One day after Edgartown community preservation committee members voted to allocate funds for the town to acquire the so-called Yellow House on Main street, the town had decided not to go forward with the plan.
Selectman and community preservation committee member Margaret Serpa told the Gazette Tuesday morning that a proposal to acquire the house, possibly by eminent domain, will not be on the town meeting warrant after all. She cited the time constraints of working toward the April town meeting.
On Monday, the town community preservation committee voted to allocate $1.4 million in community preservation funding for the acquisition of the vacant building and surrounding land. The committee discussed setting a public hearing before a vote on whether the purchase should be placed on April’s annual town meeting warrant.
The house at 68 Main street was built in 1850, according to town assessor records, and was last appraised at just over $2 million. It sits on about a quarter of an acre of land in the center of the village, and once housed businesses, including the Bickerton & Ripley bookstore. It has been vacant for a number of years and is in deteriorating condition.
The late Alfred Hall, a prominent main street businessman in his day, purchased the property in 1949. Today the property is owned by the Hall Family trust. The family has recently been entangled in a lengthy legal dispute with the town over whether they could cut down a linden tree that sits on the property.
Last summer a superior court judge dismissed a claim by the trust that it was entitled to damages from the town. In court, representatives of the Hall family said the town had hindered them from developing the building.
The selectmen discussed acquiring the property and asked the community preservation committee for funding to make the acquisition possible. The Community Preservation Act allows towns to levy a surcharge of up to three per cent on property taxes to raise money for open space, historic preservation, affordable housing and outdoor recreation.
At Monday’s meeting, Mrs. Serpa cited the building’s condition and central location in town as motivation for the town to acquire it.
“I just think it’s something we need to do for downtown,” Mrs. Serpa said.
After the meeting Mrs. Serpa told the Gazette that the purchase would likely be through an eminent domain taking, if voters agreed, though details about how the building and land would be used were unclear.
The building would have to be appraised. If the $1.4 million in community preservation money does not cover the entire amount, the rest would be borrowed, Mrs. Serpa said.
Mrs. Serpa said Monday she hoped the Hall family would work with the town on the project. Reached by telephone after the meeting, Benjamin Hall Sr. said he had no knowledge of the unfolding plan.
“I don’t know anything about it,” Mr. Hall said.
On Tuesday, Mrs. Serpa said that she and town administrator Pamela Dolby further discussed the matter and decided that because of time constraints, the proposal will not go forward for April’s town meeting.
Meanwhile, she said, the town hopes to work with the Hall family to come to an agreement.