tisbury zoning bylaws were established in 1972. 

After many more comments from the public and the board, Smith suggested moving to allow the second curb cut. Board member Matt Merry agreed, but wanted to add the conditions of having any areas disturbed be seeded with grass, that woodchips must be “removed from the edge of the road,” a narrow 10-foot entrance to the farmstand with a gate that is to be closed during nonworking hours, and the parking area is to have no more than five cars at a single time. 

Merry added he was unhappy with “the attack that has been placed on the planning board via Islanders Talk.”

“I’m happy for your curb cut and your business, but the way that you’ve handled yourself in this board has not been very professional, in my opinion,” Merry said, referencing the posts Tucker made asking people to join and support him during the board meeting. “This planning board’s site visit has been nothing but supportive of your attempt to get a curb cut, and the language used in this particular Islanders Talk — that’s what social media does. You’ve rallied these troops, which I agree are supporting you, but the way you went about it is just completely out of character.” 

Tucker apologized for the Facebook post, saying it was a difficult time. 

“I don’t think we’re ready to have a vote. I think that we’ve been strong-armed as the planning board into this through a campaign on Islanders Talk, getting everybody and their pitchforks to show up at this meeting,” Upton said, saying they tried looking for other options. She also said Tucker made this a “very emotional matter.”

“I didn’t turn this into anything. It is a very emotional matter, and people feel very passionate about this community, myself included,” Tucker said. 

The board eventually voted 4-0 to move the curb cut forward with Merry’s conditions. Upton abstained. “I felt like I don’t have enough information,” she said.

Tucker and Ragone still need to go to the state and meet its requirements for the final decision. Board administrator Jane Rossi said there is a 20-day appeal period “in case anybody wants to appeal it.” 

“Thank you for giving us some hope,” Tucker said to the board. 

12 COMMENTS

  1. Matt Merry says “….the way that you’ve handled yourself in this board has not been very professional…” but he fails to admonish Virginia Jones for her unmuted scatological outburst? Who is unprofessional, Matt? The Chairperson is above reproach and undeserving of a similar public rebuke, Matt? If Brad and Liz hadn’t enlisted social media to support this curb cut it’s a certainty this board would’ve punted yet again. Best of luck to this wonderful couple.

    • Thank you very much Bill.

      It’s lengthy, but if you have a chance, I’d urge you to read my large bodied comment here.

      I think I had every right to utilize social media to address my community members and friends, after all the town uses the same method to get the word out about other meetings.

      However I do have to admit I think Matt was right, it was off tone when I used the words “political battle”.

      At the end of the day they are doing their job, and it was wrong of me to sensationalize it the way I did. I was under a lot of stress, trying to move quickly, and very upset from the previous days events.

      I will be sure to be more careful with my wording in the future.

      Thanks again Bill, it means the world to me that you attended the meeting, and we’re kind enough to chime in here. I hope you can stop by someday and have a tour of the farm!

  2. I would like to thank the planning board of West tisbury for hosting this public forum, and allowing the community to voice their astounding amount of support.
    It’s encouraging to see such enthusiasm, in regards to our efforts, it is also motivating to do right by the community, and host an operation that we can all be proud of. We intend to do exactly that.

    I would also like to thank each and every one of you that spoke on our behalf last night. I believe everyone who contributed was respectful, clear, concise, and knowledgeable, and for that I owe you a debt of gratitude.

    However, I would like to address a number of disparaging comments that were stated in the comments section. I was unable to view the comment thread, as I was trying to listen carefully, take notes, and respond in a clear and timely manner.

    I think it is paramount, that we all treat each other professionally, with respect, and courtesy. I completely understand that emotions were running high, and perhaps folks chimed in with less than savory comments, so I would like to extend an olive branch to both sides of the discussion, as one opinion cannot hope for constructive dialogue, without the BOTH SIDES of the aisle acting in a composed manner.

    I truly believe that chairwoman Virginia (Ginny) Jones was unaware that her microphone was live (everyone for the most part was muted) and her comment was not intended for the public forum. I have to be honest, there were moments that if my mic was muted, I most likely may have used similar expletives. It was a mistake, and although stunning to some attendees, I truly don’t believe worthy of the attack that ensued. Some may disagree, and you’re entitled to your opinion, but again, I would like to focus on the matter at hand, and not semantics…. Just my thoughts on the matter.

