Tisbury board considers purchase of West William Street property

Board agrees to MOA that gives it exclusive rights for one month to buy building.

The MVC ruled the West William Street house, built in 1880, cannot be demolished without a public hearing. — Stacey Rupolo

The town could soon be the owner of a dilapidated, albeit, historic building.

On Tuesday, the Tisbury board of selectmen met in closed session for about a half-hour. When board members emerged, they voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of agreement to negotiate a purchase of the building.

“The town has been in discussions with the agent for the property at 55 West William St. regarding the town’s possible purchase of the property,” chairman Larry Gomez said, reading from a prepared statement. “The owner has agreed to memorandum of agreement under which the town will have exclusive rights to negotiate a price and sale agreement at the price of $675,000 until September 29, 2017, and the board has today signed the [MOA] and a copy will be kept by the town administrator.”

Last month, Island Housing Trust pulled the plug on its purchase of the property after the Martha’s Vineyard Commission said it would require a public hearing on a plan to demolish the building. The commission had agreed to expedite the hearing process, but Philippe Jordi, executive director of the trust, said the hearing process could scuttle the nonprofit’s deal to purchase the house.

Both the Tisbury selectmen and the Tisbury Historic Commission had approved the demolition so long as the building was used for affordable housing, a pressing need on the Island.

Selectmen were all smiles after the unanimous vote to negotiate a purchase of the property.

The five bedroom, two bathroom house was built in 1880. Its white paint is peeling badly, windows are broken, and vandals have gotten inside the house. Graffiti is visible scrawled on the inside walls.

Adam Turner, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, told The Times last month why the board felt it was necessary to seek the public’s feedback before agreeing to demolition. “The building is 120 years old. It’s very distinctive. It’s in a prominent location,” he told The Times. “It’s been on every map of the Vineyard since 1880. Of course there should be a public hearing.”

Selectmen did not immediately talk about their plans for the house, but in earlier discussions board members have supported the site as a good location for affordable housing.