June 27, 2015
A 20-lot, mostly undeveloped
parcel in Oak Bluffs was auctioned Friday.
Fernandes GLOBE STAFF JUNE 27, 2015
OAK BLUFFS - At
foreclosure auctions on Martha's Vineyard, the
bidders and gawkers pull up in Jaguars, Range Rovers, and Porsches.
On Friday, a crowd
of more than 100, dressed in pressed jeans and shorts and sporting early summer
tans, milled among the scrub oaks and dandelions.
Some had come in
the hopes of picking up a few acres on the island retreat for a bargain. Even
more came to watch the conclusion of what has been a 15-year-old, divisive
drama involving some 50 acres that were initially envisioned as a luxury golf
course development and then an equestrian center, before ending up in
"The ins and outs,
and ups and downs, and misunderstandings have been incredible," said Dick
Pratt, a real estate broker with the Island Group in Edgartown. "It has been an
epic. This is a step in the right direction."
Justin J. Manning
(in black suit) conducted the auction Friday that attracted 19 bidders for 20
A group of Quincy
developers, headed by Paul Adamson, who owns Shenannigans Irish Pub &
Restaurant in South Boston, and Assembly, a Quincy restaurant, won the bidding
for the property, which includes 20 residential parcels, two with partially
built manors. Adamson and his partners offered $5.2 million, plus expenses such
as back taxes - slightly more than the $4.9 million owed to creditors.
The Adamson group
was one of 19 bidders - five who wanted to buy the property as a whole and 14
who wanted to buy individual lots. Adamson said five of the lots will be
developed with homes for friends and family members, many of them longtime
visitors to Martha's Vineyard. The rest will be sold to those who want - and
can afford - to live on an island that has served as a getaway for presidents
and movie stars.
"We're looking to
move forward," Adamson said.
So are local
residents and politicians.
For years, the
property has had an uncertain future. Located next to the Farm Neck Golf
Course, where presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have teed off, it has
been a prize in a tug-of-war pitting those who wanted to preserve the land for
open space and walking trails against those who wanted to build on the
Vineyard's reputation as a summer playground for the wealthy.
Kupersmith, a former medical journal publisher from Greenwich, Conn., bought
350 acres in the late 1990s. An avid golfer, Kupersmith wanted to build another
18-hole course development on the land because of the high demand for tee
groups opposed his plans, and the Martha's Vineyard Commission, a planning
agency, rejected his proposals three times in two years, a period that locals
refer to as the Golf Course Wars.
years negotiating and battling with locals. He promised to open the course to
the public and set aside some land for a sewage treatment plant. He and his
business partners also filed lawsuits, warned they would put up low-income
housing, and threatened to clear-cut the land. One of Kupersmith's associates
posed for photos with a chain saw after cutting down hundreds of pitch pines.
"It got sordid and
ugly," said Peter Fyler, a buyers agent with SplitRock Real Estate, LLC.
2005, Kupersmith sold 190 acres to the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank for
preservation, and the island's planning agencies agreed to let him build on
part of the property. Kupersmith nixed the golf course plan and instead planned
to build a subdivision around an equestrian center with a horse barn and riding
construction of two homes, but the economy, along with Kupersmith's finances,
collapsed in 2008. Kupersmith and the group developing the property filed for
bankruptcy, according to court records.
People's United Bank, which had a $4.9 million loan on the property, tried to
auction it off in 2012 and again last year. But legal issues sidelined those
NLP Finance LLC, a
development group from Williamstown, bought the bank note this year. The
company cleaned up the property to appeal to potential bidders, removing broken
glass from the windows of the unfinished houses and flattening piles of dirt
and stumps around a giant pit that was intended as a pond.
not be reached for comment. But on Friday, many at the auction recalled his
time on the island and wondered out loud what had become of him.
Richard Combra, a
former Oak Bluffs selectman and real-estate sales agent who is working with the
property's new owners, said the project took its toll on Kupersmith. "He fought
a battle," Combra said. "All he wanted to do was build a golf course."
Despite the sale,
issues involving public access to walking trails and the money developers are
supposed to set aside for affordable housing still must be resolved, said Fred
J. Hancock, chairman of the Martha's Vineyard Commission.
"We want them to
work with us and settle these issues," Hancock said.