A large portion of Flat Point Farm in West Tisbury has been permanently placed in conservation thanks to a purchase by the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank completed last week.
The land bank bought 12.9 acres and has placed an agricultural preservation restriction on an another 25 acres of the 115-acre farm that fronts the Tisbury Great Pond. Flat Point Farm has been owned by the Fischer family since 1939. The price paid for the land and restriction was $3.45 million. The land bank also bought a trail easement to connect existing trails at Crow Hollow Farm to Tisbury Great Pond.
The deal has been in negotiations since late March and was completed on Sept. 17.
The land bank paid $2.95 million for the 12.9 acres and $500,000 for the agricultural restriction. The farm fronts Short Cove in the Great Pond.
“The land bank is very pleased; this property has been on our priority list for many years,” land bank executive director James Lengyel said on Monday. “People are really going to enjoy such a lovely hike around Short Cove and Town Cove. This is one of the Island’s most well-known farms, and I know a lot of people are relieved to know that a classic on the Island has been preserved.”
Arnold Fischer Jr. echoed the sentiment. “It’s been so many years coming . . . it’s such a relief,” he said. “The great thing is that the most vulnerable 40 acres, the most valuable, is forever protected.”
The land bank had initially planned to borrow the money for the purchase through a long-term loan with the New York financier Steven Rattner, a West Tisbury seasonal resident. But Mr. Lengyel said Monday that a bump in real estate transactions at the end of 2012 provided enough money for the land bank to buy the land outright. Mr. Rattner owns neighboring Crow Hollow Farm.
The land bank paid part of the purchase price in cash, and the balance is in a promissory note between the land bank and the Fischer family, he said.
“It was the fiscal cliff,” Mr. Lengyel said, explaining the land bank’s ability to buy the farmland. “The receipts in December were so high from people transferring property in anticipation of the tax laws that the land bank was able to take unexpected cash and devote it to Flat Point Farm.”
The uptick in activity in 2012 brought $2 million in revenue to the land bank thanks to 20 per cent more transactions recorded in the last quarter compared with the previous year. Land bank revenues come from a two per cent transfer fee on most real estate transactions. The money is used to buy public conservation land on the Vineyard.
The Flat Point Farm land was nearly sold to a private buyer. Last November, the Fischer family signed a purchase and sale agreement to sell the 12-acre parcel for $2.9 million. The lot was originally created through a family subdivision for estate planning purposes. The land is listed as a chapter 61A property, which designates it for agricultural use. The designation gives the town of West Tisbury the right of first refusal on the property or the authority to assign its right of refusal to a nonprofit conservation group such as the land bank, which it did in this case. The land bank had to match the existing offer in order to buy the land.
Three key peninsulas in Tisbury Great Pond are now conserved — Sepiessa Point, Plum Bush Point and Flat Point. It is estimated that at total of 3,300 feet of pond frontage is now conserved.
Mr. Lengyel said the land bank is drafting a management plan for the farmland and hopes to have new trails open by the end of the year. Parking will be at the head of the Crow Hollow Farm land bank property off Tiah’s Cove Road, with parking at the tip of the property for people who are elderly and have handicaps. A trail will lead from Crow Hollow Farm south toward Short Cove, the curve around the southerly pasture and loop back around Flat Point’s northerly hay field to the trailhead.
Mr. Fischer offered a “big thank you” to the land bank, Mr. Rattner, the Martha’s Vineyard Financial Group, the private sellers and the Vineyard Conservation Society, which has helped planning of the purchase for years.
The sale was recorded in the Dukes County registry of deeds on Sept. 17 but was signed two days earlier, as it happened, exactly 15 years after the death of Mr. Fischer’s father Arnold Fischer Sr.
“The family is very proud for his sake — he bought the farm and I think he is happy to see that there aren’t houses out on Flat Point and it will always be a farm,” Mr. Fischer said. “Whether it’s the Fischers farming it or somebody else, the farmland is protected.” He continued:
"We’re going to continue to raise sheep and beef and make and sell hay, and have my daughter [Emily Fischer] make goat milk soap, continue to have visits from Island schools when there are young lambs.”
Richard Andre and Jefferson Munroe are currently leasing part of the farm to raise 200 turkeys for the holidays.
“We’re excited to keep farming here,” Mr. Fischer said.