Oak Bluffs considers old library swap proposal
The Oak Bluffs selectmen this week said that they would consider an offer to exchange the old town library on Pennacook Avenue for land at 60 Pacific Avenue, the former BFI transfer station.
In a letter sent to Michael Dutton, an Oak Bluffs selectman, on Jan. 10, Frank Fenner, a Chilmark selectman who owns the Pacific Avenue land, offered to trade his property for the old library plus another, unspecified town-owned building lot. The selectmen briefly discussed the letter at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday evening, but took no action.
Yesterday the selectmen said that they plan to meet with Mr. Fenner to discuss a possible deal. Mr. Dutton said that Mr. Fenner 's offer is just one possible arrangement. "Mr. Fenner has made this initial offer as a swap," he said. "We will certainly continue to have a discussion with him. If we find that that piece of property is something that is important for the taxpayers to own then we will continue that discussion, but there is nothing that prevents us from working out some other deal, such as buying that property instead of swapping it. There is a lot still up in the air and a lot to talk about."
Selectman Duncan Ross said that Mr. Fenner's property, located just down the street from the town hall and the new Oak Bluffs Library, could be a useful asset to the town. "With what I know right now, I think that the deal could be a good thing for the town," he said. "There are several possible uses for that property, and it is a matter of sitting down with Mr. Fenner and talking about what kind of a deal we can come up with."
Any deal the selectmen reach with Mr. Fenner would have to go before the voters on a town meeting warrant for approval. Mr. Dutton said that if a deal is reached, the selectmen could place an article on this April's annual town meeting warrant.
The old town library is currently vacant. Both Mr. Dutton and Mr. Ross said that the town has no plans to use the building, which is in need of repairs. "From my perspective the town really does not have a municipal need for that building," Mr. Dutton said.
However, Mr. Dutton said that there could be benefits from acquiring Mr. Fenner's property. "I think that it would be helpful for us to be able to guide the future use of that property," he said.
"If we have a municipal need for it, which could be very possible, |it would be more than likely a very low impact use."
According to Mr. Fenner's letter, his property has an appraised value of $544,300. The town library is assessed at $577,300, an amount that Mr. Fenner questioned.
He wrote, "After reviewing the appraisal and 82 Pennacook, I wonder if the appraiser really looked at the building... The floor is leaking in a number of places, doors, windows, framing, trim, shingling, foundation, etc. all need attention."
Mr. Fenner's property on Pacific Avenue has been the site of some controversy. For years BFI used the location as a trash-hauling substation, but last spring the Massachusetts Court of Appeals upheld a Superior Court ruling that declared the commercial use of the property illegal under the town's zoning bylaws. In May, BFI closed the Oak Bluffs depot and moved to a new site in Vineyard Haven.
In his letter to the Oak Bluffs selectmen, Mr. Fenner said that he has put off selling or developing the property until the town decides whether or not it wants the land. He wrote, "I have had other interested parties call me about 60 Pacific Avenue and I have told them all that I wanted to give the town a chance first, so now is the time to act if you want this property."
Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Fenner said that he does not have any plans for the old library, should the town agree to a swap. "I don't have any thought right now for the old library," he said. "I'm just focusing on my property now. I am either going to develop or sell that land, and I thought that I should give the selectmen the opportunity to do something with it first."