A board of survey convened to assess the Island Theatre has determined that the building is dangerous, granting the Oak Bluffs building inspector license to order its demolition.

The fate of the 101-year-old theatre will now be a matter of discussion for town boards and likely the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, as Oak Bluffs officials and residents discuss a range of possible outcomes, from repair to demolition, and how that work will be funded.

Theatre has been vacant since 2012. — Mark Lovewell

Town building inspector Mark Barbadoro now has the ability under state law to order the building demolished, he said after the board of survey’s three-minute meeting last Friday afternoon at the fire station.

The board of survey assessment was the most recent step in more than two years of town action regarding the theatre at the head of Circuit avenue, which is in a state of disrepair and has been vacant since 2012. Earlier this year a structural engineer determined the theatre is dangerous and Mr. Barbadoro twice ordered the owners, the Hall family, to begin repairs. With no action taken by early November a board of survey was convened to confirm Mr. Barbadoro’s assessment that the building was dangerous.

Following state law, the board of survey consisted of Michael McGrath, a structural engineer; Oak Bluffs fire chief John Rose; and Aquinnah town administrator Adam Wilson, a disinterested party.

The board conducted a 37-minute site visit on Nov. 16. According to a report, which the board voted to accept last week, they reviewed the structural problems and unanimously agreed that the building is dangerous.

The report states that the theatre ceiling has collapsed in places because of a failed and leaking roof, and large cracks run vertically from the floor to the ceiling of the interior walls, where plaster has crumbled because of exposure. The cracks appeared to disconnect the walls from the pilasters, the report stated, and daylight was visible through many of the cracks.

A west-facing exterior wall behind a projector screen could not be inspected because it could not be safely accessed, the report states, and the building smelled strongly of mold. A projector room and the balcony showed signs of exposure to elements and exterior wood architectural features have either fallen away or are decomposing, with loose stucco in places. “The doors were not adequately sealed to prevent access by vagrants,” the report stated.

Walk-through found mold, cracked walls, and partially-collapsed ceiling. — Mark Lovewell

One of the theatre owners, Brian Hall, and the building inspector were also present at the walk-through.

The Hall family also owns the Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs and the Capawock Theatre in Vineyard Haven, which were both in a state of disrepair until 2015, when Island businessman Mark Snider started the non-profit Martha’s Vineyard Theatre Foundation and raised enough money to renovate and reopen the two theatres.

But the Island Theatre, which opened in June 1915 as the Eagle theatre, has remained vacant and fallen into disrepair. In May, Michael J. Berry of Consulting Structural Engineer Inc. conducted an inspection of the building. According to the report, the inspection found that the building could be classified as dangerous under state building code.

“Timely implementation of repairs and regular maintenance of the building envelope are essential in extending the serviceable condition of the building structure as it was originally constructed,” the report stated.

On June 28, Mr. Barbadoro sent Ben Hall Jr. and Brian Hall, trustees of the family trust, an order asking them to make the theatre safe by Oct. 15. After that deadline passed Mr. Barbadoro placed a placard on the building declaring it “dangerous to life and limb” and sent another letter ordering that the building be removed or made safe. He said that under state law they had until noon the day after service to begin repairs or demolition. He gave the family until noon on Nov. 2.

After work did not begin a board of survey was convened. At their meeting last week the board of selectmen heard an update from Mr. Barbadoro but declined to discuss the issue at length, except to say that there are a variety of options when it comes to the future of the theatre. Mr. Barbadoro said he expects the issue to be discussed at next week’s selectmen meeting, and he anticipates being on the agenda for the next Oak Bluffs Historical Commission meeting.

"People have the right to comment," he said. "There are lots of opinions."

Under Martha’s Vineyard Commission guidelines, demolition of buildings more than 100 years old must be referred to the commission, which then votes on whether to review the project as a development of regional impact. This week DRI coordinator Paul Foley said it appeared that demolishing the building would fall under the MVC’s purview, and Mr. Barbadoro said he intended to send it to the commission for their opinion.

“I want the MVC to give me an opinion on if they want the building preserved or not,” he said.

Reached late Thursday Benjamin L. Hall Jr., one of the owners, said the family wants to work with the town to stabilize the theatre, but efforts have been hampered by the building inspector’s statement that the building is dangerous. Some workers have declined to work on the project because of the inspector’s statements, he said, adding that he suspected OSHA rules deterred others.

“The building inspector has made it extremely difficult, it not impossible, for us to accomplish the goal that he asserts is his ultimate goal, and is the goal of the town and the selectmen,” Mr. Hall said. “He’s not really leaving the door open for us to come up with a reasonable solution to try to stabilize the building.”

He said the family had received permission to have someone else inspect the building in the next week or two “so that we can try to find a way forward, find the best way to move ahead, whether it’s tearing the building down, which we prefer not to do, we prefer to try to stabilize it . . . and move forward it an economically profitable way.”

At the town level, Mr. Barbadoro said he will also be asking selectmen to weigh in on the range of options, including fixing the building or knocking it down. Town meeting will also have to approve funding for whatever action is taken. The expense could be recovered through property liens.

Mr. Barbadoro said this week that he does not have any quotes or estimates about how much repairs or demolition would cost. If work is done at the town’s expense it could be recuperated through liens on the building.

After the board of survey issued their decision last week, Mr. Barbadoro said he doesn’t like the idea of waiting until April for an annual town meeting vote to approve the funding. An earlier special town meeting is another possibility. “I just want the building made safe,” he said Friday afternoon. “That’s all.”