Mini-park tops Edgartown selectmen’s agenda

Edgartown selectmen agreed Monday to ask the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank once again to contribute to the purchase of a small park on Main Street.

Charlotte Hall Trust owns the land, known as the “mini-park,” according to assessors’ records. Slightly less than 7,000 square feet, the parcel lies between Edgartown Books and the Edgartown Deli. With benches, walks, cobblestones and trees, it is popular with fundraising groups, townspeople, and tourists.

According to town administrator Pam Dolby, the town entered into a lease in 1979 for an amount equal to taxes on the property. Over the years, the rent rose several times, and the deal changed. This year the town will pay $18,071 in rent, plus the amount of the tax.

Selectmen said they were disappointed to learn the land bank commissioners ruled out funding part of the purchase, citing financial and legal barriers.

“Involving itself in a downtown property such as the mini-park would be a major fiscal shift, one that would be difficult to reverse and one which could upend the Land Bank’s efforts to carry out its mission,” Land Bank executive director James Lengyel wrote in a letter to the selectmen.

“The town has spent a considerable amount of money trying to protect what we consider to be a very important part of the community. We would like to protect the property forever by purchasing it,” selectmen Margaret Serpa and Art Smadbeck wrote in reply, asking the Land Bank to reconsider.

The town has allotted $1.5 million for purchase of the property and wants the Land Bank add some more. The park is assessed at $1.7 million and has been recently appraised at about $2 million, according to Ms. Dolby.

In other action, the board approved $94,704 to pay for services authorized by the library design committee for engineering and design of a new library. Ms. Dolby told selectmen that Nis Kildegard, a town employee working on his own time, provided some services for which he was paid.

“I wasn’t going to sign off on it,” Ms. Dolby said. “There’s a library employee being paid to work on the project. So it doesn’t set a precedent, I would say this shouldn’t happen again,” Ms. Dolby said.

Also, the board voted to write to Dan Donnelly asking if he intends to use the aquaculture lease he holds in Katama Bay. Nick Turner appeared before the board asking for a license to grow oysters. The town has issued its allotment of licenses, but Mr. Turner asked selectmen to look into a provision that requires a leaseholder to actively farm the lot or give up the lease.