Martha’s Vineyard Hospital nixes deal to swap clinic for parking spaces


The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has pulled out of a complex land swap involving the state Department of Mental Health (DMH) and a private walk-in clinic. The deal was crafted to create additional parking spaces for hospital employees and provide a clinical foothold for DMH.

Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, Friday confirmed the hospital has cancelled a purchase and sales agreement signed last year for the building and offices of the Vineyard Medical Services walk-in clinic owned by Dr. Michael Jacobs on State Road in Vineyard Haven.

As a result, the hospital will not move forward to create a 106 space parking lot on an approximately 1.7-acre wooded lot set behind the State Police barracks and bordered by Eastville Avenue and Temahigan Avenue DMH owns across from the old hospital emergency room entrance.

Mr. Walsh said the decision to pull out of the deal was based on several factors: the costs associated with meeting state requirements; more than adequate parking space on the current campus; and uncertainty that even if the hospital did acquire the parcel that Oak Bluffs would agree to a zoning change under which it could create parking.

The land swap idea began in December 2006 when the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), the Island’s powerful regional permitting body, approved the construction of a new Martha’s Vineyard Hospital building. That approval came with a list of 68 conditions that included a requirement that the hospital come up with 60 additional parking spaces.

At the time, DMH was very interested in establishing an outpatient behavioral health clinic on the Vineyard. Dr. Jacobs, a veteran Island physician, wanted to sell his building and practice. And the hospital was searching for property to meet the MVC’s parking space requirement, a number based on an early estimate of need for a hospital not yet built.

The hospital began discussions with Dr. Jacobs in Sept. 2007 and signed a purchase and sales agreement on October 28, 2008 conditioned on legislative approval, later received, of the land swap.

The plan that came together was that the hospital would purchase the Vineyard Medical Services property and swap it with DMH. The hospital would get the nearby property, and DMH would get a building that would allow it to open a long-sought Island facility.

A long-time Island internist, Dr. Jacobs said on Monday that he preferred not to comment on the cancellation of the deal. “We are fully operating,” Dr. Jacobs said of the walk-in clinic.

In a telephone conversation Friday, Mr. Walsh described the issues that led the hospital board to have second thoughts about the deal.

He said the state wanted the hospital to have the property surveyed and appraised at a cost to the hospital of approximately $25,000. At the same time, there were clear indications from earlier meetings that convincing voters to rezone the property for hospital use could be a difficult task.

The hospital also purchased a strip of overgrown property off Eastville Avenue that runs alongside the back hospital entrance road on which it plans to construct 49 parking spaces negating any need for employees to cross a road. Even without the new space Mr. Walsh said, current parking is adequate.

Mr. Walsh said the initial thought was that DMH would be able to provide behavioral health services once it acquired the new property. He said there is no money in the state budget for that.

“All the benefits that were going to come out of the deal got to be very uncertain,” Mr. Walsh said.