The pastoral sheep pastures and hayfields at Flat Point Farm will be placed into conservation after the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank announced plans to purchase a large piece of the West Tisbury farm.
The land bank is set to purchase 12.9 acres of land and an agricultural preservation restriction on an additional 25 acres of abutting pastures for $3.45 million from the Fischer family, who has owned the property since 1939, land bank director James Lengyel said this week. The purchase includes easements for a new trail system along the property that fronts the Short Cove area of Tisbury Great Pond.
The conservation group has 90 days to finalize the deal.
The purchase is made possible by a loan from financier and abutter Steven Rattner, who loaned the land bank the entire $3.45 million. The loan is to be paid back over nine years, Mr. Lengyel said. Mr. Rattner owns neighboring Crow Hollow Farm.
In November the Fischer family had originally entered into a purchase and sale agreement with a private seller for the 12.9 acre parcel for $2.9 million. The lot was created through a family subdivision for estate planning purposes. The sprawling farm includes a total of 115 acres of land.
The land had been listed as a Chapter 61A property, designated for agricultural use. This designation assured the town of West Tisbury the right of first refusal on the property. The town could also, as it did in this case, assign its right of refusal to a nonprofit conservation organization such as the land bank. The land bank had to match the existing offer on the property to purchase the land.
“If the town and land bank didn’t do this, there would have been a house there,” Mr. Lengyel said.
In December, members of the Fischer family appealed to the public to voice their opinion on the matter and hoped a conservation group would come forward and purchase the property. The town had 120 days to respond to the purchase and sale notice; Wednesday marked the 120th day.
On Wednesday, the West Tisbury board of selectmen assigned the right of first refusal of the 12.9 acre parcel to the land bank to purchase the property. In the event the land bank and the Fischers do not close the deal, the sale will revert back to the private buyer.
Yesterday farm owner Arnold Fischer Jr. said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the sale would go through with the land bank, but declined to comment further due to the pending closing.
“We’re very thankful for the private buyer who came along, that triggered the ability to go forward with this,” he said. “But if anything happens we have to respect that it will go back to the private buyer. They have rights and concerns.”
In an interview with the Gazette on Thursday, Mr. Lengyel said the land bank “believed it could not buy that lot in isolation” and had looked for a larger package. Mr. Lengyel said the land bank negotiated to purchase an agricultural preservation restriction over the abutting 25 acres to the Short Cove lot.
The agricultural preservation restriction was purchased for $500,000, Mr. Lengyel said.
With the purchase, three of the peninsulas in Tisbury Great Pond will be conserved — Sepiessa Point, Plum Bush Point and Flat Point. Mr. Lengyel estimated a total of 3,300 feet of pond frontage will be conserved; 1,400 on the short cove side and 1,900 on the abutting acreage.
“It’s pretty remarkable to have three of them conserved,” Mr. Lengyel said.
The trail head currently located off of Tiah’s Cove Road will serve as a parking area for the new trail system. The trail would continue down Crow Hollow Farm, south towards Short Cove, curve around the southerly pasture and loop back around Flat Point Farm’s northerly hay field to the trail head. Road access will be restricted to handicap access and maintenance vehicles.
Several weeks ago it appeared that the land bank would not purchase the property. In the last week, the tide turned, Mr. Lengyel said.
“That’s the Martha’s Vineyard story,” he said. “It took a lot of patient discussions and negotiating and trying to make sure everything could work out. It took good will and hard effort.”
Reached by phone in New York, Mr. Rattner said he wanted to do his part to help save the farm.
“We’ve spent a fair amount of time up there and it’s an incredibly beautiful part of the Island,” Mr. Rattner said Thursday. “I love the fact it’s still a family farm and I wanted to do my little part in trying to keep it that way.”
Mr. Rattner said he was approached by a neighbor in February to assist in the purchase.
“It’s going to open up a really beautiful spot on the Island for anyone who wants to enjoy the natural beauty,” he said.
Mr. Rattner credited the land bank and Mr. Lengyel’s dedication.
“They have done a spectacular job of preserving a lot of the property on this Island, a lot of that is a testament to James Lengyel . . . who is emphatically smart, creative and he gets stuff done,” Mr. Rattner said. “I helped in my way but without him it would not have been done. It’s a very complicated three-way transaction and I don’t think there are many folks who could have done it.”