Edgartown selectmen reacted sharply Monday after learning that state Sen. Julian Cyr and Rep. Dylan Fernandes had co-filed legislation to establish a Martha’s Vineyard housing bank — nearly three months before the matter was set to come before voters.

“They jumped the gun on this one,” Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck said at the board’s weekly meeting.

An advisor from Senator Cyr’s office said by phone Monday evening that the legislation was a preemptive measure in the event that Island towns vote in favor of the housing bank at annual town meetings this spring.

“The legislation . . . . is [a] placeholder bill that was filed pending the outcome of what the town meetings vote on,” said Leslie Sandberg. “If they vote for it, the legislation will move forward. If they don’t vote for it, it won’t go anywhere else.”

A heated campaign is now under way on the Island to push for passage of a housing bank bolstered by funds from the recently enacted short-term rental tax law. Selectmen in the three down-Island towns have begun to mount their own vigorous opposition to the idea, calling it premature and financially risky.

Proponents of the housing bank successfully petitioned for two articles to go on every annual town meeting warrant this spring — one to establish the housing bank, one to use 50 per cent of the short-term rental tax to fund it — via a home rule petition through the state legislature

Earlier this year, Edgartown selectmen joined with Oak Bluffs selectmen to send a letter to Mr. Cyr and Mr. Fernandes opposing the legislation.

“Both the Edgartown board of selectmen and finance advisory committee . . . have unanimously voted to not recommend the housing bank,” the letter said in part.

Tisbury selectmen have also said they oppose the bill.

On Monday, Mr. Smadbeck and selectman Margaret Serpa said they were disappointed to learn that the Cape and Islands delegation had filed the bill months ago, against the expressed wishes of local government.

“It turns out that they filed it back in January and never told us,” Mr. Smadbeck said. “In fact, even when we had discussions with them they were very evasive. I don’t know why they didn’t at least let us know they were going to file this legislation.”

He said it was unusual for representatives to file legislation on behalf of towns without the approval of selectmen or town voters. He also said that after the selectmen sent their letter opposing the bill, he received a phone call from Mr. Fernandes complaining about the letter.

In response, Mr. Smadbeck and Ms. Serpa agreed Monday to send another letter reiterating the board’s position on the bill and requesting that the legislators inform them the next time they file legislation relevant to the town.

“Look, in the future, if you’re going to file legislation on behalf of our town, have the courtesy to come here and find out what we think about it,” Mr. Smadbeck said.

The bill, filed in both the house and senate, would establish a regional entity, structured similarly to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, for the purpose of preserving and creating year-round housing on Martha’s Vineyard. The bill is virtually identical to the town meeting warrant article set to go before voters this month and next.

There is no language in the bill regarding the funding source for the housing bank, although a second warrant article on every town warrant asks voters to earmark 50 per cent of the short term rental tax money for funding.

Ms. Sandberg said because the filing deadline for home rule petitions precedes town meetings on Martha’s Vineyard, filing the bill early would allow Mr. Cyr and Mr. Fernandes to shepherd the bill through the legislative process without having to wait until the next legislative session.

She said it does not mean Senator Cyr endorsed or supported the bill.

“We support what our constituents on Martha’s Vineyard want,” Ms. Sandberg said. “We’re agnostic about it because of the fact that we have to wait to see what will happen at the town meetings.”

The bill had been scheduled for a joint hearing on April 9 — the same day as annual town meetings in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury. Ms. Sandberg said late Monday that it had been taken off the agenda.

“It was a mistake,” she said.