A long-planned program meant to encourage private affordable housing efforts in West Tisbury failed to get off the ground at a special town meeting Tuesday, when residents voted against a $250,000 funding request for an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) pilot program run by the affordable housing committee.

Town moderator Daniel Waters called the meeting to order at 6:19 p.m. with a quorum of 140 voters. The town speedily approved a series of minor funding articles before coming to the housing committee request.

Affordable housing committee chair Jefrey DuBard said the program aims to encourage town residents to construct affordable ADUs on their property, which might include garage apartments, basement apartments or similar dwellings. 

“It’s a really wonderful way for us each to be able to contribute,” he said. “But its generally very hard for an individual to do all the legwork.”

The $250,000 request, Mr. DuBard said, would supply forgivable loans of up to $25,000 for predevelopment costs of creating an ADU, as well as going toward hiring an administrator to manage the program.

Affordable housing committee chair Jefrey DuBard spoke in favor of the article. — Zivah Solomon

But attendees at the meeting pointed to a lack of clarity in the plans.

“I am just very confused by this, and it sounds like, I’m sorry, [Mr. DuBard] is too,” said Harvey Garneau.

Kathy Logue, meanwhile, criticized the lack of public hearings and town board engagement in developing the program.

“I don’t think we have ever been a ‘vote now and figure it out later’... kind of town,” she said. “The potential for this program to be a really good and valuable one is there, I just don’t think it’s ready for prime time yet.”

Mr. DuBard argued that speedy action was required to tackle the town’s affordable housing shortage.

“It’s got to be progress, not perfection,” he said.

The article failed in a majority vote, with 24 in favor and 80 against.  

Earlier in the meeting, the town voted in favor of a home rule petition to allow the town to fund affordable housing projects for residents who make up to 150 per cent of the area median income.

The article passed unanimously, with an amendment that Community Preservation Act funds stay restricted to projects benefiting those earning up to 100 per cent of the median income.

An article that would have ended rules at Lambert’s Cove Beach restricting dogs after 10 a.m. on Labor Day, rather than Sept. 15, also failed by majority vote.