Chilmark is now accepting proposals for Tea Lane Farm after town voters agreed, with sweeping support this week, to lease out the historic farm on a long-term basis.
Applications are due by next month; the Tea Lane Farm committee is still finishing a timetable and rubric for the project. The farm committee will review proposals and conduct interviews with applicants and then make recommendations to a joint committee of the selectmen and land bank advisory board, which will make a final decision.
At a special town meeting at the Chilmark Community Center on Monday night, voters—with little discussion—approved the lease proposal and two other articles.
The selectmen said the lease agreement was the best option so far and the voters agreed, passing the article 62 to 5.
“We’ve thought a lot about this process and spent a lot of time talking about this,” selectman and chairman of the farm committee Warren Doty said Monday before the vote. “We urge you to vote yes on this and get a farmer working on the land this summer.”
Voters were enthusiastic.
“I think it is a really good plan with great improvement over previous things we’ve voted on,” said Eric Glasgow, who owns Grey Barn Farm and Dairy on South Road. “It gives someone a real opportunity to build something that’s successful and works in the long term.”
Chris Murphy, a critic of previous options presented to voters, said he could stand behind this plan.
“I feel like if I was loud about that, I ought to be loud about this and say thank you, you guys have done a great job,” Mr. Murphy said. “It says a lot about our town that we can come up with a new plan, something different than we’ve ever done before . . . I think it says we’re still growing and learning and embracing and, more importantly, bringing in our young people.”
This marked the fourth plan presented to voters for the property at the interesction of Tea Lane and Middle Road that is jointly owned by the town and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank.
Under the plan approved this week, a tenant farmer will lease three acres for a one-time, up front payment of $20,000 for 75 years. The town will also sell the four buildings on the property, which include a 1755 house and three outbuildings, for $1. The farmer must live on the property for at least 11 months of the year and will be subject to an annual performance review.
The land bank will enter into a separate lease with the tenant for the farmland.
Voters also approved spending $100,000 of Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to go directly to the renovation of the house. Renovation plans that cost more than $5,000 will be reviewed by the town historic commission, and any changes to the exterior of the house must also be approved by the commission and selectmen.
Language in the ground lease allows the farmer to obtain a mortgage.
The draft lease includes protection for the town, Mr. Doty said. If the resident defaults on a mortgage or fails to meet performance standards, the town will get the property back. If the resident decides to sell the house, he or she is eligible to receive the equity invested into the improvements.
The land bank owns the 48 surrounding acres.
At the special meeting Monday, voters also approved spending $24,000 from the waterways improvement fund to purchase a new harbor master boat. The new 20-foot boat will replace a 13-foot inflatable.
After moving swiftly through the short warrant, voters took a moment to make a special birthday toast to Jane Slater, a tireless public official and well-known chronicler of town affairs who turned 80 on Wednesday.
Judy Jardin made the motion.
“I’d like to say we have a very special lady in this room turning 80 years young on Wednesday,” Ms. Jardin said, listing Mrs. Slater’s long list of positions including library trustee, cemetery commission, historic commission, parks and recreation committee and community preservation committee.
Mrs. Slater also writes the weekly Chilmark column for the Gazette, a job she began at the age of 18 in the summers (she was paid five cents an inch for her work).
“We should all be so lucky to be as active as Jane in this community. Happy birthday from all of us,” Ms. Jardin said.
Mrs. Slater was greeted with a standing ovation and a Chilmark rendition of Happy Birthday.