West Tisbury shoring up ADU pilot proposal

The town’s affordable housing committee is aiming to put a pilot program to voters in the fall that would incentive the apartments.

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

West Tisbury officials are solidifying a document they hope to put to voters that would create a pilot program incentivizing homeowners to build attached apartments — known as ADUs.

The program would offer residents $25,000 grants to cover upfront costs of building the apartments. In exchange, the owner would lease the unit at a monthly rent capped at 140 percent of the area median income rental rates. 

An article that would fund the pilot was cut from the most recent town meeting warrant due to a lack of clarity.

During Thursday’s joint meeting with members of the West Tisbury affordable housing committee and select board, the group spent time clarifying some points of confusion with town administrator Jen Rand and Martha’s Vineyard Commission housing planner, Laura Silber. Questions about how the group should move forward in creating a document ready for primetime, along with how such an ADU program would be administered if funding is approved, dominated the discussion. 

The committee is aiming to have something ready for a fall town meeting.

Silber, along with senior MVC planner, Bill Veno, are working with West Tisbury officials at the request of the affordable housing committee to review a redline document that will be presented to the committee and finalized. 

The big question raised by Silber at Thursday’s meeting was whether to entertain the idea of hiring an entity to assist in creating a comprehensive and informative outline that townspeople can review before taking their votes in the fall. 

Silber suggested that instead of looking at putting out a Request for Proposals for an administrator to run the program right off the bat, they should instead put out a Request for Qualifications that allows organizations like The Resource Inc., Island Housing Trust, and other housing entities to review the draft scope of the program to make sure everything is in order before it goes to voters. 

“My concern is that, by putting out an RFP, you are pretty much blocking the entities that hold the most information on how to create programs like this,” Silber said. “The communities that have programs like this have either been created by a professional housing department within the town, or by a housing authority much larger than [the Dukes County Housing Authority]…” Affordable housing committee member, Jefrey DuBard, noted that the discussion of a larger, ongoing program and how that would be preliminarily developed is beyond the scope of the 10-unit pilot program that the group is shooting for. But Silber said that, even with the pilot program, having the help of professionals who know the ins and outs of affordable housing law and can access federal and state matching funds, would be a boon early in the process. 

Rand said she thought it was the commission’s job to assist the committee in creating the full outline for the program that will go to voters for funding. 

“Then once that funding is approved, it will be used to hire the professional to administer the program that was created by the commission,” Rand said. She stressed that putting out an RFQ to hire a consultant like The Resource Inc or Island Housing Trust isn’t related to the administration of an ADU program, but the development of a better document that will make the goals of the program clearer to voters. Hiring an entity to run the program entails a separate procurement process.

Select board member Cindy Mitchell suggested taking a break from the topic of development versus administration to establish a timeline “that theoretically ends with a fall town meeting warrant article,” she said. “Typically our fall town meetings are around early November. That’s to capture as much undone business that needs to be done before the tax rate is finally set.” Mitchell proposed scheduling the fall town meeting somewhere in that timespan. 

West Tisbury voters supported a visioning process for the ADU pilot program at the recent town meeting, and planning board appointee to the affordable housing committee, Amy Upton, said now is a good time to start considering good forums to get information on this initiative out to the public. 

“The planning board, the League of Women Voters, the Ag Hall farm group — there are a number of different venues we could bring this to,” Upton said. 

Rand reminded the group that the visioning procurement must first be approved by the planning board, then the search for qualified candidates begins. “Unless the planning board has the final scope of work completed very quickly, that won’t go out to bid until after May 22, because I will be out of the office for two weeks,” Rand said. 

The group agreed to resume the conversation at their next joint meeting, at which point the document and next steps will be more crystalized.


  1. If you really want to help affordable housing, a better approach would be allowing half acre or three-quarter acre Zonning. Your 3 acre zoning has done exactly what you wanted to do. Cut down on the amount of buildable lots in your town. A 3 acre lot could easily support six separate homes for six needy families.

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