West Tisbury residents push for better town communication

The community gathered for a visioning session to prioritize issues in shaping the town’s future. 

—MV TImes

Among the various topics townsfolk wanted addressed by West Tisbury government officials, a surprise top contender emerged: better communication from the town. 

West Tisbury hosted a visioning session on April 26 and April 27 at West Tisbury School, where various topics were touched upon by town officials and residents. The visioning process will help in the formation of an updated master plan. 

During an update on the sessions as a select board meeting Wednesday, May 1, West Tisbury planning board chair Leah Smith said that 150 people attended the first night and around 120 people came the following day.  

Smith said attendees were divided into groups to discuss what the town should address in shaping its future, before ideas were consolidated into the most common concerns. 

The issue that came up from nearly every group was a need to improve the town’s communication with residents. 

“That was kind of a hot topic,” planning board member Matt Merry said, saying a number of people wanted improvements to the town website. 

Smith also said some people proposed creating a communications director for the town. 

Of course, creating more affordable and attainable housing was a significant issue as well, with residents saying updating the town’s zoning was likely the path forward. “Housing is always the elephant in the room,” Smith said. 

Other concerns included the protection of the town’s water quality, creating more public spaces to safely walk and gather informally, improving accessibility beyond vehicles, and — as mentioned by the Martha’s Vineyard Diversity Coalition — encouraging more diversity within town governance. 

Smith said these groups will be meeting over the next few months to develop an action plan. She pointed out that some of the topics were already under review by existing town entities. The West Tisbury complete streets committee is looking at creating safer walking areas, for example. 

Merry said that consultant Delia Clark, who facilitated the visioning session, will produce a report about the discussion by the end of June. Additionally, the plan is to reconvene for the visioning process in October, according to Smith. 

Smith also said there was a “substantial representation” of younger residents during the visioning weekend. 

When asked about the participation of the younger generation, Merry, who participated in visioning sessions held by the town over two decades ago when he was in his twenties, said it was less than he expected but the ones who showed up contributed to the conversation.  

“I think people are realizing West Tisbury is an aging community and we need to get [younger people] more engaged,” Merry said.


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