Committee pushing special town meeting after ADU rejection 

West Tisbury affordable housing committee will petition for spot on special town meeting.

West Tisbury officials are narrowing down on a pilot program to build accessory dwelling units. — MV Times

Updated March 15

Sparks flew at a West Tisbury affordable housing committee meeting Tuesday night, as members of the group debated whether to petition for a special town meeting warrant article relating to accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

During a West Tisbury Select Board meeting on March 8, the select board voted to remove a pilot program drafted by the affordable housing committee from the upcoming town meeting. The program would have incentivized residents to build affordable housing on their property by offering $25,000 grants to property owners to cover preliminary costs. In exchange, the owner would lease the unit at a monthly rent capped at 140 percent of the area median income rental rates.

The select board said they voted to hold off on putting the pilot program out to voters because the program documents were not fully fleshed out.

At Tuesday’s affordable housing committee meeting, interim chair Jefrey DuBard thanked the group for working together on the pilot, and said although he is disappointed with the select board’s decision, he understands and honors the process. “The most important point of discussion is where we go from here,” DuBard said. “I have received many calls from people who wish that we go forward and push for a special town meeting.”

Committee member Ivory Littlefield said he thinks the preliminary documents for the ADU pilot could have been written in a more easily digestible way. “If I was someone who showed up at town meeting and just read the article right there, it wouldn’t have made a lot of sense to me without further explanation in the warrant itself,” Littlefield said.

Interim vice chair Amy Upton said maybe the program wasn’t quite ready to be finalized and voted on, but she was discouraged mostly by the “unwillingness on the part of the select board and the [Municipal Housing Trust] to have a discussion with all the people who showed up and spent their volunteer time to give us feedback.”

Upton suggested garnering support and input from townspeople, and continuing to petition to have the pilot program warrant article placed on a special town meeting warrant in the fall. 

“We want to work with our select board, but we don’t want to put off another year on this,” Upton said. “Now is the time to have this discussion.”

Committee member Michael Colaneri said the town presently has a bylaw that allows for ADUs. He said a ZBA special permit is the acting covenant that the ADUs fall under, and West Tisbury has a monitoring system that’s working already. 

“There is already $900,000 in the trust, so if the trust wanted to do something, it could still do it,” Colaneri said.

But DuBard said that money contained in the trust cannot be used to alter the AMI restriction and go up to 140 percent, as is the goal of the proposed pilot program. DuBard said Colaneri should have attended previous meetings where discussions were had around this topic. Colaneri abruptly cut DuBard off, saying “I’ve participated for 40 years. I have missed some previous meetings for a number of reasons, many of them personal.”

“To go back and say that now is the same as it was 40 years ago is absolutely off base — it’s a different landscape and a different environment. Mike, you are not fully informed,” DuBard responded.

In another tense back-and-forth, after DuBard was appointed interim chair unanimously, a follow-up motion was made by DuBard that Upton be appointed interim vice-chair. Colaneri said he is uncomfortable with DuBard and Upton holding two leadership spots at the same time. 

“I feel uncomfortable with the two of you being in charge, to be honest with you. Jefrey I can tolerate a little bit of, but the two of you being in charge, I can’t go along with that,” Colaneri said. “After reviewing your meeting with the select board, I think you two are up to something.”

Colaneri went on to say that he is suspicious that the ADU program was spearheaded by DuBard and Upton, and now that the select board has denied their request for a warrant article, they are petitioning. “Next thing you know, I hear you are doing a petition, you want to get signatures, you want to do all these other things. You tell us you want to get the support of the selectmen, yet you do stuff like this. I just find it a little strange,” Colaneri said. 

DuBard said Colaneri wasn’t involved in any of the recent discussions, and that the entire group was working on getting the warrant article on a special town meeting. “It wasn’t just the two of us, Amy and me. It was most everyone here on this call, including Skipper, in his role as a member of the trust,” DuBard said. “I leave it up to the group to vote as they feel appropriate.”

Colaneri voted against appointing Upton as vice-chair, and committee member Rise Terney dropped off the meeting, so a discussion ensued as to which alternate member should be allowed to vote in her place.

Simon Bollin, an alternate member, said generally the order the two alternates vote in depends on when they were sworn in. DuBard suggested taking the votes of both alternates, just to cover all bases. Bollin voted yes, and alternate member Kanta Lipsky voted yes to appoint Upton.

Updated to correct a quote from Amy Upton mentioning the Municipal Housing Trust. All subsequent references to “the trust” refer to the Municipal Housing Trust. –ed.


  1. With the number of bedrooms limited on residential lots due to wastewater disposal constraints, how do you add “accessory dwelling units” without adding bedrooms? Especially since sewering is not an option in West Tisbury.

  2. Hi Carla, Please stay tuned. We are hoping to schedule some Q and A sessions this spring to discuss the details of the program. As with any community development pilot program, getting feedback from the community it is intended to serve, is the most important aspect of proposing an article at Town Meeting. I am speaking for myself when I say that I didn’t think we were quite ready to present this important initiative at our scheduled Town meeting. My real concern is that we not put this critically relevant issue off for another whole year, and run the risk of it falling by the wayside. Let’s talk about it right now and ask our representatives to consider our rights as residents and voters to bring this issue in front of the Town at a Special Town Meeting before another year goes by. So many beloved members of our community with nowhere to live quite literally can’t wait any longer.

Comments are closed.