Land Bank Postpones Decision on Golf Development Scheme

By JULIA WELLS

A divided Martha's Vineyard Land Bank Commission quietly postponed any action last night on a controversial deal that is aimed at converting 273 acres of Oak Bluffs woodlands to a private luxury golf course and an array of private homes, the Gazette has learned.

The land bank is now under pressure to approve a proposed conservation component of the development deal for the southern woodlands, the last unbroken stretch of oak and pine forest in the town of Oak Bluffs.

But after a joint executive session last night with the Oak Bluffs town advisory board, it is understood that the two boards agreed only to send a short letter to the Oak Bluffs selectmen, asking to see a revised version of an agreement between the town and the developers.

The revised agreement is expected to reflect a commitment by the developers to buy the Windfarm driving range and then turn it over to the land bank for conversion to conservation land.

The driving range property, which is not contiguous to the southern woodlands, has been an odd appendage to the development scheme and is designed to strengthen the conservation side of the proposed deal.

Last night there was no official report out of the closed-door session between the land bank commission and the town advisory board.

"I am not at liberty to report on an executive session and this matter is still in executive session," said land bank executive director James Lengyel.

But other sources said the executive session included a civil discussion about the conservation component of the development deal - especially about the timing of any land bank participation in the deal.

Forged behind closed doors between golf course developer Corey Kupersmith and Oak Bluffs town officials, the development deal envisions a new luxury golf and housing plan for 273 acres owned by Mr. Kupersmith in the southern woodlands. Mr. Kupersmith's partner is Bolton housing developer Brian Lafferty.

The plan proposes an 18-hole championship golf course, 14 luxury homes, 16 affordable housing units, a state-owned campground and 26 acres of conservation land. The purported sweetener is the developer's pledge to buy the driving range and then sell it to the town and the land bank for use as open space. The driving range is privately owned..

The new plan still needs approval from the Martha's Vineyard Commission as a development of regional impact (DRI); the commission has rejected two luxury golf course plans for Mr. Kupersmith's property in the last year and a half.

A public hearing on the new plan is set to open in early September.

If the land bank votes to participate in the conservation component of the development plan before September, it is expected to add to the growing pressure on the commission to approve the golf course and housing project. The project has the support of the majority of the town officials in Oak Bluffs, although town officials have refused to put the development proposal in front of town voters as a referendum question. Many town officials, including four of the five selectmen, are closely aligned with Mr. Kupersmith and Mr. Lafferty.

The developers and town officials have been putting out public statements for weeks saying that the state and the land bank have already committed to the deal. In fact there are still no commitments from the land bank or the state.

Three weeks ago Mr. Lengyel wrote a letter to Mr. Kupersmith's attorney raising blunt questions about the development deal. In particular, Mr. Lengyel questioned one part of a written agreement between the town and the developers that referred to a representation by the land bank about the price of the Windfarm driving range. "The land bank has made no representations," Mr. Lengyel said in the letter.