UPDATED: Give West Tisbury feedback on a proposed housing bylaw


Updated January 6

Preserve West Tisbury, a subcommittee of the West Tisbury planning board, is planning to hold a public presentation about its proposed housing bylaw — titled the “residential construction size bylaw” on the draft copy — on Monday, Jan. 10, during a West Tisbury planning board meeting on Zoom. Planning board administrator Jane Rossi said the meeting will be at 5:30 pm. The meeting can be accessed at https://bit.ly/3JOL6aU.The meeting ID is 81123686688 and the passcode is 138746.

Preserve West Tisbury subcommittee member Samantha Look said the size restriction to new residential units and new additions to existing units was something of interest to the town’s residents, particularly since Chilmark passed a housing size limit bylaw in 2013

“It’s [Chilmark’s housing bylaw] been a great success. It’s routinely reviewed by their zoning board of appeals, which is happy with how it’s been working,” Look said. 

The desire to see smaller residential units came from some West Tisbury residents’ concerns over house size trends on Martha’s Vineyard. A big house, alongside other “expensive infrastructure,” equates to lost opportunity for other uses of the property. Examples Look mentioned were more natural space, having a smaller carbon footprint, and having a small- or moderate-size home that can remain affordable. 

“It is something that is not easily reversible,” Look said. “It starts to close doors, the bigger the houses are.”

Look said West Tisbury and Chilmark have a lot in common. However, the subcommittee did not just copy Chilmark’s bylaw language and model for its draft. The subcommittee made its bylaw from scratch with West Tisbury’s circumstances in mind, alongside adding parts from the Chilmark bylaw that would work for them. 

In an effort to slow down the size of houses in West Tisbury, the bylaw would tie the square foot allowance to the lots. “The idea being sort of, not having the built environment overwhelm the natural one,” Look said.

According to the draft, for every three acres of land on a lot, the “residential floor area limit” is 3,500 square feet, alongside a potential extra 2,000 square feet for “accessory floor area” (e.g. detached garages, studios, workshops, etc.). However, there are some exceptions, based on factors like contiguous acreage and special permits. Existing units are allowed an extra 5 percent in total square feet without a special permit. Construction decisions come after determinations from the building inspector and a hearing with the planning board. 

Look said the subcommittee has until February to finalize the draft bylaw language to be added to the annual town meeting warrant. The draft is “malleable,” but feedback is necessary. “We’re trying to have as much dialogue as possible,” she said. 

The draft has already been presented to the West Tisbury select board and zoning board of appeals over the summer, according to Look. 

Updated with the Zoom link for the meeting.