Tisbury caps business vehicles on residential district lots

Tradespeople on residential lots can park up to two business vehicles and a trailer.

Donald Rose moderated Tisbury's town meeting on Tuesday. —Daniel Greenman

Tisbury voters have approved a limit in residential districts on the number of business vehicles that owners of trade businesses can park on a residential lot.

More than 150 voters filed into the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School on Tuesday for a special and annual town meeting, under the direction of moderator Donald Rose. Voters passed an operating budget of over $39 million, as well as each of the night’s 40 articles.

The most debated proposal on Tuesday night was the zoning bylaw amendment, Article 8 in the special town meeting.

This article, approved by a required two-thirds vote, states that residents operating trade businesses out of their homes cannot consistently park more than two business vehicles and one trailer on their lot. The approval does not affect any existing use of a property predating when the planning board first announced its consideration of the bylaw amendment.

There was disagreement going into the article, as the planning board had submitted the proposal, but the town select board had voted 2-1 not to support it.

“The bylaw does not offer solutions. It still requires work,” select board chair Roy Cutrer told voters. Cutrer also said that the bylaw does not differentiate between different residential districts in town, with different lot sizes.

Planning board member Connie Alexander told voters that while the town building inspector would enforce the bylaw, they would only do so in response to a complaint made to the town. 

She also said that residents can obtain permits to park at the Tisbury Park & Ride, even though that area was originally intended for commuter traffic only.

Residents had mixed reactions to the proposal. Bernadette Cormie said that lot sizes are small where she lives, and that allowing more vehicles to park on residential properties could reduce parking congestion on the street near her home.

Voter Astrid Tilton supported the bylaw, citing noise pollution. “I support this bylaw because currently in my family’s neighborhood, sometimes we’re talking to each other in the yard and it actually is too loud for us to hear each other,” Tilton said.

Voter and landscape business owner Tristan Israel spoke to the scarcity of lots currently available to town businesses. “We have growth, and young people and a few old people … trying to survive here, make a living, start a business. What we don’t have is a place for people to really run their businesses with an affordable lot,” Israel said.

Israel urged the town planning board to consider balancing the growth of businesses in town with the preservation of open space.

Tisbury resident and Martha’s Vineyard Commission staffer Dan Doyle said he agreed with Israel. He also supported the bylaw’s efforts to clarify the purview of the building inspector.

“I don’t want my building inspector spinning his wheels picking winners and losers, trying to use his discretion, and teasing something out that’s not clear in the bylaw,” Doyle said. “He’s got better things to do.”

Voters also rejected an amendment proposed by Kevin Lucas that would have changed the allowable number of business vehicles from two to four.

The bylaw requires trade businesses to follow regulations for toxic or hazardous materials. It also states that any outside storage of materials, equipment, and workspaces must be screened from the views of abutting properties.

The closest vote of the meeting concerned the use of $455,000 raised from Steamship Authority embarkation fees. These funds come from 50¢ charged to each passenger departing on a passenger ferry trip, and are meant to mitigate the impact of SSA operations on municipalities.

Israel proposed removing a request of $85,000 for the police department to replace outdated Tasers, arguing that the fund was not intended for such an expenditure. Voter Peter Stam argued that unruly behavior at the ferry terminal area may require use of Tasers, and voters allowed the Taser request to stay in by a vote of 54–53.


  1. This new arbitrary law in Tisbury really is the height of island NIMBYism! I had a reasonably successful year round business located at a home I rented for 5 years, and then purchased in 1990 at the corner of Look & William in Vineyard. I had a moving van with a 12′ box and two 1/2 ton antique dump trucks.They were parked as far from the street as possible. I kept my small 1/8th of an acre lot quite presentable to the discerning eye. I used only one truck at a time when there was work. Yet I knew that a complaint from just one voting resident, could and would severly upset my ability to feed my family. By 1999, it was suggested by the Town that I park my three antique tiny trucks (none of them longer than 23′) up at the airport. I specialized in small jobs, removal of construction debris, and piano moving! Were my customers willing to pay 2.5 hours of labor and fuel costs, just for me to spend 20 minutes to move their washing machine from the basement to their first floor ? I doubt it! If I did move my trucks to the airport, it would take at least 16 hours of effort to bill an 8 hour day!
    That was the writing on the wall, along with changing parking to no more than 4 hours at the top of the hill near my house. That is why I moved away (Nov. 30, 2000) to western Mass where I’ve done well too. Vineyard homeowners and voters have only themselves to blame for chasing away the people who make that island hum. You’re gonna need two 6:30a.m. SSA boats to accomodate the necessary labor force. A labor force that has no invested interest in the quality of island living. Good luck…

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