The Tisbury planning board has often been in the thick of major town projects that have included Stop and Shop company’s withdrawn proposal to build a new market, affordable housing projects, and the reimagining of the downtown and waterfront areas.
On Tuesday, Tisbury voters go to the polls from noon to 8 pm in the lower level of the public safety building opposite the Tisbury School, where they will decide a contest between incumbent Daniel Seidman and Frank Brunelle for one five-year term on the planning board.
Frank Brunelle, a Tisbury businessman, is also a candidate for one seat on the three-member Tisbury board of selectmen.
Daniel Seidman, owner of a money-management and financial-planning firm, is chairman of the planning board, treasurer of the Dukes County Regional Housing Trust and the Island Housing Trust, and a board member of Vineyard Power.
The Times posed a series of questions to each candidate and asked that they respond in writing in not more than 400 words. The questions and the candidate’s responses follow.
What is the most significant planning challenge facing Tisbury?
Mr. Brunelle: Over the past three years I have been very involved in attempting to persuade the town to not install a Shared User Path (SUP), as promoted by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, along the Beach Road corridor. As someone who lives in the district, I recognized immediately when it was proposed that merging this plan into a zone where traffic goes in and out of driveways and parking lots was a dangerous approach to road reconstruction. In the process of dealing with this, the subject of eminent domain arose, which the town and the Commission wanted. I spent huge amounts of time researching, calling experts, speaking with lawyers. From this I went to the town boards, both the selectmen and the planning board, and attempted to convey not only my concerns, but all of the issues that I learned about.
It was, and still is, a very frustrating experience. Out of this I developed a phrase: “Trying to influence the boards in Tisbury is like throwing peanuts at a tank.” In the end, I decided that my efforts were next to useless, and that the only way to influence our boards is to be a member of one of those boards. And so I decided to run for both selectmen’s office and planning board. I also believe that there are enormous problems that citizens are conscious of and would like to have addressed properly, and believe I can offer input that may be able to help to correct these.
Mr. Seidman: The need to increase economic activity while keeping Tisbury, Tisbury. We want to save and protect what makes the town special and unique. That means saving and preserving the treasures, the customs, and the look of the town. We need to increase the time tourists spend in Tisbury, not just be a port they pass through. We want an engaging and visually vibrant town that is pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. We are the only year-round port, which gives us a distinct advantage versus other towns on the Island. We need to capitalize on it.
What can be done in the public and private sector to increase affordable housing?
Mr. Brunelle: It is not new housing that is not affordable, it is the land. New housing can be built using SIP (structural integrated panel) construction, combined with NetZero technology, for around a half to a third of the cost of conventional construction. If this is combined with a smaller dwelling, then a building can be constructed for a family or for summer housing that will be very affordable, comfortable, stronger than traditional buildings, and even return money by installing solar. Existing housing is another issue altogether, but I believe focusing on new housing is a better way to try to solve this problem.
Mr. Seidman: As a person committed to affordable/workforce (A/WF) housing for over a decade, this is an area of expertise. At the moment, the default private, nonprofit developer is the Island Housing Trust (IHT). A recent collaborative example of public/private funding was the purchase of Village Court (behind Crane Appliance) by IHT. The building was an inefficiently constructed 6-unit rental that was rehabbed, brought up to code, and made energy-efficient. Several towns contributed, as well as the Federal Home Loan Bank, Edgartown National Bank, and The Resource Inc.
Island-wide collaboration is critical to addressing affordable housing. I recently initiated quarterly meetings among all of the six Island planning boards to address Island-wide issues/ideas and work together to foster change. Affordable housing is a shared concern, and has been the focus of our recent meetings. We want to look at possible zoning changes that might assist in creating more housing, both rental and ownership. We are also interested in exploring innovative ideas such as social impact bonds or an affordable-housing real estate investment trust (REIT). One innovative solution brought forward by the private sector is a pledge from businesses to add 1 percent to all bills/invoices toward the construction and maintenance of A/WF.
Stop and Shop spent more than one year in an effort to build a new store. At the end of the process, the town and Stop and Shop were left with the status quo. Please comment.
Mr. Brunelle: The Stop and Shop ran into many roadblocks. There was a competitor buying a building out from under them where they wanted to expand. Another problem was the commission. The town boards tried, but negotiations failed. And finally the townspeople organized to stop the process. To understand this completely, one would have had to have participated in the negotiations, and even then, it would be tough.
Mr. Seidman: We were left with the same building. Not sure there were any winners, and it seems Tisbury and Stop and Shop lost. We want the gateway to Tisbury to be visually appealing. It is not currently. Were there issues with the design of the building? Some would say it was too big, others would say it did not belong in that location. One thing is certain, what is there now is not acceptable. Can you blame Stop and Shop for wanting a new building? No. Should it be a size that is appropriate for the town and the setting? Yes. The process itself had several failings as well. The selectmen and not the planning board had oversight of the process. With the newly approved zoning for the B-1 district, a new method of evaluation is in place.