Edgartown bylaw seeks to restrict huge houses

New zoning bylaw limits floor area for residential construction.

Edgartown's 2024 town meeting. —Daniel Greenman

Edgartown residents have served notice that they want to block the growth of McMansions that have increasingly appeared along the historic town’s waterfront and elsewhere. 

Under the new zoning bylaw amendment, construction for residential structures, including additions to existing residential structures, cannot result in 10,000 square feet of floor area in total on a lot. Some recently built homes are far larger.

The so-called big house bill passed 132 to 35 at the April 9 town meeting. Town officials said Edgartown has seen an increase in lots with oversize homes or multiple accessory structures that have been highly resource-consumptive.

Construction permitted prior to the meeting will be exempt from the new size limits. 

This amendment stems from a vote last year to address climate change in Edgartown. Voters at the 2023 town meeting approved $75,000 to fund a review and update of town zoning bylaws, in an effort to help the town cope with the effects of climate change. 

Other Vineyard towns previously approved limits on home sizes, with Chilmark doing so in 2013, and West Tisbury in 2022.

Julia Livingston, a member of Edgartown’s zoning bylaw review committee, told The Times that especially large homes pose climate and energy concerns. 

“They’re complex, from a construction and electric point of view,” said Livingston. Large homes draw lots of energy when they keep their heat and air conditioning on all year, she added. 

“These large houses are using an enormous amount of resources,” Livingston said. “We need to shrink our carbon footprint.”

The bylaw notes that the larger homes affect the environment in other ways as well. 

The “larger residential structures and multiple accessory structures” end up “disturbing more land area, altering the flow of stormwater and recharge of groundwater, threatening habitats, and typically consuming more energy and water,” it reads. 

Livingston said the recent growth of large homes and outbuildings on residential lots has been “just amazing.”

“A whole lot gets covered with buildings, or a pool, [or] patios,” she said. “You see it on North Water Street, Main Street — pretty much everywhere.”

There are exceptions to the 10,000-square-foot maximum, based on environmental impacts. 

A total of 12,000 square feet may be permitted if fossil fuels are only used to power a backup generator, if all the buildings are connected to the town sewer or use an enhanced nitrogen-removal septic system, and if all the driveways and parking lots have permeable surfaces.

And two uses are exempt from the bylaw — accessory structures used only for agriculture, and cluster developments permitted under town zoning bylaws.

The big-house zoning bylaw took effect immediately after it was approved at the town meeting, according to town clerk Karen Medeiros. She added that the amendment will also be subject to future review by state Attorney General Andrea Campbell.


  1. The easy way to limit this kind of excess is to allow
    no more than a 3 or 4 hundred amp electrical service .

  2. Simple-make these large homes rely solely on clean energy, like solar. A big house creates jobs,promotes the Island economy, adds a large tax base to towns, and best of all, they do not use local services like the school systems, police, or fire, that all raise our taxes.

    • The assessments used by the towns for property taxes are determined by a yearly sales analysis that is done using a formula that looks at neighboring or similar properties. So, huge houses tend to reset higher the taxable value of ALL the houses in similar neighborhoods.

  3. Like Jim said….. a little late, ya think??

    but a good idea is what Mark proposed – make them go solar…. hahaha…. they’ll run for the hills…

    • Dolores, they should go all solar. It will save them thousands of dollars per year.
      They can buy their solar panels from EBay and hire their favorite electrician to install.
      Then, they can run the AC all day and night, leave the lights on 24/7, charge up several electric cars, have no gasoline bill, heat a hot tub and pool—all for less than being on the grid.

  4. Crazy left wing ideas to tell people how to live, dress, drive, eat and everything a person would like to do. Lets get rid of the golf course’s have you seen the clear cutting at Farm Neck? and what about fuel fired boats as well that will help slow things down here.

  5. Is the new regulation meant to reduce fossil fuel use? Or to limit big houses because we don’t like houses to be bigger than ours? Or because big houses are being used as a commercial venture to rent short-term? The reasons seem misguided.
    Every single roof should be covered in solar panels. More families should become energy independent and exit the grid. All new construction should be south-facing, super-insulated, and contain phase-change materials in the walls. Let’s add that to the bylaws.

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