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 Thursday evening meeting. The meeting attracted more than 40 people.
Samantha Look, a member of Preserve West Tisbury, led the presentation. It was in the same format as when the subcommittee first introduced the bylaw proposal to the public, alongside some changes they implemented that were also presented to West Tisbury residents.
According to Look’s presentation, the proposed bylaw would restrict the size of future houses in West Tisbury to 3,500 square feet, alongside a potential extra 2,000 square feet for “accessory floor area” (e.g. detached garages, studios, workshops, etc.). Other aspects of the bylaw include requiring the usage of renewable energy, certain exclusions to the limits (e.g. nonhabitable attics, accessory structures exclusively for agriculture, porches, etc.), and special permits. The bylaw is meant to increase the amount of year-round housing for West Tisbury residents and support the town’s goal of being run by 100 percent renewable energy, among other objectives. The proposed bylaw change also helps to protect West Tisbury’s “rural character.”
A public comment session was held after Look’s presentation. A couple of people asked questions, such as how this bylaw proposal would affect current houses, and whether this was enough time to make a bylaw change proposal and put it on the warrant article for the April town meeting.
Colin Whyte, who operates a company that builds large houses, said he “objects to this whole concept,” with a lengthy justification for large houses, such as the number of people employed in the construction and maintenance of the property, alongside how these properties are usually hidden away in a remote area.
“I think this is … like a chokehold is being placed on landowners,” Ben Hall Jr., an Island attorney, said.
Joanne Cheng, a seasonal Islander, said she “respects what the planning board is trying to do.” However, she wishes the proposed bylaw were “less restrictive.” Cheng does have a property in West Tisbury, and thinks the limitations will restrict her ability to build an addition that will allow her nuclear and extended family of 11 people “to live comfortably” during the summer.
West Tisbury resident Hilary Moore, who has been attending these presentations, thinks that despite the changes implemented by the subcommittee, they are not truly listening to the public.
Attendees Mark Tonn and Scott Stearn expressed concern that there wasn’t enough time between the presentations and the town meeting in April to properly develop a satisfying bylaw change proposal. “I just find it difficult to swallow,” Stearn said.
West Tisbury resident Jefrey DuBard was one of a few voices who spoke in favor of the proposed bylaw change. “I’m amazed we’ve gotten to a point where these square-foot restrictions are considered to be constrictive,” DuBard said. “I just want to remind everyone that the sky is not falling here. They’re putting some restrictions in place that require someone to do a little more work before they build out of the realm. It’s simply erring on the side of preservation … when something is done, it can’t be erased. We can be cautious in what we allow to do, but we can’t undo these things.”
For those who could not attend the meeting, contact Look or the board at email@example.com to make a comment or ask questions.