    I truly appreciated the way this forum started off, by the board expressing their condolences. It was a heartwarming way to start off what I hoped to be a productive exchange. However, I DO believe that using Ralf’s horrific passing, only one day after we lost him, as ammunition- was wildly inappropriate. I had zero intention of bringing up his demise, and using it as a crutch in any way shape or form. I had truly hoped, and frankly expected the board to do the same, out of the most basic level of respect. I also believe that suggesting that this was some “mob with pitchforks” is also a very strange vantage point. This was a group of composed, educated, informed, concerned, and supportive citizens of this town, attending a public hearing to voice their opinions. That is a right, that the board should support, and not suggest that they are being “attacked” or “bullied”. I believe you should view it as an outpouring of concerned citizens, exercising their right to assemble, and express their opinions in regards to a debate they obviously feel they need to chime in on. I forced NOONE to attend this meeting, and I think it is very counterproductive to view a well attended public hearing in this way. I hope the vast majority would agree with me.

    With that said, I do believe it was wrong of me to refer to this meeting as a “political battle” via islanders talk (we all know how low that can go) and I have removed all posts and comments.

    It was the most emotional day I have ever endured, while simultaneously trying to compose myself for this meeting.

    I am happy to adhere to the conditions stated by board member Merry, and would have started today, if not for the (much needed) and overdue downpour.

    I think grass out front, and perhaps some indigenous plantings against the fence will look wonderful.

    I could go on all day, but in conclusion, I would like to try and lead by example, and do my absolute best to treat the board members, and any other town entity, with the level of respect I would hope to be treated with in return. I think we are all trying to achieve a common goal, and that is to ensure our town we love, maintains its beauty, culture, agriculture, and most importantly- respect for one another.

    It’s been a long unique season, and nerves are running high. I hope we can all keep focus on one common goal- to try and recognize what issues might benefit this town, it’s people, and safety, and not squander what we are capable of, by dedicating so much time and effort in to things that can be solved through simple solutions.

    All we need to do is find a way to work with each other efficiently, and I am afraid that currently, the record shows that this has been very difficult quite frequently lately.

    I am in no way pointing fingers at any given entity, in fact I think it’s high time to take a second and point a finger at ourselves and try and see what we can ALL do to have a little more compassion, and understanding.

    Thank you very much to everyone that attended last night, and I encourage anyone that would like to visit, see the site for themselves, or even just call me if that have any questions or comments, to do so.

    My number is (615) 999-3141

    Thank you
    Brad Tucker
    Rafter Revivers LLC (therafterrevivers@gmail.com)
    Radio Farm LLC
    (Radiofarmllc@gmail.com)

    844 state road
    West Tisbury, MA
    02575

    • I think that Jones thought her mic was off is very important here. I was always told character is what you do when no one is looking. That she said what she said thinking her mic was off shows true character.

    • Well said Brad! A civil democracy doesn’t mean we all have to agree, just enough of us to keep the ball moving forward for all of us. I hope to visit the farm stand soon and wish you success in your ventures!

  3. This entire scenario was a scene out of a movie. I must admit that Mr. Tucker put on a well orchestrated show using the “I am a tenth generation Islander” preamble, and “I am leaving the Island if I lose”, to put pressure on the Planning Board. He was able get huge support from his friends using social media. The Planning Board started off unmoved by Tucker’s rantings, as evidenced by an opening speech by the Chairman Virginia Jones, who at first stood her ground, but the entire Board quickly caved into overwhelming pressures. It does not matter to me whether the curb cut was allowed, but it does set a bad precedent for future curb cuts and allowing any mob to pressure any Board. Again, I am not for or against anything here, just pointing out circumstances that seemed to reward a form of bullying.

    • What I saw was bullying the bully. And as with most bullies, they cave when the target pushes back.
      And like you, I don’t care if they allow the cut or not. Just pointing out what I saw.

      • While I see what you’re saying, and agree that’s true, I have to admit that I have used colorful language from time to time when no one is listening, and I’ve even used it when they have been listening, so to play devils advocate, I was not then, or now offended by someone using the word bullshit.

        I can assure you that if my mic was completely muted at any point, I’m sure I may have used similar language.

