W.T. affordable housing committee sees leadership shuffle

401 State Road project hiatus continues.

West Tisbury affordable housing committee member Ted Jochsberger resigned on Tuesday.

Updated October 28

A change in leadership took place in the West Tisbury affordable housing committee during its Tuesday evening meeting, with one committee member taking an unspecified hiatus and another member abruptly resigning. 

Michael Colaneri, who was absent for the meeting, stepped down as chair. 

“Mike is going to step down for a while,” committee member Ted Jochsberger said. “He’s stepping away from the committee. He has some personal issues to address.”

Jochsberger, seemingly unhappy with the reconfiguring of the committee, abruptly resigned later in the meeting. 

However, the committee members were uncertain whether Colaneri was leaving the group, as there was no official communication with the town. Jochsberger was the one who received the information from Colaneri. Colaneri was not immediately available for comment. 

In the meantime, the members needed to elect an interim chair. Committee member Jefrey DuBard talked about how much work Colaneri has put into affordable housing in West Tisbury before making a nomination. 

“As we sort of do a reset and get ourselves on a really productive, collegial, cooperative path forward, the person who I felt has always tried to maintain order, which is something I think is vital for the position of chair, has been Jim Klingensmith,” DuBard said. 

The committee has had issues with how it conducted itself, and even prompted the West Tisbury select board to hold a joint meeting with them to iron out the problems. 

Jochsberger commented that he wished DuBard’s “kind words” were said before Colaneri left, and then nominated committee member Rise Terney, who declined. 

Committee member Lawrence Schubert said having an interim chair allows room to have Colaneri return to discuss his future role on the committee, whether that be as chair again, a member, or leaving altogether.

Klingensmith was voted in 4-0 as the interim committee chair. Klingensmith and Jochsberger, who had been acting as chair in Colaneri’s absence, abstained. 

Jochsberger continued onto the issue of the 401 State Road project, but Island Housing Trust (IHT) board chair Doug Ruskin made a “point of order.” 

“If you’ve just elected an interim chair, should he not take over the meeting?” Ruskin asked.

“That’s fine by me,” Jochsberger said. He made a point about how Klingensmith will need to sign invoices, which Jochsberger has, as the interim chair, and the committee should put on its next agenda the Community Preservation Act funding deadline, before saying, “I am resigning from this committee forthwith. I will send a letter to Cynthia [Mitchell, West Tisbury select board chair] and Jen [Rand, West Tisbury town administrator] very shortly. I’ve appreciated being on this committee, but I can no longer serve it for a number of reasons.”

The committee still had a quorum, four members, but Klingensmith expressed how he did not want Jochsberger “to leave like that.” Klingensmith also said he hopes Colaneri will not really leave the committee, because he considers the former chair as the “locomotive” of the group, and is “just too big of an asset” to lose. 

Committee member Amy Upton said she knows two people who would be interested in joining to fill the gaps. 

In other business, the search for an architectural firm to work with IHT on the 401 State Road project continues. According to Keith McGuire, IHT project manager, while the nonprofit developer “really looks forward to” working on 401 State Road, the progress is on pause while it is figured out how to work with the committee. 

Since South Mountain Co. left the project due to rudeness from some committee members, West Tisbury and IHT have been trying to bring it back. However, the option of finding a new firm to work with is also on the table. 

“I don’t know exactly how quickly we can get a designer on the team, but we want to do it as soon as we can, and we will,” McGuire said. He also suggested planning a process for the project would allow the committee, IHT, and the designer to better understand the goals and ideas alongside being able to provide feedback. When asked by Klingensmith, McGuire said a proposed process could be presented in a couple of weeks to the committee.

Updated with a corrected quote from Doug Ruskin.