Land Bank raises exemption threshold

Commissioners approve projects; amend management plan for Squibnocket Pond Reservation.

Martha's Vineyard Land Bank executive director James Lengyel listening to a question during the public comment segment of the Zoom meeting. —

The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission unanimously approved increasing the threshold that exempts first-time homebuyers from having to pay the 2 percent transfer fee.

The M exemption threshold is set by the Land Bank Commission annually in December. During a meeting Monday, commissioners approved raising the exemption from $595,000 to $715,000.

It comes as the Martha’s Vineyard real estate market exploded in 2020 and 2021, with the median price now at $1.2 million.

“The process of doing that is to look at all of the M exemptions in the previous 24 months in order to see where the market is with respect to M exemptions,” Land Bank executive director James Lengyel said. “Then we compute the median and the mean [of all M exemption transfers], and you [commissioners] decide what you think is a fitting threshold for 2022.” 

In 2021, the median was $640,000, and the mean was $688,000. If only developed dwellings’ M exemption transfers were calculated, the median is $660,000 and the mean is $718,000. 

Land Bank Commission chair Pamela Goff said she was not sure “how meaningful the M exemption is at a certain point, because houses are unaffordable.” Goff said she is concerned that the exemption would eventually only help wealthy people purchase property on Martha’s Vineyard. She does not think this point has been reached yet, but wanted “that to be kind of in the background of how useful an exemption will be.” 

Edgartown commissioner Steven Ewing said that Goff’s concerns should be considered. “But I say we should think about maxing out the most of an exemption that we can,” he said. Ewing suggested an exemption in the realm of $750,000 would be fitting so that the Land Bank could cover as many year-round people as they could. “The houses now on Nantucket are around a couple million bucks, I think, and the houses here are getting up close to that. Or at least a million dollars.”

Oak Bluffs commissioner Kristen Reimann suggested $715,000 for the 2022 M exemption threshold. The commission unanimously approved the motion. 

In other business, the commission unanimously approved a notice of intent from the Woods Hole Group, hired by the Herring Creek Landowners Association, to do dune restoration at Edgartown Great Pond Beach. Lengyel said the planned restoration area is between Crackatuxet Cove and the cut of Edgartown Great Pond, where it is annually drained. The group sent the commission the notice of intent because two parcels of land owned by the Land Bank are in the planned restoration area. 

The commission unanimously approved a $62,500 bid from John Keene Excavation to take down three surplus and rotting buildings at James Pond Reserve in West Tisbury. 

The commission unanimously approved a $79,594.50 bid from Acme Excavation to take down two homes at Tashmoo Preserve in Tisbury.

The commission unanimously approved the Aquinnah Land Bank advisory board’s amended Squibnocket Pond Reservation management plan. The amendment was to allow dogs at the reservation on an “observational basis.” If guests and pets act in an unacceptable manner, the commission will revisit the stipulation. What exactly constitutes unacceptable behavior will be looked at more in the future, so the wording allows the commission flexibility in how they approach the issue. For now, the basic rules are that dogs will need to be leashed year-round, and they are prohibited on the beach from April through August, which is shorebird nesting season. Visitors will be notified at kiosks, and the stipulation will be enforced by rangers. 



  1. Now, if only there was something for sale on the island for under $100,000,000 that isn’t a tear down and rebuild….

  2. Even the Housing Bank bad idea starts at $1m before they tax you 2%. The land bank’s greed for more and more land and their disregard for housing needs know no bounds. But the photo of Scrooge Lengyel is perfect.

  3. Greed? The Land Bank’s goal of preserving some of the most sensitive and ecologically important land on the island and its stewardship that ensures and promotes public use and enjoyment is defined as “greed”? That is a truly fascinating and bizarre take. If you care to take the time to clarify further I’m sure those of us that support and appreciate the Land Bank would love a deeper explanation.

    • How much “preserved” land is enough for the Land Bank to amass? How rich do they have to be, taxing islanders trying to buy homes? There are some great Land Bank properties open to the public– and then there are other properties that the Land Bank purchases or wants to purchase for some overblown “ideal” that goes against what is best for Islanders in these hard times. It’s a shame to see all these millions going to an organization that has reached much of its intended goals and now fails the island by wanting more and more and more.

      My personal experience with the Land Bank and James Lengyel (and I am not the only one– look up what the LB did to Anthony Lewis) was one of dishonesty, sneakiness, and arrogance– over a relatively tiny parcel of landlocked, marshy wetland with no views abutting my property that the Land Bank allowed (and still allows) a private (gazillionarie) family to have exclusive use of. It’s not open to the public and most people don’t even know about it. This has been going on for over a decade, after Mr Lengyel duped the original property owner, now deceased, falsely agreeing that the property (now Land Bank property) would not be used during her lifetime. A private family uses it. I alerted the public that Lengyel lied to them and he then lied and said the property would be open to the public within a short time– I forget how long that broken promise was supposed to be, but surely not 15 years. He unsuccessfully tried to illegally make a public access to that useless, landlocked property on MY property, lol, although he shot himself in the foot on that one. Most people don’t know anything about the Land Bank’s lack of transparency and sneakiness, but if you look beyond properties that the public can access, you will find many unhappy people who feel the Land Bank needs to give up it’s power trip and amassing wealth, caretake what they already own— and they own PLENTY– and put housing needs in the forefront of what’s best moving forward. Seriously, how many wealthy and competing land preservation organizations does the island need and how much preserved land is enough? Land Bank should not be taxing buyers 2 percent of purchase prices anymore. That’s pure greed for an organization that should now be caretaking their properties only. Plenty of people love the Land Bank, though. I am in the minority. But that’s because most people have never made a “deal” with them or been duped by them.

