Edgartown proposing to restrict private parties

The bylaw would limit spaces to two large events per week.

On Monday, Edgartown's select board set the hearing for Jan. 8. — MVT File Photo

Edgartown is proposing a new bylaw that would regulate how many parties a private residence could have in a given week and month.

The bylaw would limit social events with more than 50 people at a private residence to two per week for that space, and five per calendar month. 

“Exceptions may be granted for events of public or community interest,” says the bylaw proposal, “provided that the town has adopted a zoning bylaw authorizing events of public or community interest at private residences by special permit.”

The town’s select board has set a hearing for Jan. 8 to discuss the bylaw, which would require approval at town meeting.

The current proposal is a general bylaw; a zoning bylaw that would allow homeowners to request a special permit to exceed the proposed event limits has not yet been proposed.

The proposed bylaw defines a social event as “[a] gathering or party … for nonprofit, educational, social, fundraising, celebratory, or recreational purposes, including but not limited to weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, [and] reunions.”

The proposed bylaw would be enforced by the Police Department and the town. Police would be able to seek penalties of $300 per violation; each day in violation of the bylaw would be counted separately.

“Current bylaws … don’t even have language that speaks to the peaceful enjoyment of the neighborhood,” said building inspector and zoning bylaw review committee member Reade Milne, who presented the proposed bylaw at the board meeting. “This is an attempt to have some form of regulation of that so that we don’t have party houses that are holding frequent events and disturbing the neighborhood, and that there’s nothing that the town can do anything about.”

Milne said that the proposed bylaw was inspired by discussions from last August regarding large residential social events in Edgartown. At an August select board meeting, neighbors spoke against a property known as the Uncle Nearest House, which had spurred complaints over disruptive parties and significant traffic. Discussions then also concerned whether the house’s gatherings qualified as commercial events, which would violate zoning bylaws.

“It’s a starting point,” Milne said of the planned public hearing. “I see it as a good opportunity to begin a conversation.”

“I think it’ll help,” said board member Margaret Serpa.


  1. I’m happy to see the town addressing this issue. However, I think 2 large parties a week is still too many. My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that one large party a month should be the limit in a residential neighborhood.

  2. Freedom of Assembly,
    The first Amendment prohibits government from abridging the right of the people peaceably to assemble,

  3. Once a month is more than enough. Call it what you like, but this is strictly a business advertisement, and it doesn’t belong in a residential neighborhood.

  4. Uncle Nearest house is owned by a private corporation that encourages parties. Why is that you may ask? Because Uncle Nearest makes whiskey

  5. I would love to see energy applied towards our growing car problem especially in Edgartown and even Vineyard Haven. I envision them as quaint “pedestrian only” towns. Could there be parking accommodations nearby, providing shuttles in and out, as is done in VH?
    Thank you, Corinna Kaufman, Aquinnah Seaweed Artist

  6. A $300 is a joke and so is 50 people and so is 2 a week so Edgartown why bother with this at all. typical Vineyard; take a good concept and then gut it, sort of like the Planning and Zoning study done how many years ago and paid absolutely not attention.

  7. I agree with Ms. Milne that this is a start. But I feel that it would put too much strain on the Edgartown police, who are already under pressure in the summertime. They would be the ones enforcing this bylaw. And who would be keeping track of numbers and sizes of parties? What do other towns have in place regarding this problem? I realize it’s a fairly recent issue because corporations weren’t buying up properties as much prior to this. Perhaps they should have to get a special permit every time they host an event? Similar to when a person wants to hold a yard sale and has to get a permit. If this problem isn’t resolved it’s just going to keep getting worse.

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