It took 18 drafts, hundreds of hours of meetings and more than a year’s planning, but Tuesday night at the special town meeting, Tisbury residents voted into bylaw the first ever district of critical planning concern (DCPC) for Vineyard Haven harbor.

The special town warrant contained five articles, including a proposal to have the columns and pergola removed from the public library and the lottery sale of two low-income housing lots. The DCPC article, however, dominated the agenda, filling two and a half of the document’s three pages and yielding the most discussion during the meeting.

The DCPC places stringent regulations on harbor activity, aiming to control the traffic and pollution on and off the water to better preserve the harbor’s historical and ecological importance on the Island.

“This is an important tool for the town to determine its own future,” selectman Tristan Israel told the crowd in the Tisbury School gym before the vote. “It will give us, overall, more tools to effectively manage our harbor and regulate external pressures put on Vineyard Haven harbor.”

Those tools include banning the rental of personal watercraft, and requiring a harbor use permit for freight and ferry services, water taxi or commercial launch services, seaplane and floatplane services, laying underwater cables and dredging.

The process of obtaining a harbor use permit begins with the joint application to selectmen and the harbor management committee, although the committee only has the power to recommend, and selectmen can proceed without or against the committee’s recommendation. A hearing is then held for public comment, if the selectmen are satisfied with the proposal, and the permit is finally granted if the selectmen feel the proposed uses for the permit are consistent with the rules of the DCPC and the Vineyard Haven harbor plan.

The discharge of treated or untreated sewage into the harbor is prohibited, as is the disturbance of any archaeological site more than a hundred years old; so, too, the construction of any structure that blocks pedestrian passage along the waterfront, as well as the construction of any new private piers anywhere in the harbor except the working waterfront area.

An hour long discussion before the vote concerned questions, objections and proposed DCPC amendments. One of the proposed amendments was submitted in writing by Mark Clarke, owner of Martha’s Vineyard Jetski and Parasail. Mr. Clarke requested that the section prohibiting the rental of personal watercraft from the shore harbor or water of the harbor be removed from the amendment.

“This leaves my business with no place to go,” said Mr. Clarke, who has operated his company on the harbor for the past seven years. He reminded selectmen and voters he has never had an accident, that the craft often thought of as a noise pollutant is no louder than an outboard motor, and that the attack on personal watercraft was not just a safety issue.

“I don’t think that, if you’re not a millionaire and you can’t afford to buy anything on the harbor, you can’t be out on the water,” he said. “There are other means of travel across the water besides a sailboat.”

“For me, this is also personal because I’ve fought really hard to maintain my business and it’s coming under fire because of prejudice.”

But Mr. Clarke’s amendment was voted down and after moderator Deborah Medders asked if anyone had any further questions or comments, the DCPC, which required a two-thirds vote, was easily approved by the Tisbury residents, followed by a round of applause.

Those who might have thought the remaining items on the agenda would be dispensed with quickly were mistaken, however. A sizable debate took place over the article requesting the removal of the columns and pergola from the town library.

“I felt they were inappropriate, to say the least,” said Thomas Hale, who led the charge against the columns soon after they were erected last spring. He informed the crowd Tuesday that a local contractor had agreed to remove the columns free of charge.

“The trustees have adamantly refused to order or ask that the columns be removed,” he said.

“They’re ugly, they’re out of character with the town. These columns carry nothing. They’re what we call an architectural cliche,” Mr. Hale continued.

Victor Pisano was against the article, saying he doubted that the removal of the columns would come at no extra charge to the town. He urged residents to look towards the future of the library.

“A lot of effort and time went into this,” he said of the money raised for the $1.6 library renovations, which included the controversial new entrance. “If another nickel goes into this, if any more energy goes into this, it should be to put books on the shelves.”

In the end, the amendment requesting the removal of the columns and pergola was approved by a vote of 97-51 — closing the book on what has been a seven-month battle to undo the renovated library entrance.

Citizens also approved an article aimed at having two Island families in their new homes by the end of next year. The article proposed the transfer of two lots in Tashmoo Estates from the town to the affordable housing committee, who will then select the buyers from a lottery of prequalified individuals interested in the properties.

“This article reflects the Islandwide problem of affordable housing,” said Marcia Cini of the affordable housing commission. “Please approve this article so we can have two families in their houses by Christmas of 2001,” she said.

A proposal designed to eventually revamp the Tashmoo spring building also passed with the required two-thirds vote. The article allows the town’s water commissioners to enter into a lease agreement with a nonprofit organization with an interest in restoring the building for the purposes of research or education.

Before the vote, Chris Scott, director of the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, told  the members of the commission he hoped to work with them in the future, but reminded everyone of the crumbling condition of the building.

“We’d like to be your partner and we would like to be able to work with the town,” he said. “It’s a wonderful building. A very, very handsome building and one of the only brick buildings on the Island.

“If we can come to mutually accepting terms we’d eventually be more than willing to preserve it.”

Citizens also approved the disposal of three pieces of town equipment. A postal machine used for sealing and addressing envelopes, and two former police cruisers once operated by the animal control officer will all be disposed of through a public bidding process.