West Tisbury bylaw proposal goes to town meeting


The West Tisbury planning board unanimously approved the proposed bylaw that would limit the size of houses in town. The proposed bylaw was brought before them by Preserve West Tisbury, a subcommittee of the planning board.

Samantha Look, a member of Preserve West Tisbury, said further edits were made after the previous meeting, which brought a lot of criticisms from the audience about the limitations the bylaw placed on property owners. Preserve West Tisbury sent a draft of the proposed bylaw to the planning board with the edits based on previous feedback. For example, projects would need to minimize fossil fuel use under this bylaw.  

The bylaw would not affect any houses currently under construction because even if voters support it at town meeting, the state attorney general has to sign off on the bylaw, according to planning board member Bea Phear. 

Preserve West Tisbury members Reid Silva and Look brought up that building projects that don’t comply with the bylaw are at-risk during the “at-rest period” between when a yet-to-be scheduled public hearing is posted and when the attorney general approves it due to the uncertainty of when the approval will arrive and when the project would be finished. Additionally, permitting issues could arise since the proposed bylaw requires special permits for houses over 3,500 square feet. Silva suggested some leniency around this matter. However, planning board member Amy Upton disagreed, saying this was a “slippery slope.”

“We don’t want to set something up where we’re letting out some of the last few big horses out of the barn and then close the door,” Upton said. “That seems unfair … I guess I’m uncomfortable saying ‘yes, you last few sirs, sirs, sirs, lords and ladies. Off you go. Build your castle.’” 

After some back and forth among the planning board and Preserve West Tisbury members, planning board member Matt Merry suggested a compromise that “pending the attorney general approving this bylaw [in the scenario it passes at town meeting], anything after June 1 would be required to go through with the Preserve West Tisbury bylaw regulations.” Merry said the permitting process takes about three to four months so the bylaw implementation would occur in time after the town meeting vote. 

Merry’s suggestion was approved 4-1, with Upton being the only dissenting member. She said she thought more people will rush in applications to build houses before the bylaw implementation date. 

The board then unanimously voted to approve the bylaw proposal as written with the new provision. 

West Tisbury planning board administrator Jane Rossi told the Times a public hearing will happen after town counsel has looked over the entire warrant article and returns it to the board. 

A copy of the draft bylaw proposal can be found at the West Tisbury website