Officials from Dukes County and the town of Edgartown have expressed interest in purchasing the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank’s former headquarters.
Edgartown is considering using the Main Street building for municipal employee housing, while Dukes County is looking at the location for a potential government office.
Both interests were expressed during a Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission meeting on Monday.
The Lank Bank received zero bids for its former headquarters at 167 Main St. in Edgartown after the organization issued a request for proposals for the site, although there were inquiries and site visits. The commissioners last month decided to weigh their options, and unanimously voted to refer questions to town counsel Ron Rappaport.
On Monday, Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty proposed using the property as housing for municipal employees.
“This is kind of a very conceptual idea that has been discussed on some level in Edgartown, as well as discussed with stakeholders who could support us in the endeavor,” he said, adding there is a lot of “legalese” when it comes to municipal employee housing, particularly with changing the use of the property and potential funding.
Hagerty also presented the suggestion to the Edgartown Select Board during their meeting on the same day.
“I know Nantucket has done some pretty significant push for their municipal housing,” Hagerty said. “I know other towns on the Island are in discussion with various nonprofits to attain affordable municipal housing for various staff, i.e. teachers, police officers, various entities within town hall that support all of the town.”
Hagerty said it was feasible to make a more detailed plan, especially if the town worked with the Martha’s Vineyard’s affordable housing community.
“I think overall whatever happens … that location, this close to town, and close to various town agencies and priced at a million and a half or less, it would be a shame if it went to a private sale and turned into just another home located on Main Street,” he said, adding this was an opportunity to use the property for a common good. “Once that property is gone and goes into the private sector, it is gone forever.”
While no vote was taken, board members were in favor of possibly using the property for municipal employee housing.
“I think it would be a good thing for a joint thing to happen,” board member Michael Donaroma, who is also on the Edgartown Land Bank advisory committee, said. “Opportunities like this don’t come every day.”
Board member Art Smadbeck, who is also an affordable housing trust member, agreed, leaning toward the housing option.
On the other hand, the Dukes County Commission expressed interest in using the Main Street property as the new location for the Dukes County Registry of Deeds through an intermunicipal agreement. According to Tristan Israel, Tisbury representative to the Dukes County Commission, the interest stems from the county analyzing its current facilities and seeing what its future needs will be. The registry currently operates out of the Edgartown courthouse
“We have a very complicated arrangement with the state vis-à-vis the courthouse,” Israel said. “It is costly to the Island.”
Israel said the county is reimbursed for around 87 percent of expenses put into the courthouse, but it takes a long time for it to be processed, and capital improvements can be problematic at the registry’s current location.
“If the registry were to move, this would be an ideal place, because it’s generally in the downtown area. It’s convenient. It has room, we think, for what the registry might need,” Israel said.
Dukes County Register of Deeds Paulo DeOliveira added that the headquarters’ proximity to the courthouse and probate court also made it an appealing location. He also said the registry moving to 167 Main St. would allow space at the courthouse for another government entity, such as the district attorney’s office, or another courtroom.
Dukes County Commission chair and Oak Bluffs representative Christine Todd asked the Land Bank commissioners to continue dialogue with them as a more “refined” proposal was made.
No vote was taken by the Land Bank commissioners, who decided to wait for more detailed proposals.
It remains to be seen whether the Land Bank would be able to simply proceed if a proposal was made by either government entity, or if they would have to reissue a request for proposals.
“If the Land Bank were to consider that, it would need to pose that question to counsel,” Land Bank Executive Director James Lengyel told The Times.