Record of accomplishment
We report this week on the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank's performance in 2005. The record shows, as it has consistently since the public conservation agency was created in 1986, that this is a taxpayer-supported enterprise that does what it was established to do, and that it does so efficiently, economically, and responsively. The Land Bank gets things done.
Last year, the Land Bank added 204 acres at a cost of $22.5 million. Transfer fee revenue exceeded $12 million, and the Land Bank commissioners, led by their exemplary director, James Lengyel, spent that money wisely and leveraged it to the advantage of Vineyarders. Since it began, the Land Bank has added more than 2,600 acres to the public treasury.
Of course, 2005 was a very good year. Real estate is booming, and while tax revenue from real estate transactions funds the preservation work of the Land Bank, booming real estate sales also put pressure on the Land Bank to work steadily, and sometimes quickly, to acquire important properties before they are off the market or too impossibly pricey.
Since 1989, when this newspaper began systematically analyzing real estate transactions, the upward pressure on property values has been relentless, though not always as overheated as has been the case in the last 10 years. There is no reason to think this trend will abate, especially when conservation efforts, including but not limited to the Land Bank, plus subsidized affordable housing efforts, and heavy development regulation add to property price inflation. All of these initiatives, apart from achieving their distinct goals, have the effect of supporting and increasing the value of Vineyard real estate. The market's appetite for Vineyard property is fierce, but the market is not the sole driver of the Vineyard real estate boom.
Of course, the Land Bank, even well-supplied with revenue, cannot assure the protection of every bit of land that ought to be in the public domain. There must be sellers who value the long-term protection of their property.
"The Land Bank continues to be grateful that sellers are willing to sell their properties into conservation and add to our nice network of public lands," Mr. Lengyel told Times news editor Nelson Sigelman this week. "The Land Bank will be opening up more public properties soon, and I expect that Islanders will enjoy visiting them very much."
Indeed we will.
As last year ended, the Land Bank was negotiating to buy Island property worth a total of more than $67 million. Islanders have an immeasurably important stake in each of these possible acquisitions, and in a broader sense, in the success of the Land Bank, the only conservation organization on the Vineyard whose goals exactly match the goals of Island voters. Based upon its record of achievement, such as we describe this morning, Islanders have a great, and justified, faith in the Land Bank as a champion of their interests.