Preserve West Tisbury receives another batch of feedback

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West Tisbury is considering a zoning bylaw that would limit house sizes. — courtesy IHT

The West Tisbury planning board hosted another presentation by Preserve West Tisbury, a subcommittee of the board, about a proposed “residential construction size bylaw” during a Tuesday evening meeting. A previous presentation was held on Monday, Jan. 10, to receive feedback from the town’s residents. Tuesday’s meeting attracted fewer people, bringing in 13 people, compared with around 70 who attended the Jan. 10 meeting. 

Samantha Look, a member of Preserve West Tisbury, led the presentation. Look showed the audience the changes the subcommittee made after receiving feedback, such as adding enclosed porches to the residential floor area limit, and explaining how basements will be considered for floor area calculations, among others. 

After the presentation, the audience had time to ask questions, such as how rooms connected to basements will be counted. 

Several people criticized the proposed bylaw, expressing concern it would hurt people from the middle class. 

“I think the way this bylaw is written right now is that you’re not going to catch the really big houses,” Marc Rosenbaum, a professional engineer, said. “What you’re going to do is snag a bunch of middle-class people, and add another bunch of time and potentially cost … I don’t think it’s saving anything for the town.”

Rosenbaum also thinks this bylaw will penalize Islanders, and not “prevent the mansions on the hills.”

“I agree with Marc with a lot of his points. My main thing is that I think this is also taking away jobs, potentially, for people who work at those larger houses that require the staff. Which for [some] Islanders, that’s how they make their living,” West Tisbury resident Hilary Moore said. 

Attendee Adam Debettencourt said that “need is subjective,” and he is against “limiting what someone can do on their property when there already is a litany of zoning laws in place.” 

“I think what it says is, If the community goes for this, I take it to be a statement by the community to say, ‘We don’t want the type of people who build these big houses,’” Debettencourt said. “As a community, are they willing to also say, ‘We don’t want their tax money, that we don’t want the other money they feed into the community that they often earn somewhere else? That they bring here and then spend on their painter, their lawnmower man, their plumber, their electrician, and the other people who work on the structure? Which is what the community, the people living here, do for work.”

Preserve West Tisbury members said they understood the sentiments the audience held, and tried explaining why the bylaw proposal was the way it was, with reference to the size limitations. 

Preserve West Tisbury will meet with the planning board again on Thursday to present further revisions. The meeting will be on Zoom at 5:30 pm, and can be found on the West Tisbury calendar website