All-Island Planning Board looks to increase outreach

Planning board members said they would like to see more renters involved in the housing planning process.

All Island planning board members discussed how to involve more people in the housing planning process.

Fresh off the first round of outreach meetings for the new housing production plans (HPPs), All-Island Planning Board (AIPB) members shared insights gained thus far in the process at their meeting at the West Tisbury library on Monday night.

“We got very positive feedback, it went quite well,” Peter Temple, AIPB member from Aquinnah, said. “People should know that all the new data that was presented by the consultants is available on the MVC website. There were some concerns about who didn’t attend. None of the West Tisbury selectmen attended at all. In Oak Bluffs, some of the younger people couldn’t attend because of the hours, and they couldn’t get off work. We’re looking at digital outreach and online surveys to increase participation.”

Oak Bluffs planning board chairman Brian Packish also urged a greater social media effort for the HPP outreach process, noting the strong response the Oak Bluffs Downtown Streetscape Committee has elicited online.

Oak Bluffs has moved its next HPP meeting time from 4 pm to 7 pm on Wednesday, Nov. 16. The times and dates for the next round of HPP meetings for all Island towns are available on the MVC website.

Tisbury planning board chairman Dan Seidman said he was pleased to see so many new faces at the Tisbury HPP meeting, but he thinks renters need to have more presence. “The vast majority of the people were owners; we need the renters’ perspective in this,” he said. “I had lunch with two people today who are owners, and they said they had no idea how bad the [rental] situation was.”

As he has at every AIPB meeting, Mr. Seidman said zoning changes are an integral piece of solving the affordable housing puzzle: “If we don’t get down to smaller lot sizes, it’s going to be difficult to accomplish anything substantial,” he said.

Tisbury planning board member Ben Robinson suggested the AIPB should look at existing housing, not just new construction, to ease the crunch. “We already have the stock, we just need to figure out a mechanism to utilize it,” he said.

“Outreach” was the dominant theme of the evening.

Falmouth planning board chairman Jim Fox, along with board members Patricia Kerfoot and Paul Dryer, attended the meeting at the invitation of the Oak Bluffs planning board, to share details about their recent outreach efforts.

Mr. Fox said the campaign to win approval for a solar array on the town landfill, which got unanimous approval at town meeting, is a template the board continues to follow. In addition to emails sent to all voters, he said, “We made a video that was played on [Falmouth Community Television], they were all [emailed] a link to that video, they all had the bylaw sent to them, and they all got invited to several of these meetings, like mini town meetings, which is where the dialogue really got going.”

He added, “You don’t want to get into a battle on town meeting floor, because it can go away from you in a second.”

In other business, Edgartown Planning Board (EPB) assistant Georgiana Greenough urged the AIPB to address the growing shortage of light-industrial-zoned land on the Island. “This Island has huge needs for landscaping, and that is only one of the industrial-space uses; we really need to start focusing on it,” she said. Ms. Greenough said tradesmen have expressed interest in pitching in to buy land for light industrial use if it’s available.

Ms. Greenough also asked AIPB members to address houseboat regulations. “It’s a alternative given our land issues, and we should look to define it,” she said. “In the late ’80s it was a big issue in Edgartown, and it was denied on the floor at town meeting. It’s growing fast in other parts of the country, and I think we should be out in front of it.”

“We have lots of them [in Falmouth], and they’re just considered boats,” Mr. Fox said. “We have more boats than any other town in the state, and they do pay taxes on them.”