Master Plan

(Draft) Principles and Objectives
View of Town Hall from William Street
View of Town Hall from William Street

August 19, 2005


For the past two years, the Tisbury Planning Board has been working on a new master plan for the town. We began the process with an extensive questionnaire that was sent to all the town’s year-round residents as well as to many of our summer residents and we were pleased to get an overwhelming 42% response.

In addition, members of the community have, on their own initiative, produced very helpful reports, notes and comments on town problems and we have worked hard to integrate them into the planning process.

We have paid special attention to the recent series of studies done by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission on Transportation, Housing, Environment, and Economic Development, which provide us with the regional context within which we can frame our own responses.

Finally, we are working within the “Smart Growth” policies adopted by the State of Massachusetts. These include:

Protect open spaces. Avoid low density sprawl. Don’t build in undeveloped areas.

  • As much as possible use existing utilities and infrastructure.
  • Locate near stores, services and transportation
  • Locate within walking distance to schools and jobs
  • Be consistent in scale and design with the surrounding neighborhood and landscape; especially for affordable housing initiatives.
  • Encourage mixed uses – incorporate residential construction into commercial and light industry areas

At this point, we thought it would be helpful to issue a summary statement of Principals and Objectives; one that would provide a useful frame of reference for the work as it progresses. We hope it will also help us to share the work with others and to create a broad-based and inclusive forum that allows everyone who is interested in these issues to participate.

Using these principles as a guide, we have moved forward with studies of specific areas of town that require our immediate attention. We have already presented a series of recommendations for the Upper State Road area and have begun studies of our downtown and waterfront districts. We have also begun to draft a Tree Preservation and Planting ordinance and are working with the town of Oak Bluffs and the Land Bank on a strategy to protect and expand our open spaces and woodlands.

In the process, we have been careful to coordinate the planning efforts with the ongoing work of other town boards and committees, citizens groups, and island-wide institutions such as the Land Bank, the Island Housing Trust, the Vineyard Energy Project, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and others.

Below are the Master Plan Principals and Objectives. We would welcome your comments and suggestions.

Thank You,
Tisbury Planning Board

Master Plan Principals and Objectives

1. Natural Resources
  • Make protection and restoration of our natural environment our number one priority.
  • Avoid sprawl and destruction of open spaces.
  • Restore access to the town’s harbor, beaches, woods and natural areas.
  • Work to expand our inventory of protected lands and to make these lands a public resource open to all.
2. Cultural Resources
  • Maintain Tisbury’s New England town character by preserving and encouraging its small scale, tree-lined streets, historic structures and neighborhoods.
3. Municipal Services
  • Locate, design and maintain our public buildings in a way that will reflect the traditional quality and character of the town while accommodating new functions, procedures and technologies.
  • Protect the functional and symbolic heart of the town by retaining non-emergency municipal functions in downtown Vineyard Haven.
  • Relocate fire and other emergency services to a site or sites out of the congested downtown area
4. Circulation
  •  Make access to and use of the waterfront an important part of the overall circulation system.
  • Promote alternate means of transportation - pedestrian, bus, bike, and water transit with a special emphasis on pedestrian movements.
  • Improve the road system by creating supplementary small-scale access ways to relieve the pressure on main roads. Avoid street widening.
  • Promote the connectivity of streets. Avoid dead-ends and restricted access neighborhoods.
5. Housing
  • Encourage a greater variety of housing types (not just single-family detached units) in all parts of the town, especially smaller houses and rental units.
  • Allow greater densities and more mixed uses in the business districts particularly for affordable housing opportunities.
  • Discourage building in undeveloped areas.
  • Be careful about increasing densities in settled neighborhoods.
6. Energy
  • Implement the policies incorporated in the Renewable Energy Island resolution passed at Town Meeting this year. These include:
  • Promote energy conservation and renewable energy technologies both for the benefit of the environment and for their economic benefit to the town.
  • See that municipal buildings, vehicles and operations adopt the most up-to-date energy conservation standards and technologies.
  • Use life-cycle cost calculations, not just initial cost, to estimate long-term building expenses.
  • Explore changes to our building and zoning by-laws that will encourage more efficient use of our energy resources.
  • Look for incentives to encourage more energy efficiency in our buildings and transportation systems.
7. Economic Development
  • Work toward a sustainable, year-round employment pattern.
  • Bolster the seasonal economy.
  • Look at the economic impact of new populations and new technologies on the island both as an opportunity for new kinds of businesses and as a revision of existing practices.
  • Encourage the development of aquaculture and agriculture as part of a long-term sustainable economy. Consider their additional contributions as attractions to visitors and as preservers of the overall quality and character of the island.
  • Recognize that the visual quality of the town is an important component of its economic health.
8. Area Plans
  • Using the above guidelines, develop a series of detailed plans focused on specific areas of interest. These include:
  • Upper State Road and the Landfill area
  • Downtown and the Waterfront – Public access, circulation, land use, zoning
  • Historic preservation
  • Restoration of the Waterworks Building at Tashmoo
  • Renovation of the Cornell Theater
  • Expansion of historic districts and/or designation of historic buildings
  • Tree planting and landscape preservation strategies.
  • Incorporate planting and landscaping provisions in the zoning by-laws.
  • Expansion of our inventory of open spaces and preservation lands.
  • Neighborhood street systems
  • Standards for construction of town streets and byways.
  • Connectivity of street grids, access to public spaces.