The fields are still fallow, the silos completely gone to ruin. Operating licenses and permits have long since expired, and nearly a year after the Edgartown Conservation Commission announced it had agreed in principal to lease Katama Farm to entrepreneur David Moore there still is no lease.

And no farming operation at the 190-acre, town-owned farm on the vast, windswept Katama Plains which for years supported an active dairy operation.

Leaders on the town conservation commission said this week they are still actively negotiating the lease with Mr. Moore, who stood ready last fall to start a dairy and cheese-making operation at the farm. For his part, Mr. Moore said he too still stands ready to come in and begin farming operations if a lease can be worked out. But as time drags on, the view to the future is tinged with doubt.

At the heart of the issue are conflicting interests on two sides — for its part the town says it must preserve the public benefit and protect the town in the event that the farm fails (the last two farming operations at Katama Farm failed). And for his part, Mr. Moore says he must have a long-term commitment from the town in order to protect his business interests and investments, which among other things include plans to build houses on the farm for himself and his tenant farmer.

“It’s really difficult for a town to negotiate a long-term lease with a business person to operate a farm...The town has to make sure of the public benefit and the farmer has to protect his business interests — and those two things are ultimately incompatible,” said Edward W. Vincent Jr., chairman of the town conservation commission, this week. “It makes for a long lease negotiation, and also a very long lease,” he added.

But Mr. Vincent continued to express optimism that a lease is in the offing with Mr. Moore. “I think in the end it has got to be some sort of compromise and also take a little bit of creativity,” he said. He continued:

“I think we are going to be able to do it, but it is a difficult time of year and things slow down a little bit...and we just need to make sure that in the long run whatever is done out there is a public benefit. The difference between David Moore and everyone else we have had is that David is a very aware and cautious businessman — and it really is refreshing to deal with someone like him. I think David is a really good person for what we are trying to do out there. We are moving on it and I am hopeful that we will have something within the next 45 days.”

Mr. Moore said this week he is still ready to make a farming commitment at Katama Farm, although he also admitted frankly that because so much time has been allowed to pass, he has developed other business interests in the interim. Last fall when the conservation commission and Mr. Moore appeared ready to sign a lease for the farm, Mr. Moore, a farming entrepreneur who is a longtime seasonal resident of the Vineyard, rented a house in Edgartown, arranged to hire a farmer and a cheesemaker, bought $60,000 worth of feed and began to do work to restore the farm fields.

But then the lease negotiation stalled, and Mr. Moore concurred with the conflicting interests framed by Mr. Vincent. “There is a basic difficulty in reconciling the differences of a long-term lease,” he said. “The conservation commission is made up of well-meaning, honest and intelligent people. But at times I think they are working in a structure that makes it impossible to make any decisions. And the timing of all this destroyed my plans. I had to back off my arrangement with the farmer, and now I have made other commitments as well.”

Mr. Moore said his plans for the farm have been adjusted accordingly, and now include bringing back the farm more gradually over a period of two or three years, restoring the fields, growing some crops and developing a small herd of cattle and other grazing animals. He said long-term goals still include planning for a dairy, but only if it is financially feasible and the lease arrangement works out. “There is no promise there is going to be a dairy, but there is a promise that I will look into it,” he said, adding: “The only promise is that I will have some kind of farm going and do a lease that is workable. The whole purpose right now would be to get working out there, to have a low capital investment and to get things going by deeds instead of words and endless negotiations. Then maybe we can come back and renegotiate the lease.”

Meanwhile, the farm has been in a steady state of decline since bankrupt operator James McCarthy walked away from the farm and some $2 million in debt more than three years ago. “The farm has gone from something I offered the bankruptcy court a half a million dollars for to something that is worth nothing,” Mr. Moore said. He concluded:

“There is nothing out there. It is a mess out there and also a liability. There was a business and there were at one time some remaining elements; there were licenses to do things, legal permits, but now they are gone. The buildings and equipment themselves have all been vandalized and are unusable. The silos are ruined; the owner of them isn’t interested in coming to get them because they are worth so little. And the fields — I spent lot of money on them last fall; but then I couldn’t do anything. It is floundering in the same mess it has been in for over three years. It’s not going to be as easy as it was a year ago, and it wasn’t easy then. But I don’t think there is anything that can’t be worked through by sitting down and hammering it out.”