Land Bank '06 revenue down
The Martha's Vineyard Land Bank created or expanded 10 properties in 2006, a year in which transfer fee revenues decreased by 7.1 percent over the previous year, according to the public conservation agency's year-end report.
The state legislature created the Land Bank in 1986. Land Bank income comes from a two-percent fee on most real estate transfers. That accounted for $11,690,979 in 2006, a drop of $897,000 from 2005.
Land Bank executive director James Lengyel said the drop represented the combination of two factors - real estate values did not increase, and fewer properties were sold last year.
The dip came as no surprise, said Mr. Lengyel, and was less of a decline than the 15 percent projected in the 2006 budget. The $11.5 million in new revenue, combined with $9.7 million available, leaves the conservation agency with significant cash available for outright purchases or for debt service on loans to purchase new properties.
According to the report, the Land Bank is currently in active negotiations to purchase various properties whose aggregate value exceeds $46 million.
But that figure may be more of a wish list than an actual target. Mr. Lengyel said that in 2005, the corresponding number was $63 million, of which only a portion was actually spent.
In total, the Land Bank purchased 110 acres in 2006, in 10 properties at a total cost of $20,721,699. The largest single purchase in terms of acreage was Uncle Leonard's Farm, 21.1 acres in West Tisbury at the head of Tisbury Great Pond's Muddy Cove, sold by James Athearn for $1,200,000.
The single most expensive piece was Ocean View Farm Preserve, 18.1 acres in Chilmark in Abel's Hill sold by Jonathan Leavy for $7,025,000.
Land Bank purchases and management plans are approved jointly by the local Land Bank advisory board, made up of appointed members in each town, and the elected Land Bank commission.
Mr. Lengyel said the biggest challenge for the Land Bank remains finding exciting properties "that have useful conservation qualities and are reasonably priced."
The Land Bank sometimes finds that the asking price for a property is more than it can afford, or in some cases, the asking price is well above what the public agency considers reasonable, although not high enough to deter a wealthy private buyer.
Mr. Lengyel said that the effort to purchase properties for public enjoyment is always subject to disappointment, and 2006 was no different. "The Land Bank is used to having its hopes dashed," he said, "so if there is a property that we find is above our means we will try to buy less of it, or try to find someone to buy it cooperatively with us, or shelve it for a while."
According to a budget summary, in 2006 the Land Bank spent $338,875 on administrative expenses, $552,653 on land management, and $2,835,261 on debt service.
The elected Land Bank commissioners are: Carlos Montoya, Aquinnah; Pamela Goff, Chilmark; Glenn Hearn, West Tisbury; Thomas Robinson, Tisbury; Priscilla Sylvia, Oak Bluffs; and Edward Vincent Jr., Edgartown. Edith Potter of Edgartown is a state-appointed member of the commission.