FARMINGTON — Selectmen voted unanimously Tuesday to maintain that the town has a valid 99-year lease with Farmington Construction for a parking area on Front Street.
They declined an offer to purchase the parking lot from owner Greg Roux, who now has the option of letting the court system decide whether the lease is valid.
Roux came to the board earlier this spring asserting that the town had broken the lease by not living up to its terms. He had been charged property taxes and felt the town had not maintained the lot as the lease required.
The board agreed along with Roux to have the small lot next to the Better Living Center appraised. Compared to similar properties, the lot was appraised at $110,000, Town Manager Richard Davis told the board.
Roux then offered two options. He was willing to sell the lot to the town outright for $85,000 or he would consider a five-year owner finance plan of 5 percent bringing the cost up to $100,000.
He was also willing to stretch it out longer, up to eight years, which would bring the $85,000 price up to $120,000 with interest, he said.
Board members felt the $85,000 price was steep while Roux countered that he was offering to sell at less than the appraised value.
“The town cannot afford $85,000 or $110,000,” Davis said, adding that if the town had that money “we’d spend it on our roads that are falling apart.”
Board members agreed they were not inclined to purchase the property but felt Roux could not sell it until the issue of whether it’s a valid lease or not is resolved.
“In all reality, you’ve got to find out if it’s a legally binding lease,” Selectman Ryan Morgan told Roux.
The town’s attorney sees it as a valid lease, Davis said.
The lease was signed but not ratified and voters chose not to ratify it last month at a special town meeting, Roux reminded the board.
“I’d hate to see it go to litigation. All parties lose,” said John Moore, owner of Narrow Gauge Cinema, located next to the Front Street lot explaining he had been through a similar situation in Skowhegan.
“It’s expensive to get involved with court,” he said while urging the board to come up with a counter sale offer that Roux could consider.
“There’s no need for the town to own the lot,” said Selectman Drew Hufnagel. “It’s up to apartment owners to pay for parking, not taxpayers.”
Overnight parking is available in the lot which is often filled with vehicles owned by apartment dwellers.
With a tight budgeting process this year and another expected next year, the town is not in a position to buy the property, Chair Stephan Bunker said.