Envisioning West Tisbury’s future

A town planning board member encourages the younger generation to bring ideas. 


West Tisbury is bringing residents together this month to ask a simple yet difficult question: What do you want for your town’s future? 

More than two decades ago, West Tisbury residents gathered together to determine a path forward for their community. Now residents will now have a similar opportunity to voice how they want to shape the up-Island town.

West Tisbury will be hosting a “visioning session” at West Tisbury School on Friday, April 26, from 5 pm to 8:30 pm, and Saturday, April 27, from 8:45 am to 3 pm. 

Part brainstorming effort and part community event, Friday will consist of a potluck dinner, trivia, and the compilation of ideas and topics, while on Saturday the town will continue the discussion and formalize ideas, while also serving breakfast and lunch.

“This event will be a collaborative effort by all members of the community, seasonal and year-round, to identify what is important to us as a community and to document our shared priorities,” an announcement for the event reads. “The data collected — your ideas, opinions, comments and questions — will be an integral part of a new master plan for the town. The visioning results may also influence decisions made by town leaders about bylaws, regulations, and enforcement.”

Last year, West Tisbury voters approved the use of $25,000 to hire consultant Delia Clark to help with the visioning process. Clark, who is from Vermont, has been working with the town through Zoom, according to West Tisbury planning board administrator Jane Rossi. Clark also conducted the visioning process for the town 25 years ago, by compiling data and facilitating the visioning sessions. 

In preparation for next week’s visioning session, the town also established a 23-person visioning committee. 

West Tisbury planning board member Matt Merry, who participated in the earlier visioning session in his mid-twenties, encouraged all people who want to see change or provide ideas for the town to participate in the sessions. “If people don’t participate, then you really don’t know what people want,” he said. 

Merry said the gathered information will help steer the planning board for the next 25 years, and to address changes in the near future. 

When asked whether people’s priorities have shifted over the years, Merry said town residents really wanted to preserve the rural character of West Tisbury during the visioning process 25 years ago. 

“I think in the last 25 years, the planning board has honored that,” he said, adding that it was beneficial to understand what his neighbors wanted. “For planning, it’s certainly better to hear from your constituents than it is to directively govern.”

While Merry can’t be exactly sure what kind of issues residents would want the town to address this time, he expects housing to be brought up, particularly regarding affordability and whether denser neighborhoods were needed in West Tisbury to address the housing supply. 

Although everyone in town is invited to attend, Merry said he particularly hopes the younger generation of West Tisbury residents will help in developing “a road map for their future. 

“I was 25 years old … and I think it was important as a young person to be there,” he said. “I encourage other younger people to join us this time around.”

For those who may need transportation or childcare services for visioning session, contact West Tisbury planning board administrator Jane Rossi at visioning@westtisbury-ma.gov, or 508-696-0149, with further questions.