The Nantucket Land Bank on Wednesday spent $6 million to complete two new property acquisitions, including 11.2 acres of undeveloped, "pristine land" at 15 Burnt Swamp Lane with an existing trail system.
The second acquisition was a small, adjacent property at 22 Hawthorne Lane, that includes a dwelling that will be retained and utilized for Land Bank staff housing.
The large parcel at 15 Burnt Swamp Lane was sold to the Land Bank for $4.1 million by Katherine and John Roe, "who have a family legacy of conservation on the island," according to the Land Bank's announcement. The Land Bank described the 11-acre property as "one-of-a-kind" and stated that it "is grateful for the opportunity to become the next steward of this parcel. We look forward to further establishing the trail networks already put in place by the family (and freshly mowed!) and opening this space to the public to enjoy."
A portion of the property is already protected by a conservation restriction held by the Nantucket Land Council (NLC).
Katherine Roe is the daughter of Carl and Karen Borchert and the sister of Carl Borchert, Jr., an island resident and alternate member of the Nantucket Planning Board. Carl Sr. was a conservationist who helped found the NLC and served on the Land Bank Commission for eight years, as well as the Conservation Commission for 11 years. Karen filled Carl Sr.’s seat on the NLC board after his passing in 1998 and served for the rest of her life including a five-year period as its president. John Roe also served as the executive director of the NLC from 1980 to 1987.
“I hugely benefitted from a ‘free range’ childhood on Nantucket," Katherine Roe said. "We explored streams, ponds, fields, and woods; watching these places become inaccessible since then due to development reinforced my interest in selling [15 Burnt Swamp Lane] to the Land Bank.”
Land Bank Commission chair Neil Paterson, who has owned property abutting 15 Burnt Swamp Lane for decades, recused himself from the negotiations and discussions about the acquisition of the property. He also filed a formal disclosure of appearance of conflict of interest form with the Nantucket Town Clerk's office.
The two new Land Bank properties - both located off Hummock Pond Road - are adjacent to each other and are located between Madaket Road and Hummock Pond Road. They are also close to the Land Bank's recently acquired Berry Patch Farm.
Directly adjacent to 15 Burnt Swamp Lane, the Land Bank's other new acquisition of the .3-acre lot at 22 Hawthorne Lane was completed in a sale from Amy Piering for $1.9 million. The Land Bank believes the acquisition of the property will facilitate the creation of a small public parking area for the neighboring trail system, and the existing three-bedroom, two-bath dwelling will be used for staff housing. The property had previously been on the market as recently as October 2022 for $2.495 million.
The Current received several messages from island residents about the property both during and after the Land Bank's negotiations to purchase 22 Hawthorne Lane, including a claim that the Land Bank had outbid a year-round family attempting to buy the property, and that existing year-round tenants were being pushed out due to the acquisition. Land Bank executive director Jesse Bell addressed both those assertions.
"My recollection is that they (the owner of 22 Hawthorne Lane) reached out to us before they put the property on the market," Bell said in an e-mail to the Current. "I don’t know what other offers were received and did not get involved in the relationship between the owner and their tenants. It was our understanding that the seller needed to close on August 2nd. The bottom line is a seller wanted to sell, and whether it was the Land Bank or some other buyer, the occupants of the building would have changed. In this case, another year-round local family will live in the home."
The purchase of 22 Hawthorne Lane by the Land Bank was also motivated, Bell said, by the characteristics of the abutting lot at 15 Burnt Swamp Lane, the need for a new parking area, and for additional staff housing.
"The reason we purchased 22 Hawthorne is threefold," Bell said. "The building envelope for the conservation restriction at 15 Burnt Swamp is the only place we can install parking but ironically it is an area we would like to avoid disturbing because it contains an old oak stand and generally has a high conservation value. However, a portion of the building envelope abuts the existing parking for 22 Hawthorne which opens up possibilities for expanding along that edge (see attached plan showing building envelope). It also connects 15 Burnt Swamp with another Land Bank property (labeled “Millbrook Rd” on the Nantucket GIS) which leads to our properties at 63 Millbrook and 25 Burnt Swamp. And finally, we have a need for additional staff housing."
The trails that the Borchert family maintained at 15 Burnt Swamp Lane are lined with wildflowers, and the property includes a variety of open fields and shaded forest. The Borcherts’ legacy is memorialized with a monument in front of one of the many pine trees on the parcel.