  4. Thank you for the very comprehensive explanation. A lot to unpack there but I will do my best to respond…1) The more preserved land the better in my opinion 2) No one has been forcing people to pay the 2% fee since 1986, they do it willingly – if they didn’t want to pay it they wouldn’t buy a home if the land bank initiative was that off putting or it was cost prohibitive 3) I don’t think they are trying to become rich or amass wealth, that would imply they are sitting on the funds and the recent Squibnocket purchase among many others certainly proves otherwise 4) I don’t understand how conservation of the land is an overblown ideal nor do I understand how they are failing the island by preserving it, frankly I think they are actually doing the exact opposite and championing it 5) how do you define them having reached their intended goals? 6) I am sorry to hear about your personal experience however it is unfair to consider all of their efforts greedy as a result 7) define “plenty” 8) my favorite one as I come across it so often is “put housing needs at the forefront”…why do so many people erroneously pin this on the Land Bank? That is not their mission. Would you be upset that your doctor didn’t fill a cavity during your annual physical? You shouldn’t be because they’re not a dentist just as the Land Bank is not an Affordable Housing organization. And to that end I hope the Housing Bank successfully takes off soon as it definitely is needed, I just don’t understand the misguided vitriol toward the Land Bank along those lines 9) as far as I know the fee has been set at 2% since 1986 correct? They’ve never raised it in 35 years (maybe they’ve tried? Not sure) even during downturns etc, but they are greedy?

    All in all I appreciate your perspective however it seems a paradox to me that an organization that has been preserving pieces of the island for all (mostly, to your point) and is funded by islanders willing to pay the 2% fee to do so can be deemed greedy when their mission is fundamentally charitable and in the best interest of the islanders regarding enjoyment of unique pieces of the island itself. For example, if they hadn’t purchased Red Gate Farm that likely would have been bought by some multimillionaire or billionaire and kept private, and now all of that incredibly special and also historical piece of property can soon be enjoyed by all. Greedy? I just simply and respectfully disagree.

    • Thank you for your opinion and being respectful about it. I disagree with you but will respond only to your points that question if the Land Bank is wealthy. See Philip’s comment. Also, home buyers must pay the 2% tax, which the LB is not allowed to raise. Or else they cannot purchase their home. That signifies paying off someone more than a “willingness”, lol. And I didn’t even use the word, “extortion”. As I said, I am in the minority in my dislike of the LB. Most people are willing to overlook, make excuses, and not know that the LB is a very wealthy and secretive organization. Also, I am a believer in private property and owners rights, which seems at odds with LB tactics at times-/ certainly in my personal experience. At the very least, Lengyel and his secretive tactics have been the guiding force behind LB’s acquisitionings far too long. Any public organization whose leader has been at the helm this long, needs fresh leadership so that the ideals that are important to the island, not to him, can be better realized.

  5. While the Land Bank is dilligent in posting on line their public meetings and allowing zoom attendance every Monday at 3:00 pm I agree, speaking for myself and no other governmental body I am part of, that the “transparency” issue needs to go, minimally, one step further. That step is to make actual recordings of their meetings. Prior to COVID I requested they “old style” cassette playe record or digitally tape their meetings so that a precise reord be keep. The answer was a resounding “No”. During COVID, I have requested publicallymultiple times they simple push the Zoom record button as is so easy to do. The answer again was a resounding “No”. There it is. A rather large organization that is on track to take in $27 million dollars in revenue fees for a second straight fiscal does not keep precise recordings of their meetings.

    • This must be a joke hard to think the LB does not keep public records of their meetings. Another island public group who wants to keep it quiet so very Vineyard. All these island liberals who want to keep secret’s form the public.

      • They keep public records. They just do not keep audio or video recorded copies of meetings. MVTV does not record them. Therefor, someone who does not attend a meeting cannot replay a video r audio recording of it. That being said, any member of the public is able to record their meetings but noone does.

      • The problem with the Land Bank is that have no one on board with any real eal estate experience.
        It is time for a real real estate to step up to the plate?
        Do you have any suggestions?
        This isn’t land problem, it’s a people problem.

  6. Jackie- you know not what yo talk about. Think of all the developments there would be without the land bank. Our fragile aquifer etc. people move here and gain lottery lots Not many Islanders. Do your research. You can’t always get what you want.

    • I certainly do know my experience with the sneaky, wealthy organization. I am a long time homeowner, so my concern isn’t about what I want. The LB isn’t the only preservation game in town, but it is a fine example of “be careful what you wish for”. As I said, I am in the minority, especially relative to the LB cultists. It’s like saying saying something critical about Cronig’s, lol. Happy, healthy holidays!

      • There is so much bad on the Island, why do you stay.
        Your house is worth so much, due to the Land Bank, that you could live like a king, off Isand, where there are no Land Banks.

    • The research is in the Land bank needs to slow down buying more property and open up the property they have to more people. The Land Bank needs to start paying taxes on all the property they have taken off our tax rolls.

      • Who did research, Dr. Green?
        Where was it published?
        Making the LB pay taxes on it’s holdings will be the end of the LB.
        Is that what you want?
        See it’s holdings chopped into 1/4 acre lots?
        Just think of millions real estate sales commissions……

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