A residential property in the heart of West Tisbury is slated to become a permanent home for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, the organization’s founder and executive director said.

Thomas Bena, a Chilmark resident who founded the educational nonprofit film festival 16 years ago, said a purchase and sale agreement has been signed for 12.5 acres off Old County Road formerly belonging to the late Cynthia Walsh.

The film festival will pay $1.4 million for the property, which includes a Greek revival house fronting the road and a large expanse of open, arable farmland behind it. A closing is set for June 22, Mr. Bena said.

“This came on the market at a price we felt was very reasonable,” he said. “It’s a home for us, but I want it to be a new story for the Island too.”

MVFF announced the news in an email to members late last week.

No plan has been presented or approved for the property, which lies in the village historic district. But Mr. Bena said before signing the purchase agreement, he approached the West Tisbury planning board and learned that because the film festival is an educational nonprofit, it would be permitted in a residential area.

Any plan for the property would need an array of regulatory approvals, including from the Martha's Vineyard Commission. Mr. Bena said there are no contingencies attached to the sale agreement.

Minutes from a planning board meeting on March 28 show that Mr. Bena and a group from the film festival, including board president Stephen Bernier, came before the board to discuss the purchase at 694 Old County Road.

At the time Mr. Bena outlined plans to build a 6,000-square-foot barn for film events, as well as plans to grow food on the property and sell it. Rez Williams, who lives nearby, also attended the meeting and raised concerns about impacts from septic system on the Mill Pond watershed. Board members suggested that the MVFF draft a more concrete plan so they would have something detailed to look at.

Speaking to the Gazette this week, Mr. Bena emphasized that plans for the property are in the very earliest stages, and expressed a strong desire to work with neighbors and be sensitive to all concerns.

“We are expecting push back about noise and traffic,” he said. “This is going to be a long, slow process.”

He said current concepts include building a barn in the back to show films and hold events, using the house as office space and possibly for some other nonprofit, and allowing the land in the back to be farmed.

Founded in 2001 as a home-grown winter film festival for year-round Islanders, the organization has grown and expanded through the years to include more events and educational programs, including for families and children.

The March film festival continues. A summer film series that includes community dinners and panel discussions also is held at the Chilmark Community Center and in other places around the Island, including the Tabernacle and Performing Arts Center. Cinema Circus is a summer film program for children. This summer the festival will host its first summer filmmaking camp for young people.

“The idea is to not just show films but provoke discussion and debate so it becomes a richer learning experience for people,” Mr. Bena said.

The festival’s office is currently housed adjacent to the Chilmark Tavern at Beetlebung Corner.

Mr. Bena said he is excited at the opportunity to move permanently to West Tisbury, “in the heart of the Island.”

He said film festival leaders are actively fundraising and hope to raise $2 million by the time of the closing.

But for now, he said he is extending an open invitation to community members to walk the property with him and give him their ideas.

“I really want to go slowly. I can’t stress that enough.”

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