No bids came in for the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank’s former headquarters on 167 Main St. in Edgartown.
The Land Bank’s request for proposals (RFP) set the minimum price at $1.55 million, and said only bids from government and/or nonprofit organizations would be considered. The RFP was made as the Land Bank finalized its move to its new headquarters on Meetinghouse Way in Edgartown.
Land Bank office manager Maureen Hill said during the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission meeting on Monday that there were around 25 inquiries, and roughly five site visits were made by possible buyers, but nobody submitted bids.
This contrasts with the number of unsolicited bids the Land Bank received — “within hours,” according to Land Bank executive director James Lengyel — after their new headquarters purchase was reported by newspapers.
Now the question before the commission was how to proceed with selling the properties. The commission unanimously voted to refer questions to town counsel Ron Rappaport, and return to the topic during its next meeting.
Lengyel said one option was opening up the bidding process beyond governments and nonprofits. If this was the route taken, Lengyel said, the commission would need to consider whether to release a separate RFP for a real estate agent to sell the property on their behalf, or to market it on their own. Lengyel also said it would depend on whether the commission sets a timetable for the sale.
Whatever route the commission takes, a new bid process will be needed to sell the property, since the deadline has passed on the initial RFP. “One can assume, maybe, for nonprofits and government entities, the price was too high,” Aquinnah commissioner Sarah Thulin said.
When Edgartown commissioner Steve Ewing asked whether the property could be leased out, Lengyel said town counsel reviewed the option, and determined it would not be allowed under Land Bank laws.
“That was counsel’s opinion,” Lengyel said. “He said that the Land Bank was created by statute to purchase and manage conservation properties. It has the privilege of owning its own headquarters, but leasing the property to somebody else and acting as a landlord for a nonconservation purpose is not permitted by Land Bank law.”
When Tisbury commissioner Nancy Weaver asked whether the Land Bank would be able to choose whom the winning bid goes to, and not just choose the highest price, Lengyel said he would ask town counsel.
Chilmark commissioner and commission chair Pamela Goff suggested going by the market price, considering the $8 million spent on the Quenomica Point property. “When we were figuring it, we decided it was really equal to building the new garage and getting some of the housing we needed, and what we would clear from the office, so that it would not be a huge drain on our treasury,” she said, adding that the Land Bank should be “fiscally responsible” about their headquarters sale.
Goff also made a point that not all nonprofits are strapped for cash, bringing up the $1.7 million spent by Island Grown Initiative for the Island Food Pantry.
Some commissioners expressed disfavor at selling the property at market price.
“I’m a little uncomfortable with this,” Ewing said. “I think there could be a better use for this property than a single-family home.” Ewing said he plans to speak with individuals in the Edgartown government to try soliciting interest.
Oak Bluffs commissioner Kristen Reimann shared Ewing’s concern. “I feel like the optics of selling this property to the highest bidder and having somebody building their vacation home there doesn’t feel good to me,” she said.
The commissioners agreed it would be best to have town counsel review the legal questions and available options to make a better decision.
I have no idea if this would be a viable option for this building, but the IHT has been able to convert other buildings into apartments. I imagine that has already been considered since there were no bids, but what a great use of a building for a nonprofit!
Why not make it affordable housing? I hear there is a housing shortage on the island
Length said “that the Land Bank was created by statute to purchase and manage conservation properties. It has the privilege of owning its own headquarters, but leasing the property to somebody else and acting as a landlord for a nonconservation purpose is not permitted by Land Bank law.” Can someone explain to me how Donaroma’s setting up a retail landscaping business on Land Bank property in Katama complies with that statement?
Donaroma has given so much to the Island.