New Boys and Girls Club takes shape

Club holds first public meeting with town to discuss collaborative land deal.

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The proposed Boys and Girls Club will be located in lot A. The town will purchase lots B and D. Lot C will be retained by the Norton family. — Courtesy Edgartown town administ

The Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club, Edgartown selectmen, cemetery commissioners, and parks commissioners held their first public meeting to discuss plans for a new Boys and Girls Club. 

The club reached a purchase and sale agreement last spring with the family of Philip (“Jeff”) Norton Jr. The land is in a wooded area off Edgartown–West Tisbury Road, sandwiched between Sweetened Water Farm and town-owned land.

The club then approached the town, which was also looking at the property, and struck a deal to benefit all involved.

Lots A, B, and D were part of the purchase and sale agreement reached last spring. The agreement gave the club 14 months to come up with an agreed-upon price of $135,000 per acre, or $2.8 million for the 21 acres.

The town plans to purchase the 2.3-acre Lot D and the 4.67-acre Lot B from the club for the same $135,000-per-acre price. Lot D would be purchased with Community Preservation funds for $310,500 for the parks department. Lot B would be purchased for $621,000, most likely with free cash, a Proposition 2½ capital exclusion, a Proposition 2½ override, or another option, to provide additional space for the New Westside Cemetery. Lot C, which abuts Edgartown–West Tisbury Road, will be retained by the Norton family. All plans for purchase and creation of easements would have to be approved by town voters.

A Proposition 2½ capital exclusion raises property taxes for a year to fund a specific capital project. A Proposition 2½ override increases property taxes indefinitely, and is usually for an ongoing expense the town needs to fund now and in the future. 

The current club will continue to serve and be open to K-12 students throughout the purchase agreement and eventual construction of the new club.

“A lot of interests align for the campus,” town administrator James Hagerty said. “Just because it’s on the lines does not mean that it’s set in stone. Again, it’s a very fluid plan, and a plan that will fill the intent of a lot of different stakeholders.”

Per the agreement, the club has a 20-foot easement that would connect utilities to the club’s proposed site from Edgartown–West Tisbury Road. The new club site would also have a parking lot with an undetermined amount of spaces that it would share with the town.

“This is a win/win for the town, for the Boys and Girls Club, for the whole Island,” club vice president Norman Rankow said. “We need a bigger space, we need a bigger building; we’re just starting the planning.”

Karyn and Stephen Caliri, managers of Sweetened Water Farm, raised concerns with the development of the site, specifically the removal or alteration of trails used for horseback riding, but the town’s conservation agent, Jane Varkonda, said the town is in talks with the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank to possibly establish trail connections on Lot B.

Rankow assured Anne Fligor, a resident of Marchant’s Path who abuts the proposed club site and the town-owned land, that all utilities would be put underground, and would not disturb any foliage along her property.

Club executive director Jessie Damroth reiterated that plans are in the early stages, and she could not address specifics about future development, lighting, and traffic.

“It’s a home run, it’s a no-brainer in that respect, and the price is right,” Rankow said of the location.

The club provides service to 1,800 K-12 students across the Island, both the year-round population and kids during the summer, busing them in from each school. “We’re managing a lot in a facility that’s crumbling,” Damroth said. 

While several people raised questions about future designs and amenities the club might offer, Damroth reiterated that plans for the facility were “fluid” and in the preliminary stages. Designs and plans for the facility would also have to get approval from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

“This is a great project for the entire Island,” Damroth said. “This is important for Edgartown, this is important for the Vineyard, this is important for the youth of Edgartown and the youth of this Island. This is exciting, and it’s a great opportunity for us all.”

Edgartown selectman Arthur Smadbeck called the project “ambitious,” and one that would serve the entire Island.

“The most important people that we need are you guys,” Smadbeck said to the abutters and members of the public at the meeting. “We need your support. If you support this project, I believe it will be successful. So it’s in everybody’s best interest to make sure that your concerns and your needs and your desires are met … without the abutters being happy about this, this won’t fly in Edgartown.”