        Thank you very much for being there, and I hope you can come by and pay visit sometime!

    • Mark,
      To suggest this was any form of “bullying” is completely against the principles of a public hearing. I am sorry you feel this way, but I think a public hearing is a chance for citizens of any town to exercise their right to assemble, and share their input on issues that concern them. If anything, a large number of people in attendance, should send a message to the town, that this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

      I urge you to watch the meeting again, because no one that spoke on my behalf was rude, or “bullying.” Everyone that spoke was well informed, courteous, and passionate. I personally see nothing wrong with that, but I am more than willing to respect your opinion, and hear what you have to say, in regards to what you saw as bullying.

      My ”rantings?” I took notes in the beginning of the meeting to address a number of inaccuracies, that started this meeting off.
      I know quite well I am a capable speaker, who gives all respect due. I was polite, well informed, and I did not rant, in any way. Again, I am more than willing to hear from you, what you viewed as me being forceful in any way.

      I think it was well within reason to mention my history on this island, after all, isn’t that a major talking point when it comes to these decisions? Preserving this towns rich cultural history? Because if you agree, I’ll have you know I am a major integral part of said history. I would be more than happy to give you names, and list my ancestors that have had a massive positive impact on this town, and hope to continue that tradition. I have been urged to join the planning board, not only by citizens that attended, but also by two different board members, and a number of former board members and selectmen. Jen, I would be happy to provide evidence of these suggestions if you wish.

      To suggest I was sensationalizing anything, by saying I would probably have to pack up and leave if this didn’t work, is also off tone. I would be happy to send you a screenshot of my bank account, and my loan repayment schedule. If I am not able to generate a reasonable amount of income here, utilizing the space we worked so hard to build, I will most certainly have to seek other options, most likely off island.

      I did not rally troops via Internet, these were all people I know well, have grown up with, and are concerned that this farm will fail, as a result of not having a proper entrance.
      For me to utilize social media to communicate with them en masse, was a much easier way for me to talk with them, versus messaging everyone individually. In fact the town administrations utilize the same exact tactic, should I not be allowed the same method?
      I had a lot on my hands, and most certainly did not have the time to message every person I would have liked to be there. I can assure you, that there were many many more that wished to be in attendance. I am also happy to send you screenshots of messages I received, to my personal phone, from people apologizing that they couldn’t make it. It’s well over 100.

      To suggest my friends and family that attended the meeting or any sort of “mob” As you have put it, speaks volumes on how you view your fellow citizens in this town. If you know this town well, you would recognize the majority of those names, and know that they are all upstanding people, and deserve more respect, than to be called a “mob.”

      I am more than happy to hear you out, I will respect any opinions you may have. You are also more than welcome to stop by and see the space for yourself, I most certainly welcome you to my home, and would be happy to give you a tour of the farm. I enjoy hosting people, and showing them what we have accomplished, more than anything. You know where to find us, and I encourage you to come by, along with anyone else that would wish to come by and see for themselves. You are all welcome here.

      Thank you.

      -BT

      • So may I ask, if I just moved here last month, should I get lesser treatment if I were not a 10th generation Islander? That’s the bullying part. By seeking special treatment due to your family situation, you are actually harming those who do not have that long standing relationship with the Island. It diminished them. And then the “I’m leaving the Island if I don’t win”…is another form of bullying as the Board knew you had several if not hundreds of members of the public that would have said derogatory comments about the Board had you not won. Listen, I am neutral. I only point out what I see. Enjoy the farm stand.

        • Thank you, Mark. I will do my best to “enjoy the farmstand”.

          When you have a chance, please come pay a visit. I would love to share what we have worked so hard to provide.

          I love my family and my ancestors very much, and they have shaped this town in to what it is today.

          If you live it so much yourself, I encourage you to come pay a visit, and maybe a bit of history, and appreciation, will sway your opinion?

          If not? Still more than welcome, and I await your visit.

  4. Thank you, Peter
    I think you hit the nail on the head right there. I am obviously happy with the results, and I have nothing but gratitude towards the board, for reaching this decision.

    I hope you can come by sometime soon.
    We have to continue using the alternative driveway until the state approves us, So if the gate is boarded up, and we appear closed, you can either pull off the side of the road onto the wood chips and walk in, or come in our other driveway and park in the Pea stone area and walk over.

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