A prominent local conservation group and a national title insurance company are among an unusual array of parties who have now agreed to sell their land in the old Vineyard Acres II subdivision to a golf course developer, the Gazette has learned.

A 245-acre failed subdivision on the north side of the West Tisbury Road on the outskirts of Edgartown, Vineyard Acres II was created in the 1980s by a group of Rhode Island developers. The cluster subdivision was never developed and it was later the subject of numerous complicated foreclosure proceedings. Most of the land is currently owned by Fidelity Inc., a title insurance company which succeeded TRW, also a title insurance company. But others have holdings at Vineyard Acres II as well, including the Sheriff's Meadow Foundation, which owns four lots totaling just over four acres.

Leaders at Sheriff's Meadow confirmed this week that they have signed an agreement to sell the four lots to Swanson Ventures Inc., a group that plans to build a golf course and also possibly some kind of residential development at Vineyard Acres II. It is understood that Swanson Ventures is headed by Jay Swanson, reportedly a Boston businessman who is unknown on the Island. Swanson Ventures Inc. has no telephone listing in the Boston area and it has no business listing on the Internet.

But Swanson Ventures has already engaged an array of local people to assist with the project, including Tom Wallace, a Vineyard real estate broker, and Edward W. Vincent Jr., a local attorney. Mr. Vincent is also chairman of the Edgartown conservation commission.

Among other things, the golf course proposal for Vineyard Acres II includes a plan to remove conservation restrictions that are in place on part of the property. Removing conservation restrictions is a complicated process requiring the approval of the local conservation commission as well as approval from the state Executive Office of Environmental Affairs and a vote of the state legislature.

The sale price for the Sheriff's Meadow lots is $300,000. The sale price for the entire property is expected to reach $14 or $15 million.

Under the current subdivision plan, there is the potential for some 148 houses to be built at Vineyard Acres II.

Leaders at Sheriff's Meadow said this week that the sale agreement gives the foundation a say in the environmental planning for the golf course, although they acknowledged the potentially awkward appearance for a conservation group to take a seat at the table in a golf course development.

"Our main realistic view is that a golf course and some houses is better than 148 houses," said Ralph Graves, who is vice president of the board of trustees for Sheriff's Meadow. "The ideal golf courses have no houses — but the comfort level is to balance the ideal with the reality," Mr. Graves said.

Dick Johnson, executive director of Sheriff's Meadow, said he hopes the sale agreement will allow the foundation to protect the ecologically rare frost bottom on the property. The frost bottom is actually owned by the title company, but the town holds a conservation restriction on the land and Sheriff's Meadow Foundation has a contract to manage the frost bottom.

"My one concern is protecting the ecological integrity of the frost bottom, which is one of the most environmentally important spots on the Vineyard and maybe in all of New England," Mr. Johnson said. "Also, the fiscal impact on the town of Edgartown from all those houses being built — a golf course may be a preferable alternative to an approved subdivision."

The news that a golf course development project is well under way for the Vineyard Acres II property raises the ante somewhat, as at least two other groups hope to build new, private golf courses on the Vineyard.

Many say golf course development represents the next wave of big-money development on the Vineyard, and the projects now under way on the Island have spawned many unusual partners. For the most part, the financial backers of the projects are unknown, and no plans have been filed yet with any regulatory boards.

The MacKenty family in Edgartown recently signed an agreement to sell some 200 acres of their Great Pond land to a group that plans to build a golf course there. The sale price has not been revealed, but it is known that the MacKenty family turned down a different offer for $10 million. Rosario and Barry Latucca, a father and son team who own a golf driving range in Natick, are the planned buyers, although Boston real estate developer Richard Friedman is believed to be one of the key financial backers of the project. Mr. Friedman is a seasonal resident of the Vineyard who lends his oceanfront home in the Oyster Watcha section of Edgartown to President Clinton and his family when they vacation on the Island.

Early this year, Mr. Friedman told the Gazette he is not a principal in the golf course project on the MacKenty land, although he said someone in his office was helping out with the project. But it is known that in recent conversations with other Vineyard residents, Mr. Friedman has plainly identified himself as a financial backer of the proposed golf course.

In Oak Bluffs, an aggressive Connecticut development group wants to build a private golf course on the site of Webb's Camping Area in Oak Bluffs. The project was recently slowed when town residents persuaded the Martha's Vineyard Commission to designate the area as a district of critical planning concern, a special planning district.

At Vineyard Acres II there are two other owners beyond the title company and Sheriff's Meadow who were also involved in the original development project. Nicholas Cambio still owns some 20 to 25 acres in the subdivision and it is understood that he has signed an agreement with Swanson Ventures. And Louis Giuliano, who was the original developer, still has a contractual interest in the property and it is understood that he too has signed an agreement with Swanson. Mr. Giuliano and his partner, Patricia Lett, were well-known figures in Edgartown in the early 1980s. In 1990, the Providence Journal reported that Mr. Giuliano and Miss Lett had extensive business ties with organized crime dating back for some 20 years.

Sheriff's Meadow has been entangled with Vineyard Acres II for many years. In 1986, the foundation won a land court ruling upholding a complicated title claim to some 39 acres in the middle of the subdivision. The foundation sold the land to the TRW Title Insurance Company for $950,000 in 1992.

In recent months, Vineyard conservation groups have struggled behind the scenes to arrive at their own position on golf courses. The Conservation Partnership, a new coalition of key environmental groups on the Island, is preparing a white paper about golf courses that it plans to release sometime in June. "We are not going to endorse an specific golf course at this point, nor are we going to come out against any specific site," said partnership chairman Eleanor Graves this week. But Mrs. Graves said the position paper will speak for itself. "We are hoping that it will stand alone as things people should start thinking about," she said.