The Martha's Vineyard Land Bank Commission is no longer actively negotiating with Corey Kupersmith for the possible purchase of his property in the southern woodlands, but in a letter to the Martha's Vineyard Commission this week, the executive director of the land bank did not rule out the prospect of future talks.
"Pleased be advised that Mr. Kupersmith and the land bank are not currently in active negotiations," wrote land bank executive director James Lengyel in a letter to MVC executive director Charles W. Clifford this week. "This matter has not been released from executive session, however, because active negotiations with Mr. Kupersmith may resume at some time in the future."
Mr. Lengyel was responding to a letter from Mr. Clifford requesting some clarity on the subject.
Mr. Kupersmith is the owner of some 270 acres in the southern woodlands section of Oak Bluffs that he is trying to develop as a private 18-hole golf club. Named the Down Island Golf Club, the project is under review by the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI).
The question whether conservation is a viable option for Mr. Kupersmith's property has been a regular theme in recent weeks during a series of public hearings on the golf club project. At times, discussion at the hearings has focused less on the actual details of the golf club plan and more on possible alternative uses for the property, namely housing and conservation.
One entire public hearing was dominated by a discussion of the pros and cons of building houses on the property. Conservation is a second theme.
This week the conservation question got a few answers.
"As you are most certainly aware, the Martha's Vineyard Commission is in the midst of public hearings on the second proposal of Down Island Golf," Mr. Clifford had written to Mr. Lengyel. "[D]uring the course of testimony . . . reference has been made to the land bank on several occasions. Some of those references have been in conflict or direct opposition to other comments made the same evening or at previous meetings."
Mr. Clifford's letter cited the following example of such conflict:
"The land bank is actively pursuing discussions with the applicant vs: The land bank is not actively pursuing discussions with the applicant."
The southern woodlands includes some 400 acres of unspoiled land between Barnes and County Roads in Oak Bluffs. It is the last unbroken stretch of undeveloped open space in the town.
Mr. Clifford said this week that the response from the land bank has cleared up the confusion. "We just wanted to know straight-out what was going on," he said.
Mr. Lengyel declined to comment beyond his letter. But it is known that Mr. Kupersmith and the land bank began talks last year about a possible sale of the Kupersmith property. The talks began after the first golf club plan for the property was rejected by the commission. The talks were subject to a confidentiality agreement signed by both sides.
At a public hearing last month Ron Mechur, a leading spokesman for the golf club, opened the session by announcing flatly that there were no negotiations under way with the land bank.
"You all need to know that there are no ongoing discussions with the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank Commission or any other agency or conservation agency regarding the purchase of Mr. Kupersmith's property," Mr. Mechur said in a statement that had been prepared by attorneys for the golf club project.
In related news, this week the Oak Bluffs selectmen heard a presentation on the golf club.
Spokesmen Bob Mone and Mr. Mechur reviewed the differences between the old and new plans and answered questions from the board. At times there was friction between Mr. Mechur and selectman Roger Wey, the sole board member to speak against the golf course development plan.
"Roger, you amaze me," Mr. Mechur said at one point when Mr. Wey asked if the developers would pay for an independent monitor to test water in Lagoon Pond. "Now you want more. We would be happy to work with you on some reasonable amount of money, but we're not just some giant money tree," Mr. Mechur added.
Much of the questioning from selectmen focused on environmental issues and concerns for water quality. Michael Dutton, who is chairman of the board of selectmen, asked whether the golf course could at some point accept treated wastewater from the town sewer plant.
Mr. Mechur said his group would entertain the idea, but state environmental laws might forbid it.
To date, the regional MVC has held three public hearings on the golf club project. A final public hearing on the plan is set for Dec. 20. Deliberations and a vote on the project are expected to take place in January.