No longer stumped by mystery clearing

Property owner says Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road land cleared for farming.

Property on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs was recently cleared. - Lexi Pline

If you’ve driven along the Oak Bluffs portion of Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road, you may have noticed fewer trees across from Norton Farm.

The five to six acres of the 11.8-acre property were recently cleared by owner James (“Jamie”) Norton to make room for additional farmland.

Speaking to The Times by phone on Tuesday, Norton, who lives across the street, said the land was cleared for agricultural purposes, which didn’t require it to go to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. “We may grow hay over there,” Norton said. “We’ve started with the trees, the next project is the rocks.”

The trees were cleared by M.C. Clements Tree Service. The company gets to keep the timber, which Norton says saved him money on clearing costs.

Norton added that the project will be a long one, as the next step is removing the many rocks in the ground. He also quelled rumors that the land might be used by Goodale’s, Eversource, or another business. 

“Nothing is happening quickly,” he said.

The property falls under what is known as Chapter Land, so named because it is taxed at a lower rate under Chapter 61A as agricultural and horticultural land. The status is for land used to grow fruits, vegetables, shrubs, timber, animals, and other agricultural products. Land is eligible for Chapter 61A if it meets a five-acre minimum and has been in agricultural use for at least two years, according to MassWoods, a website for the forest conservation program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

The landowner must also meet annual agricultural sales of at least $500 for the first five acres, and $5 for every additional acre. Forest products are also considered a type of agricultural product, allowing landowners to enroll their land in a 10-year forest management plan.

Oak Bluffs principal assessor MacGregor Anderson told The Times the board of assessors voted to keep the land under Chapter 61A through fiscal year 2020, and that Norton is compliant with the assessors.

Adam Turner, executive director of the MVC, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.