Martha’s Vineyard land bank revenues, which come from a two per cent fee charged on many Vineyard real estate transactions, are reported every week: $93,534 here, $242,790 there. The Land bank uses the money to purchase Island land for conservation, preservation and passive recreation.
And although money is coming in, executive director James Lengyel said the lank bank is not in the position to be acquiring new properties, with a still slumping real estate market.
Last week, the land bank reported revenue of $0. Mr. Lengyel said a week without revenue is infrequent for the land bank, though it has happened before. The last time, he said, was within the last year.
But more important, Mr. Lengyel stressed, is the land bank’s bottom line. Every week, he said, the land bank looks at revenue for the current fiscal year in comparison to the previous year. This year, he said, the land bank is far ahead of where they were last year.
Thus far in fiscal year 2013, which started July 1, land bank revenue is at almost $2.4 million, coming from 382 transactions.
This is “the larger picture that the land bank looks at,” Mr. Lengyel said.
In fiscal year 2012, land bank revenue was $7.2 million.
Regardless, the land bank “has pulled back on acquisition projects because the market is rather flat,” Mr. Lengyel said, adding that he looks forward to the day that they resume purchases.
And while there might be some properties that the land bank will miss out on, Mr. Lengyel said that’s always the case.
“Over the entire history of the land bank there’s always been the question of lost opportunity, or what are the opportunity costs . . . if you buy X, you lose the opportunity to buy Y because we can’t afford both.”
And right now, he said, with the real estate market struggling, “sellers tend to dry up . . . hold onto the asset,” Mr. Lengyel said. “When revenues are low, there aren’t as many opportunities as there would have been because sellers hold back too.”
Mr. Lengyel said the fact that the land bank is not purchasing property at the same pace as it has in the past is part of a cycle for the organization. He pointed out that in the early 1990s, the land bank went through a similar purchasing slow down.
But in early September, the land bank did make a purchase: 11.8 acres in Edgartown along West Tisbury Road for $900.000.
Mr. Lengyel said the purchase of the property was a long time in coming, and filled what he called “a hole in a doughnut,” meaning that the purchase completes an assembly of land conservation parcels along the westerly entrance to Edgartown that includes the Sweetened Water Preserve and an agricultural preservation restriction over Morning Glory Farm.
In this case, Mr. Lengyel said, the seller, Philip J. Norton Jr., waited until the land bank was in the position to buy the property.
“It’s always a great relief,” Mr. Lengyel said. “Whenever you have a hole in the doughnut, it just sort of nags at you.”