Meeting planned on Otisfield camp lot assessments

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OTISFIELD — Selectmen Chairman Hal Ferguson said Friday he will arrange a meeting soon with the town’s attorney to review how the town set a fair market value for properties in Heniger Park.

He said the bottom line will be simple: What is a lease for the approximately 35 town lots on Pleasant Lake really worth?

“No one has been able to give us what a lease is really worth,” he said.

The 100 acres of mostly wooded land on Pleasant Lake was left to the town in 1943 by noted Broadway producer Jacob Heniger. The will stipulated that the Board of Selectmen decide what would be done with the real estate.

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In 1965, selectmen drew up agreements allowing people to lease lakeside lots in Heniger Park for 50 years. Those leases expire between 2015 and 2032.

Lessees, who are mostly summer residents, were allowed to build and pay taxes on the buildings but not the land. Each lease fee differed.

The Heniger Park Reassessment Committee was formed last year to make recommendations to selectmen on what to do once the leases begin to expire. Ferguson, fellow Selectmen Len Adler and Rick Micklon and six others serve on the committee.

“We’re really concentrating on the leases. Nothing changed on taxes,” Ferguson said after Thursday night’s committee workshop.

Lease payments are calculated by the assessed land value of $15,000 for back lots and $30,000 for lakefront lots. The values are multiplied by the tax rate of $11.55 per thousand. The fee, ranging from $0 to $50 per year, is added on.

For example, Lot 1 is a lakefront lot assessed at $30,000. Multiplied by the 2014 tax rate of $11.55, plus a $50 fee, means the camp owner is paying $396.50 to lease the land. The camp owner also pays a property tax on the assessed value of their building or buildings.

If the same building were on the back lot, that owner would pay a total of $223.25, plus the tax owed on the structure or structures on the lot.

Ferguson said the committee has appraisals from an assessing business and from two independent realtors, but none determined the true worth of the leases.

Earlier this year, the committee asked John E. O’Donnell & Associates Inc. of New Gloucester to look at the properties to see what the assessed value would be if they were outside of Heniger Park. The analysis included 11 parcels, excluding buildings. The seven lakefront properties ranged in value from $206,783 to $248,900, while the back lots ranged from $44,340 to $45,900.

Two local realtors were also contacted for a market analysis of the lots. Caldwell Banker Lakes Region Properties determined the leases for desirable lakefront lots would bring in $185,000 to $200,000 and the better ones up to $245,000. Back lots would be in the $30,000 to $40,000 range with the value being higher with lake views and access to sandy beaches.

Maine Real Estate Network estimated the lakefront lots at $180,000 and back lots with deeded access to two beaches at $60,000.

Although the committee has looked at an alternative lease agreement that would charge lease rates of two times the adjusted land value for front lots and four times the adjusted land value for back lots, some camp owners say the new terms would double or quadruple what they pay.

Adler said he felt each lot should be assessed separately.

Ferguson said once the committee irons out the details of new leases, it will hold a public meeting to bring them up to date on the lease terms no later than May 15.

In June, voters at the annual town meeting will be asked in a nonbinding vote to approve the plan.

Regardless of the vote, or even the committee’s plan, selectmen in the future can make changes.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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