A petition campaign launched by Edgartown restaurant owner Christian Thornton is asking the Steamship Authority to add a late-night Steamship Authority ferry during peak tourist season so the island can attract hospitality workers off the island ‘island.
Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after its launch, the petition already had more than 100 signatures.
“All over Martha’s Vineyard, hotel and restaurant owners will tell you that the island’s housing shortage is forcing an endless escalation in cost and effort to house their staff,” wrote Thornton, owner of the upscale restaurant. Atria range in Edgartown. .
While in a later comment, Thornton appears to believe the petition will automatically trigger the need for a public hearing. That’s not the case, according to SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll, in response to a question about whether a hearing into the matter would be automatic. In a text message to The Times, he wrote: “It must be within 30 days of the schedules being published, it must be residents of a port community, it must be delivered to us, etc.
According to the petition, the lack of affordable housing on the island due to the short-term rental market has forced restaurant and hotel owners to buy housing for their staff.
Over the past two years, with the surging housing market on the island, the median home price has gone from $800,000 to $1.2 million. This spurred renewed interest in more affordable housing and labor on the island, resulting in a housing bank winning a landslide victory in town halls and municipal elections. The Housing Bank still needs legislative approval, which remains a joker.
“If the Steamship Authority offered a ship to Woods Hole from the island each evening after 11:30 p.m., these companies would have the opportunity to employ both Islanders and Mainlanders who could fill vacancies on the Island and commute between Woods Hole like so many commuters across the United States,” the petition reads. “The Steamship Authority currently offers an opportunity in its schedule that effectively serves as a passageway for people in the construction and building trades who live off the island and commute to MV for work every day.”
The petition cites Martha’s Vineyard Commission research showing that hospitality and tourism workers make up the largest percentage of vineyard workers. “The hospitality industry is currently underserved by the Steamship timetable which ends at 9:30 p.m. each evening. It is therefore clear that the tourist element of the economy could see significant benefits if businesses on the island could have cost-effective access to a larger pool of potential workers residing in Cape Town,” the petition reads.
The petition mechanism has been used frequently by residents of Woods Hole to question the need for freight boats at 5.30am. Despite their efforts to have the SSA eliminate these early morning crossings, the SSA firmly maintained that they were necessary to deliver cargo to the island.
“The Steamship has, in its power, the ability to dramatically improve the lives and reduce the cost of living for islanders around the world by doing its part to reduce the need for accommodation for hospitality industry employees on the island, which will create many potential accommodations. inventory for Vineyard families to stay in their winter homes,” the petition reads. “We call on the Steamship Authority to serve the island we live on, to raise our families and to serve with passion every day. The SSA must do its part to sustain most of the island’s economy and add one nightly pass from Martha’s Vineyard to Woods Hole, MA after 11 p.m. for hospitality workers from Memorial Day through Labor Day each summer…”