‘Doughnut hole’ land swap approved by House

A current map of the Southern Woodlands. The doughnut hole "S" is landlocked by the Land Bank's existing property "F." Once the swap is executed, the Land Bank would absorb "S" and carve out 24 acres connected to the town-owned parcel "O." The "X" and "K" parcels on County Road are listed as town property, but the Land Bank purchased the parcels in 2000.

The colloquial ‘doughnut hole’ property-swap legislation passed through the House of Representatives Wednesday, paving the way for much-needed affordable housing in the town of Oak Bluffs. 

The landmark deal between the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank and Oak Bluffs, initially agreed upon in 2004, swaps two 24-acre parcels in the Southern Woodlands. Under the deal, O.B. offers up the doughnut-hole-shaped, landlocked parcel to be enveloped by surrounding conservation land. The deal remained stagnant, as the property title was waiting to be cleared.

In exchange, Oak Bluffs will receive a parcel that allows road access to existing town property on Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road, next to the YMCA. That property has been targeted for an affordable housing development. 

The House vote was announced in a Wednesday press release from state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth. “As the housing crisis on Martha’s Vineyard continues to push families off the Island, it’s essential that we do everything we can to facilitate more affordable housing development,” Fernandes said in the release. “This legislation not only gives Oak Bluffs the ability to build new units, but also ensures that state-protected conservation land remains safeguarded.” 

“It’s exciting,” Oak Bluffs select board member Brian Packish told The Times in a phone call. “It’s been a long run, but it’s done.” He said the land swap positions the town well in moving forward with developing affordable housing units. 

“Single homes are wonderful, but when you have waitlists with 200, 300, 400 people on them, one house at a time isn’t going to get us there,” he said. 

Regarding the housing crisis, Packish said that he believes the finalized deal “can put a real dent in it,” and hopefully offer some much-needed relief to Islanders. 

The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission executive director, James Lengyel, expressed satisfaction with the finalization of the agreement, as he was quoted in the release: “This swap is another advance for conservation and affordable housing.”

As with any state legislation, it will require approval by the Senate, and then the signature of the governor.


  1. Could someone explain why we can’t find another parcel of land that doesn’t take away from land bank acreage and doesn’t sit over the aquifer? We need to be mindful of septic systems, wastewater and PFAS.

    • Sounds like the land bank acreage comes out the same? They give 24 acres, and get 24 acres. For wastewater, I hope/assume they’ll hook into the town sewer.

      • All sewer including septic clean outs goe through the over burdened Edgartown Wastewater facility or shopped off island. The very unpopular truth is there are too many people .

  2. Thank you Susan always nice to hear from the other point of view which is Always somewhere else but not here. They have only been trying to do this since 2004 probably haven’t discussed it long enough for some. And sounded like the swapping of 24 acres for 24 acres seems reasonable.

    • Bob, it’s not a case of always somewhere else for me. I’ve been an advocate for water protection for decades. It’s disheartening and in some cases egregious when for lack of better planning/siting environmental damages case serious health effects which can’t be remediated. We are learning more about PFAS contamination everyday. In light of that is there another parcel of land with less possibility of contaminating the aquifer.

  3. This all needs to stop!
    Martha’s Vineyard is under no obligation to house those who arrive, decide they want to live here and know they can’t afford it!
    We cannot support this!
    Not environmentally, not the infrastructure , not in health care, not police and fire resources, congestion, quality of life!
    It’s no wonder that as we cater to the ultra wealthy and the last guy off the boat our native population is being forced to leave!

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