OTISFIELD — The Heniger Park Reassessment Committee said Thursday night it can not support an annual land lease rate that is not equitable with what other camp owners on Pleasant Lake are assessed.

Instead, the committee held firm to its recommendation from last October, which one lessee called, “unjust.”

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

In 1965, the board drew up agreements allowing people to lease the 35 or so leased lots for fees ranging from $0 to $50 per year for 50 years. The leases expire between 2015 and 2032. Each agreement differed.

Also that year, leaseholders were allowed to build camps, and most did, paying taxes on the full value of structures, but not on the leased land.

Lease payments are now calculated by the assessed land value of $15,000 for back lots and $30,000 for lakefront lots, which is then multiplied by the tax rate of $11.55 per thousand dollars or property value. The lease fee of $0 to $50 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 the $50 fee, means the camp owner is paying $396.50 to lease the land. The camp owner also pays a tax on the assessed value of their building or buildings.

For a back lot, which now has a $15,000 assessed value, the owner pays $173.25, plus the lease fee of between $0 and $50. The tax for a structure or structures is  separate.

The committee was formed last year to make recommendations to selectmen on what to do once the leases begin to expire next year.

In October 2013, the committee voted to recommend new lease fees based on values done by the town’s assessor, John E. O’Donnell & Associates of New Gloucester. The company assessed lakefront lots at $212,444 and back lots at $44,340.

The committee proposed the lease fee for lakeside lots be double the current tax rate and back lots be quadruple the tax rate. Therefore, the fee for lakeside lots would be $4,907, and for back lots $2,048.

“This is truly unjust. That’s all I have to say,” said Ed McCarthy of Massachusetts, who along with his wife, Maureen, and a dozen or so other Heniger Park leaseholders attended Thursday’s meeting.

The committee and leaseholders Thursday reviewed a market-based land rental rate on lakefront and back lots that reflected recent typical lease terms. The appraisal was done by a lease professional on the advice of town attorney Geoff Hole, Selectman Rick Micklon said.

Daniel J. Dwyer, a real estate appraiser from Augusta, determined that a waterfront lot is worth $150,000 and at a 2.10 percent land capitalization rate, the lessee would pay an annual lease fee of $3,150. Rear lots worth $31,100 at 2.10 percent would be charged $651 per year. This would be in addition to the fully taxable structure on a lot.

Adler and other committee members said they disagreed with Dwyer’s figure of $150,000 for waterfront lots, when similar lots on the lake are appraised at $200,000.

“I will not not support anything less than what the neighbors (Pleasant Lake landowners) are paying,” committee member and selectmen Chairman Hal Ferguson said.

Lessees said factors, such as the difficulty in obtaining a mortgage because they lease the land, need to be taken into account in setting a lease fee.

The committee decided to consult with Dwyer about his methodology and will report at its April 8 meeting.

An informational hearing will be held at 7 p.m. May 15 at the Community Hall on Route 121 to present the committee’s recommendation to the public. The recommendation will be taken to annual town meeting in June for a nonbinding vote.

Selectmen have stressed that all taxpayers will be affected by what happens at Heniger Park and should voice their opinions.

“What we want is what’s equitable and profitable to townspeople,” Micklon said.

“At the end of the day it’s 100 percent up to selectmen,” he said.

The 2015 Board of Selectmen will make the decision on the leases that expire that year.

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