Less than a week after The Times reported little to no progress in a land swap between Oak Bluffs and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, the Land Bank Commission suddenly added the issue to its agenda under “new business,” and unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement Monday to complete the so-called “doughnut hole” deal. The agreement will now be sent to Oak Bluffs selectmen for approval.
The agreement gives the Land Bank an April 2, 2021, deadline to file joint legislation with Oak Bluffs and petition the state legislature to authorize the 17-year-old land swap, and requires the town to set the Land Bank as owners of two parcels along County Road. In addition, the Land Bank will not take action on a third County Road parcel until the town reaches “a conclusion as to how its water supply planning may or may not involve this lot.”
The agreement comes following a Times story on Feb. 17 detailing the byzantine land swap. The Land Bank Commission added the agreement as a last-minute agenda item Monday.
The doughnut hole, nicknamed because it lacks access from public roads, is a 24-acre parcel of land in the Southern Woodlands area of Oak Bluffs, landlocked by a large swath of conservation land owned by the Land Bank. In 2004, the town and the Land Bank struck a deal to give the doughnut hole to the Land Bank. In exchange, the town would gain a newly-carved-out 24 acres abutting an existing eight-acre town parcel with frontage on Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road.
The deal would give the Land Bank a more continuous chunk of land in conservation, while the town would gain 24 acres, likely to be used for affordable housing.
Oak Bluffs Land Bank representative Kristen Reimann said she reviewed the agreement with Land Bank executive director James Lengyel last week. “At this point, the selectmen know it is coming their way,” Reimann said.
She added that the agreement allows for the town to review and ensure the location of the land swap is exactly where it makes sense for town planning.
“I think it sounds like a good solution to get things double-tracked here,” Land Bank chair and Aquinnah representative Sarah Thulin said. “Get them both done.”
At a meeting Tuesday, town administrator Robert Whritneour told selectmen he received the agreement. Selectmen will vote on signing the letter at a meeting on March 1.
Selectman Brian Packish said he has been in contact with Reimann, and that the agreement captures what the town has already voted on.
“It’s a pretty clean palette, in my opinion,” Packish said. “It’s a culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people. I don’t care who gets the trophy, all I care about is this is completed on the behalf of the taxpayers of Oak Bluffs.”
Selectman chair Jason Balboni concurred. “The town gets the trophy of all those acres,” Balboni said.