West Tisbury is one step closer to owning and preserving the Field Gallery and sculpture garden this week, after the community preservation committee agreed to fund a large part of its acquisition.
On Tuesday morning the West Tisbury community preservation committee agreed to allow voters at the April town meeting the choice to fund a $685,000 purchase of the 1.4-acre Field Gallery and sculpture garden with a combination of the committee’s full $275,000 reserve fund for open space, $40,000 in expected receipts from its 2012 open space fund, as well as $160,000 of borrowed money that the town would and pay off with a further four years of expected open space money. In addition the town would borrow $175,000 that it would pay off through expected yearly revenues of around $35,000 a year from the lease of the Field Gallery.
In towns that adopted the Community Preservation Act, including all towns on Martha’s Vineyard, taxpayers are assessed a three per cent surcharge on their property tax bill to fund it, an amount that has been matched by the state to a declining extent in recent years.
Voters also will be asked in April whether they would like to lessen or even do away with the town’s participation in the CPA, a possibility that could complicate the Field Gallery purchase strategy.
Since joining the CPA the town has not spent any money open space, so the $275,000 in its open space reserve fund represents five years of accumulated money.
Any appropriation of Community Preservation Act money would first have to be approved by town voters at the annual town meeting in April.
“What we hadn’t talked about at the last meeting, that I asked them to consider, was four more future years of open space at $40,000 each year, and [the town community preservation committee] voted to do that,” selectman Cynthia Mitchell said on Wednesday.
Owners Tim and Eileen Maley have been in negotiations with the town over the sale of the property since December. The planning board agreed to separate the 1.4-acre parcel containing the Field Gallery to facilitate the town purchase, but the entire 12-acre property, including the gallery and sculpture garden, are currently on the market and listed in the March Martha’s Vineyard Real Estate Guide at $4.2 million.
Designed by architect Robert Schwarz, the Field Gallery opened in 1971 on the Maley property as an artists’ cooperative. The dancing lawn figures have become an Island landmark and the sculpture garden has operated as a de facto public park over the years despite its private ownership.
“That’s basically been a town park for years,” selectman Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter said at last Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting. “Private people usually don’t want the public on their property, and it would be a shame to not have that.”
Selectmen previously had suggested that the property could also accommodate some of the parking requirements for the library renovation project next door, but a state granting board that could pay for up to half of the project has since backed off its emphasis on expanded parking, and selectman Richard Knabel has stated that that consideration was never a major influence on the town’s deliberations about purchasing the property.
Also at Wednesday’s selectmen’s meeting, at the recommendation of the animal control officer Bruce and Laura Marshard agreed to keep two German shepherds on leashes at all times after the dogs killed three chickens on the abutting Nip ’n’ Tuck Farm owned by Fred and Betsy Fisher. The Marshards also have agreed to pay for the chickens and post a $200 bond that expires in a year if the dogs behave themselves.
“If the dogs get loose and do it again then we’ve got a different kind of problem,” said Mr. Knabel.