Members of the MacKenty family in Edgartown are now in the final stages of negotiations to sell some 200 acres of their Edgartown Great Pond land to a group that plans to build a golf course on it, the Gazette has learned.

“We are negotiating, but we can’t comment on much until we have an agreement,” said Jeremiah MacKenty this week. “But yes, I’d say we are fairly close,” he added.

It is understood that Mr. MacKenty, his sister Katharine Bigelow and his brother John MacKenty are negotiating with an unnamed group that wants to pay millions of dollars for their Great Pond land if it can win permission to build an 18-hole golf course. It is understood that the negotiations involve executing what is known as an option agreement, where the buyer secures an option contingent on receiving the necessary approval to build the golf course.

Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes scheming to build a golf course in the rural coastal perimeters of Edgartown is unfolding like a giant game of chess. It is understood that another unnamed group is negotiating to buy the old Vineyard Acres II subdivision, a 245-acre failed subdivision on the north side of the West Tisbury Road. Created by a group of Rhode Island developers in the 1980s, Vineyard Acres II was never developed and has been the subject of numerous complicated foreclosure proceedings for years. Most of the land is currently owned by a title insurance company.

It is understood that the sale price for Vineyard Acres II will also likely reach into the millions of dollars — but as with the MacKenty land, any sale would be contingent upon golf course approval.

In some ways, the negotiations for the two properties are a race, because it is unlikely that two golf courses in the same area would win regulatory approval.

Some say golf courses may well represent the next wave of big-money development on the Vineyard. A feasibility study commissioned by the town of Oak Bluffs recently found that the Island can support one more golf course; other observers say the Island could easily support one more public and one more private golf course. There are long waiting lists for membership at both the Edgartown Golf Club and Farm Neck Golf Club, and even for members, tee times are a precious commodity in the summer months.

Golf proponents say there should be more golf courses on the Vineyard because the Island is a resort where people come to spend their vacations — and play golf. Some say golf courses create jobs and are environmentally benign — a far preferable alternative to hundreds of houses with individual septic systems.

Others say golf courses displace important habitat and biologically active land, and stress the aquifer by pulling hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from the ground. Some also decry the type of development which brings the Vineyard closer to being just like every other resort in the country.

These issues are expected to be the subject of growing debate in the months ahead as golf course plans continue to take shape all over the Island.

Among other things, any golf course proposal will be reviewed as a development of regional impact (DRI) by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

The negotiations for the MacKenty land involve nearly all of the land owned by Katharine Bigelow and by Jeremiah MacKenty and only a portion of the land owned by John MacKenty. Mrs. Bigelow owns 103 acres fronting Mashacket Cove; John MacKenty owns 95 acres fronting Wintucket Cove and Jerry MacKenty owns 57 acres between the two. In 1983, Jerry MacKenty sold 32 acres he owned on the Edgartown Great Pond.

The MacKenty family land is part of what was known years ago as Ashakomaksett Farm; in the 1950s the property also earned the nickname Outer Mongolia.

The principals in the group currently negotiating with the MacKenty family are not known, and this week Mr. MacKenty said he could not comment on the identity of the group. It is known that the group has received assistance from the company owned by Boston real estate developer Richard Friedman, but reached at his office in Boston yesterday, Mr. Friedman said he is not a principal in the group. Mr. Friedman is a seasonal resident of the Island; his oceanfront farm in the Oyster-Watcha section of Edgartown was used by President Clinton and his family when they vacationed on the Vineyard.

It is understood that the current negotiations for the MacKenty land may involve an offer from the buyer for some future revenue sharing component for family members, on top of a hefty multi-million-dollar sale price.

The proposed sale price has not been disclosed, but it is believed to be as high as $10 million, possibly higher. It is known that the MacKenty family recently turned down separate offers from a group of Vineyard conservation organizations and another private group that wants to build a golf course.

In October, the Vineyard Conservation Partnership offered $3.6 million for the MacKenty and Bigelow land, and the offer was turned down. At about the same time, a private group which wants to build a golf course offered $10 million for the MacKenty and Bigelow land. The offer was turned down.

Formed last summer, the Conservation Partnership is an alliance of all the key conservation groups on the Island, including the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank. The $3.6 million offer from the Conservation Partnership was based on a fair market appraisal of the property, but golf course land is valued much higher — especially on the Vineyard, where only a few large tracts of land remain that are suitable for building golf courses.

Mr. MacKenty said this week that the bid from the conservation group was never a bona fide offer. “They were interested, but as far as I was concerned any offers they made to us came contingent on other things and there was nothing really substantive that we could sink our teeth into,” he said. He also said the offer was below market value. “It was not anywhere near full market value — and you can’t expect that from them,” Mr. MacKenty said. He did not discuss the other private group, whose $10 million offer was turned down.

The group that made an unsuccessful $10 million bid for the MacKenty and Bigelow land is made up of 25 people, some of them well-known seasonal residents of the Vineyard, including M. Anthony Fisher, John Stafford, Andrew Forrester and Tom Lee.

Mr. Fisher, who owns Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, said yesterday that his group wants to build a private, nonprofit golf club with a separate charitable foundation, much like the Farm Neck Golf Club.

Mr. Fisher said his group is now waiting to see who will come out in front in the race to build a golf course in Edgartown.

“We were the unsuccessful bidders and we are hoping to join up with one of the successful bidders — we are the group that hopes this can be done in a responsible way for the Vineyard,” Mr. Fisher said.

Mr. MacKenty said this week that he does not have especially strong feelings about golf. “I personally am not a golfer, but that doesn’t mean that couldn’t change,” he said. “Golf is being played today by more and more people — and I would not be opposed to seeing a well-maintained, environmentally sensitive golf course on our land.”