The Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust announced Tuesday that it hopes to lease the former Menemsha Fish House property, with an eye toward reopening the facility as a community-based wholesale seafood company.

Chilmark selectman Warren Doty, who is a member of the board for the preservation trust, described the plans to the other two selectmen at a board meeting Tuesday.

The fish house, one of the Island’s largest wholesale seafood distributors for 10 years, closed this fall due to the pandemic.

The lot is owned by the town and has been advertised for lease by the town parks and recreation committee. The restrictive, annual lease is available to any Chilmark resident but the lot must be used to support the local fishing fleet. The annual lease price for the year ending in 2019 was $1,681.91, according to administrator Tim Carroll. 

On Tuesday, Mr. Doty spoke not as a selectman but on behalf of the fishermen’s preservation trust — a nonprofit devoted to supporting the Island’s fishing industry and preserving Menemsha’s historic fishing village — to announce the organization’s plans for a proposal.

“Lot five has been operating as a wholesale fish buyer for the past many years . . . That operation is ending, and the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust would like to take over that operation and turn it into the Martha’s Vineyard Community Seafood Company,” Mr. Doty said.

If the town approves, the trust would continue operating the property as a wholesale seafood distributor, Mr. Doty said. A letter has been submitted to the selectmen.

Situated on Menemsha’s commercial fishing bulkhead, the lot is currently being leased from the town by former fish house partners Alec Gale and Timothy Broderick, town administrator Tim Carroll said. The building itself is owned by Red’s Best owner Jared Auerbach, and will be sold separately, Mr. Carroll said.

Mr. Doty said the trust has already negotiated a memorandum of understanding with Mr. Gale and Mr. Auerbach to buy the building and all its equipment, pending a lease from the town.

The announcement saw general support from selectmen Bill Rossi and James Malkin. Mr. Doty, who cannot participate as a selectman in the matter, emphasized the importance of following official protocol before making the proposal final and keeping the process open to all interested Chilmark residents.

“It’s important to me that this be an open, transparent process,” he said, noting his dual positions.

Mr. Malkin agreed. “This is an open process, and certainly the town and selectmen and the parks and [recreation] committee would look forward to evaluating and seeing who has interests and who can serve the interests of the town to support our local commercial fishing and shellfishing industries,” he said.

Lease proposals are due at noon on Jan. 11.

In other business Tuesday, chairman Bill Rossi shared updates on a town property at 4 North Ridge Road that was put on the market earlier this fall. According to Mr. Rossi, the selectmen have been working with town counsel to set up a broker fee to incentivize local brokers to show the property. Selectmen have also decided to waive the minimum bid requirement on the property, but reserve the right to reject bids, Mr. Rossi said.

Also Tuesday, selectmen voted unanimously to approve changes to the town clerk position that require 30 hours a week put toward town clerk duties and 10 hours a week for planning board duties.

Selectmen also voted to move forward with a staffing plan to add two administrative positions — for the zoning board of appeals and the conservation commission — to replace town employee Chuck Hodgkinson, who has retired. Mr. Carroll will write job descriptions for the positions, with the selectmen planning to review and approve them at a special meeting on Dec. 28.

Updated to include the building's annual lease rate.