As June 22 approached, the date set for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF) to close on the Walsh property off Old County Road, the rumors flew. Opposition to MVFF’s plan to build a “campus” or “home” on the 12.5-acre tract had started strong and gotten stronger. On June 8, encouraged by neighbors, town residents, and others, West Tisbury’s board of selectmen voted to send MVFF a letter urging them to reconsider their plans.
If MVFF decided to proceed regardless, whatever formal plans it came up with would be subject to strenuous review by town boards and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC). Some people were muttering about litigation. Even in a best-case scenario, this promised to eat up plenty of time, money, and energy that could be better invested in other things, like showing films.
I was about 99% sure that the projected 6,000-square-foot barn was never going to be built at that location, but a purchase-and-sale agreement had been signed, the closing date was set — how was MVFF going to get out of it?
Hence my interest in the rumors that came my way. (I’m on the periphery of the grapevine at the best of times, and I’ve had a very busy spring. It’s hard to keep your ear to the ground when your eyes are on the laptop screen and your fingers constantly on the keyboard.) The common gist of the rumors was that someone or someones had made a better offer for the property and the sale to MVFF wasn’t going through.
On the appointed day, June 22, the actual outcome was summarized in the Vineyard Gazette‘s headline: “Film Festival Buys West Tisbury Property, But Will Resell.” The story suggests a flurry of behind-the-scenes activity that clearly gave rise to the rumors: It reported that “a neighborhood group had formed an LLC and made a full-price offer to MVFF to take over the sale contract.” Negotiations foundered when “a trustee for the Walsh family declined to agree to [the switch], acting on advice of counsel.” So the sale did go through, but MVFF no longer plans to build there.
According to the Martha’s Vineyard Times story: “The LLC plan was then to sell off the front five-acre parcel to a waiting Island family, who asked not to be identified, and work on a separate deal, possibly with conservation groups or another Island family, on the back 7.5-acre lot, which includes farmland. MVFF plans to continue to work with the neighbors and try to enact that plan.”
So that’s where things stand at the moment.