The recent meeting between the West Tisbury selectmen, the Vineyard Agricultural Society and the Vineyard Conservation Society concerning allowable uses of the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury is the latest of a periodic and relentless effort by the Ag Society, over the past 25 years, to change the governing rules. Rules that the society agreed to and codified in deed restrictions, Agricultural Preservation Restrictions and written agreements between the parties when the property was sold, essentially donated, by the Woods family to the Ag Society in 1993.

While it’s good to hear that no one wants to change the basic terms of those agreements, the ongoing effort to increase the commercial uses of the property to generate more revenue for the society can certainly be described as “nibbling around the edges.” It was clear from the beginning that the wide range of permitted uses, through zoning, of the Grange Hall in the center of West Tisbury village, the prior home of the Ag Society, did not extend to its new location. A clarification of the use rules was made in 1998, and it is those that are being questioned now.

This is no small matter to those of us abutting on Panhandle Road and State Road across from the Ag Society, which sees a great deal of permitted use already beyond the annual four-day fair in August. We are always impacted to some degree by whatever event is taking place on the Ag Society grounds. Noise, traffic and overflow parking along the road have been problems, which in fairness to the Ag Society have been addressed, but not entirely.

And it would be unfair not to recognize the Ag Society’s generosity in making the building available for community uses, including funerals, memorial services, and events like annual holiday parties. But even those could be questioned under the terms of the governing covenants and agreements. I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t be allowed, or that the Ag Society has been a bad neighbor. Overall, it hasn’t been. However, should the types and number of commercial uses increase, (such as outdoor movie nights), and the unsafe uncontrolled parking along Panhandle Road continue, then my neighbors and I will have no choice but to be very vocal in our opposition.

The Ag Society may be having financial problems, but there are alternatives to turning the property into a wedding mill, outdoor movie theatre, or concert venue. The new leadership of the society should explore those before asking to change the rules. Again.

Richard Knabel

West Tisbury