The developers of the high-end Field Club recreation project in Katama have bought an adjoining housing subdivision for $12.35 million from a group of Island businessmen that includes Edgartown selectman Michael Donaroma.
The deal, which closed on Oct. 30, relates to land around the old Grant’s pit site off Katama Road, bought by Mr. Donaroma and his three partners for about $800,000 six years ago.
The Donaroma group — named B.A.D.D. Company LLC, after the initials of the surnames of its partners — had approval for a 32-lot subdivision on the 24-acre site. The Field Club is being built on seven lots in the center of the subdivision.
The sale was apparently driven in part by the concerns of the Donaroma group about the declining real estate market, and by concerns on the part of the buyers about the tight timetable for completing the residential and recreational development.
Gerret C. Conover, one of the principals of the company which bought the land, South Village Associates Realty Trust, said his group wanted the lots in the housing subdivision ready for sale by the time the first stage of the Field Club is completed next summer.
“While we kind of had the same vision [as the Donaroma group], there’s so many things from a coordination standpoint that are just done more efficiently time wise and every other way like this,” Mr. Conover said.
“So we just all decided it would probably be cleanest and best if we did the whole thing, so we just decided to purchase the entire block from them.
“We plan to have approximately 50 per cent of the club portion operational by the summer of 2008, with the balance completed by the summer of 2009. We anticipate having all of the development cleared, landscaped, seeded, planted with trees, utilities hooked up, everything ready to go.
“We can do it in a much more cohesive and professional manner this way, I think,” he said.
Mr. Donaroma said serious discussion started about two months ago, initiated by his side.
“We’re not really builders and developers, and the Field Club wanted to move at lightning speed.” he said.
His side did not need to move so fast, and became less keen as the real estate market cooled.
“It got to the point where they were trying to make covenants about what we would do and we were trying to make covenants about what they would do. There was a lot of lawyer talk, and we didn’t want that.
“They have the background in this sort of thing. I was happy to be out of real estate, frankly, particularly now, when cash is king.
“We made some pretty good money. I’m happy,” Mr. Donaroma said.
He indicated that the plans for the land had expanded beyond what he and his partners — Peter Bettencourt, Alex Alexander and Tim Dyke — envisioned when they bought it.
“We bought it as a long-term investment. Something for our retirement,” Mr. Donaroma said.
“Originally, Alex Alexander put an offer on it. And we said, you’re crazy, it’s a hole in the ground.”
But he and Peter Bettencourt, who both run large landscaping businesses, realized it would be a suitable site to run some of their business operations from. And, given their businesses, they could rehabilitate the old pit site. Over the years, they brought in excess fill, from the airport, from road works and construction across the Island.
They already had subdivision approval when Mr. Conover and his group entered the picture, seeking a site for their vision of an up-market private club.
The ambitious and controversial Field Club plan involved selling 500 memberships for around $100,000 each. Members would have the use of eight tennis courts, a pool, pond and lawn games area, an 11,000 square foot fitness center, 7,200 square foot “learning center” and tennis pavilion.
Members would also have access to a private club, The Boat House, which now is being built on the site of the old Navigator restaurant at the foot of Main street in Edgartown.
The Field Club proposal encountered some fierce public resistance from people concerned it would further widen the cultural gap between seasonal and year-round residents on the Island.
However, it cleared its last hurdle in February of this year, when the Edgartown zoning board of appeals gave approval, after a highly unusual process which saw two board members who had expressed opposition replaced before the final vote.