Editors, Vineyard Gazette;

The land bank watched with interest the Island’s recent debate and deliberation over the housing bank. Although it is a conservation organization, the land bank has been involved in affordable housing planning and production for some thirty-five years. Eleven such housing developments, whose names are all familiar to Vineyarders — Morgan Woods, Sepiessa Point, Twin Oaks, Old South Road, Takemmy Path, Eliakim’s Way, Kuehn’s Way and others — involved the land bank. In these neighborhoods, the land bank and the particular housing partner jointly sited the projects, with each purchasing, with each’s own money, the portions to be used for conservation and those to be used for housing.

Collaborations have taken other forms as well. Agriculture is an important part of Vineyard life and in four places — Tea Lane Farm, Three Ponds, Arrowhead Farm and the old Child Farm — the land bank has worked to create farms, either immediately or for the future, that include farmsteads tenanted by farmers at reasonable rates. Some of these efforts involved groups ranging from the Vineyard Preservation Trust to the Island Autism Group.

Lately the land bank has added a new dimension: planning for its own employees’ housing. Based on the principle that staff housing is affordable housing, the land bank has retained cottages and apartments at Tisbury Meadow, James Pond and Quenomica that are allocated to land bank employees.

This week the land bank is corresponding with the six town housing committees, in order to invite them to do some planning for additional conservation-affordable housing ventures. The letter will suggest that the committees survey their towns for properties that have both meaningful conservation value and an area that could prospectively be used for housing.

These lands would follow the partnership model described above: the land bank would negotiate to purchase such properties and then arrange for subdivision into open space and housing zones. At closing, each party arrives with its own cash for its own zone — no funds are commingled — and then each uses its new acquisition for its own goals and purposes. All activities take place prior to the closing since properties cannot exit land bank title once they have entered.

Irrespective of the time it may take for the housing bank to move through the legislative process, the land bank will continue to seek out opportunities that advance the Vineyard’s twin goals of land protection and housing for its citizens.

James Lengyel

The writer is executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank.