After a series of sometimes-contentious public discussions that began in January and involved several attorneys, a divided Tisbury select board voted 2-1 this week to license a new cab company for the first time in years.

The decision clears the way for Vineyard Sharks Taxi, which has two vehicles, to begin taking fares from the Steamship Authority terminal and other locations in the town.

Chair Roy Cutrer cast the sole no vote, saying he felt the five existing taxi businesses have been adequately meeting the town’s needs.

Vineyard Sharks Taxi owner-drivers Anthony Harpaul and Jovian Taylor first appeared before the board in January, seeking to become Tisbury’s sixth licensed cab company.

The town previously had six active taxi licenses until the death in 2017 of AAA Taxi owner Ira Yaffee.

At the Vineyard Sharks application hearing, which continued in February, existing cab owners — some accompanied by their lawyers — complained that they had previously been told by unnamed town employees that AAA Taxi’s license had been retired and that no new applications would be taken.

One of those owners, Peter Bradford of Martha’s Vineyard Taxi, has subsequently applied for an additional license in Tisbury, town attorney David Doneski told the board March 13.

The town has no policy or bylaw limiting the number of taxi license, Mr. Doneski said, urging the board to consider each application separately.

Select board members John Cahill and Christina Colarusso voted in favor of Vineyard Sharks Taxi’s application, saying the new owners had a chance to raise the level of service among Island cab companies.

“I’ve been in cabs that were filled with cigarette smoke. I’ve been in cabs where the seats were not bolted down,” Ms. Colarusso said.

“It would be good to be able to support young entrepreneurs, as I do see a need,” she added.

Mr. Cahill also favored giving the new company a chance to succeed, citing his belief in a free market.

“If the market’s there, they will be successful if they provide a high level of customer service,” he said.

The approval is conditioned on proof that Vineyard Sharks Taxi’s two vehicles will be parked off-street when not in use.

Among other business Wednesday, the select board heard from Tisbury planning board chair and Martha’s Vineyard Commission member Ben Robinson about a proposed Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard facility expansion, on Holmes Hole Road in a section of Oak Bluffs that juts deeply into Tisbury from the southwest.

While not located in Tisbury, the area is next to land owned by the town and also is near multiple Tisbury wells, said Mr. Robinson, calling for the select board to consider referring the project to the MVC.

Such cross-town referrals, while infrequent, have occurred in the past, he said.

His immediate concern is not with the project itself, but with the review process, Mr. Robinson said.

Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard attorney Ross Seavey said the two towns have the same watershed protection laws and that he believes there is no need for a referral to the commission.

“The type of review that’s going to occur in Oak Bluffs is basically the exact same as if the land was in Tisbury in the B2 [State Road business district] zoning,” Mr. Seavey said.

The Oak Bluffs planning board took up the application Thursday, and said it didn’t apparently trigger any of the mandatory referrals to the commission. 

Shipyard owner Phil Hale, whose business is based on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, expressed anger and frustration that Tisbury officials had not contacted him directly about their concerns over his application for a 2,500-square-foot building on Holmes Hole Road.

“It sure would have been nice to have a meeting with the planning board because a lot of the questions and comments could have been addressed,” said Mr. Hale, who went on to cite his work last year on the board’s master plan committee. 

“One of the many pieces of the conversation was the need to have managed retreats from the waterfront, and this was led quite a bit by the chair, Ben Robinson,” he said.

“So here we are … in another town, trying to address the issues [Tisbury] was raising, and the applicant doesn’t even get a chance to talk to the planning board before it, in essence, says no,” Mr. Hale said.

Also Tuesday, the select board approved the warrant for the May 28 annual town meeting and held a brief joint meeting with the finance and advisory committee to appoint Abbe Burt a committee member until more members are elected in June.