The Island Housing Trust (IHT) announced Wednesday it has combined forces with the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank to purchase a 15-acre parcel off State Road in Tisbury for $1.2 million. The two agencies joined together to “create year-round workforce housing with the strategic conservation of open space,” according to a press release.
The property off State Road near the Scottish Bakehouse is bisected by Red Coat Hill Road, an ancient way. IHT will propose an affordable housing development on six acres south of Red Coat Hill Road.
“The IHT intends to develop a neighborhood of 11 energy-efficient duplexes similar in design to the ones built at Sepiessa in West Tisbury, which have been well received by the community,” IHT executive director Philippe Jordi told The Times on Wednesday.
IHT sold the Land Bank an exclusive-use easement for the nine acres north of Red Coat Hill Road for $600,000, which entitles the land conservation agency to use the property as if it owns it. The parcel can be used for septic and wells for the affordable housing, provided IHT restores the land to a natural state, according to Land Bank executive director James Lengyel.
Failed effort resurrected
The parcel is part of a 24-acre property that was originally owned by the Norton family. In 2002, representatives of several Island religious organizations formed the nonprofit Bridge Housing Corporation and launched an initiative to build Bridge Commons, a Chapter 40B affordable housing project.
The corporation secured a loan for nearly $1.7 million from Boston Community Capital to buy a 14.8-acre Tisbury site at State and Deer Hill roads on which to build 22 homes in 11 two-family buildings.
The Land Bank opted to purchase the remaining nine acres, now part of Ripley’s Field Preserve.
In an option dated June 1, 2002, Bridge Housing agreed to pay the Norton family $2,000,000, subject to added payments that accrued until closing. The Bridge Commons project received approval from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in 2003 and Tisbury’s zoning board of appeals in 2004, and won court appeals brought by neighbors.
Closing finally occurred in 2007, resulting in two deeds, one to the Land Bank and one to Bridge, for an aggregate payment of $2,337,808.
In 2009, the Bridge Housing Common board announced a decision to put the Tisbury property on the market because the project had run out of financial resources and they could not repay the site purchase loan.
Continuing efforts to salvage Bridge Housing subsequently failed, and the land went into foreclosure. It was then bought by Boston Community Capital.
The power of one
Mr. Lengyel said that negotiations between Boston Community Capital, the Land Bank, and IHT began in February. “Both the Land Bank and the Island Housing Trust negotiated as a team with Boston Community Capital,” he told The Times. “We agreed we’d pay $1.2 million and split the cost 50/50.”
Mr. Lengyel said the initial spark for the deal came in November 2014 from a “citizen’s request” — a call to the Land Bank suggesting it purchase the property.
“We have a philosophy that anyone can call here at any time and say, ‘You should look at this land,’ but we don’t record the calls, per our policy, and I don’t believe the caller left a name,” he said.
In December the Land Bank said it was not interested in buying all of the property, but would be open to a cooperative acquisition with some affordable housing entity. In February, the IHT and Land Bank teamed up and began negotiations with Boston Community Capital.
Boston Community Capital is a nonprofit community-development financial institution that has invested over $1 billion in affordable housing and job creation in low-income communities since 1985, according to the company website.
“This never would have been possible without Boston Capital’s willingness to take a loss,” Mr. Jordi said. “They wanted to make the deal work because their mission is aligned with ours.”
The Land Bank has had a busy September. Earlier this month the commission announced the purchase of 22.6 acres along Pepperbush Way in West Tisbury for $2,350,000.
“Our acquisitions tend to come in clumps,” Mr. Lengyel said. “We can go stretches without any deals, but for some reason, they often happen all at once.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank is funded by a 2 percent surcharge on most real estate transfers. It is limited by its enabling legislation to land purchases for recreational and conservation purposes. That has not stopped it from cooperating with housing groups to create affordable housing opportunities, according to a Land Bank account.
In 1991 the Land Bank and the Dukes County housing authority cooperatively purchased land off Clam Point Road in West Tisbury; the housing authority obtained a three-acre site at a price of $18,420, on which it constructed four affordable rental units, and the Land Bank created the Sepiessa Point Reservation on the balance.
In 1992 the Land Bank and the town of Chilmark cooperatively purchased land off Tabor House Road in Chilmark; the town obtained 28 acres for various municipal goals, one of which was realized by the creation of two affordable house lots, and the Land Bank created the Peaked Hill Reservation on the balance.
In 1999 the Land Bank and the town of Edgartown cooperatively purchased land off Eighteenth Street in Edgartown; the town obtained 57 acres for various municipal goals, one of which was realized by the creation of the Morgan Woods affordable housing development, and the Land Bank created the Pennywise Preserve on the balance.
In 2003 the Land Bank and the Island Affordable Housing Development Corporation (IAHDC) cooperatively purchased land off Lobsterville Road in Aquinnah; the IAHDC obtained a 0.5-acre site at a price of $57,715, on which it created an affordable housing ground lease, and the Land Bank incorporated the balance into its Gay Head Moraine reservation.
In 2003 the Land Bank and town of Aquinnah cooperatively targeted land on Old South Road in Aquinnah; the town created two affordable house lots, and the Land Bank incorporated the balance into its Gay Head Moraine reservation.
In 2004 the Land Bank and the Island Housing Trust Corporation (IHTC) cooperatively purchased land off Takemmy Path in Tisbury; the IHTC obtained a one-acre site at a price of $48,430, on which it sited three affordable housing ground leases, and the Land Bank incorporated the balance into its Wapatequa Woods Reservation.
In 2006 the Land Bank purchased, for $15,714, a conservation restriction from the Island Housing Trust Corporation (IHTC) at its Twin Oaks site at the roundabout in Oak Bluffs, as part of a plan creating three affordable housing ground leases; the conservation restriction was incorporated into the Land Bank’s Weahtaqua Springs Preserve.
In 2007 the Land Bank and the Island Housing Trust Corporation (IHTC) cooperatively purchased land on State Road in West Tisbury; the IHTC obtained a four-acre site at a price of $350,168, on which it sited eight affordable housing ground leases on Eliakim’s Way, and the Land Bank incorporated the balance into its John Presbury Norton Farm.
In 2013 the town of Chilmark obtained, at no cost, four affordable house lots abutting the Land Bank’s Tiasquam Valley Reservation as a result of a tripartite agreement involving the transfer of various properties among and between it and the Land Bank and a private family.