‘Preserve West Tisbury’ committee formed

Formal committee supported by planning board seeks to regulate large houses.

Geoff Rose, right, CEO of Patient Centric, discusses an update to the host community agreement. - Lucas Thors

West Tisbury selectmen voted to approve the formation of “Preserve West Tisbury,” a formal committee that seeks to create a bylaw regulating large houses in the town.

The committee, which will consist of seven members and two associate members (alternates), was recommended by the West Tisbury planning board and will bring their bylaw to town meeting this year.

Selectmen chair Skipper Manter said at Wednesday’s meeting that he thinks the title and description of the committee is “vague” and “doesn’t relate to the goal of the group.”

“I don’t think this title gives the right impression. The size of the house, whether it’s big or small, isn’t about preserving West Tisbury,” Manter said. “If they want to regulate large houses, they should call it the committee to regulate large houses.”

He also said creating a formal board is unnecessary and “way too complicated” when the group could just use the planning board as a channel to submit their bylaw for consideration.

Town administrator Jennifer Rand suggested that the name of the committee is of negligible importance, and that the charge of the committee is to create a limit on the size of newly constructed homes in West Tisbury.

Selectman Cynthia Mitchell said she thinks town voters would appreciate the opportunity to weigh in on an issue related to housing and zoning, and motioned to approve the formation of the committee. Her motion was supported unanimously, after some hesitation from Manter and Selectman Kent Healy.

Rand said supporting the formation of the committee at the suggestion of the planning board may be beneficial for town intergovernmental relations.

VTA continues to seek funds

Similar to other towns, West Tisbury is wrestling with the lack of service from the Vineyard Transit Authority as a result of a $1 million deficit created by a collective bargaining agreement that raised wages for drivers. Selectmen reviewed a letter from the VTA requesting additional funding to restore service to Island towns.

According to the letter, West Tisbury’s share is 13.8 percent, or approximately $92,000. Rand said the figure is based on the cherry sheet for each town (finalized local assessments).

VTA advisory board member Elaine Miller said it has been a “huge struggle” for the board and the authority, after large insurance increases, a loss in ridership, and a substantial rent increase for the VTA home base have made it impossible to maintain the volume of routes and trips.

Miller said the federal government is imposing an additional cost on the VTA’s lease of their building — a number she said has been stagnant for 20 years. 

“We have tried to increase our ridership, but we can’t make that a substantial effort because we have to be concerned about our year-round residents,” Miller said. She also noted ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are taking a sizable amount of revenue away from public transportation on the Vineyard. “We are really feeling the impact of these ride-sharing companies. It is very hard to compete, but in order to maintain the same ridership as last year, this is what we are asking for from the towns,” Miller said.

Advisory board member John Alley said the board and the VTA “prides itself on running a fiscally responsible organization.” “The only time I can recall the VTA asking the towns for any additional assessment funding was 15 years ago at the outset of the bus service. It has become an integral part of the community,” Alley said.

Rand asked whether the funding that comes from MassDOT focuses on year-round ridership, or if they use a metric that takes into account the seasonal fluctuation of riders in our resort community. “We have a population that is not consistent, it has peaks and valleys from month to month,” Rand said.

There’s a spot for pot in West Tisbury

The 2019 host agreement for Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard, a medical cannabis company created by Islander Geoff Rose, will be reissued for 2020 with the same language as previously written. 

Included in last year’s host agreement was an offer from Rose to donate $5,000 to an Island-wide charity or nonprofit, which Rose said he will “most likely” make again this year. The town is also slated to receive 3 percent of the facility’s gross annual sales once it’s up and running.

Rand said she took the document that was approved by selectmen four weeks ago and simply changed the date to 2020, “assuming you probably haven’t changed your minds much about how to approach this next year.” Rose said, “I think that sounds good, it worked out well for everyone last year.”

According to Rose, he has submitted applications for an adult use facility in West Tisbury, which were approved by selectmen in October. Those applications are currently under review by the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), Rose said.

The inspection of Rose’s medical facility was completed in October, and he is now waiting for the CCC to approve the recommendations at one of their monthly public meetings. “We didn’t make it onto this month’s agenda. We are hopeful we will be on the agenda for February,” Rose said.