OTISFIELD — A plan to offer Heniger Park lessees an opportunity to sign a new, 99-year agreement for the town-owned land will come with a price that some called unaffordable.

About 50 people at Thursday night’s informational meeting at the Community Hall were told that about 35 lease-holders at the 100-acre property on Pleasant will be offered a 99-year lease if they agree to terminate their current 50-year lease in writing between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2015.

The hitch, some said, is the new lease amount will be calculated on a land capitalization value of 2.2 times the assessed value, an amount that’s double what they pay now.

“To double the value of the lots is a real hardship. We’re willing to pay what everyone else on the lake is paying, that’s fair, but $6,500 is more than we can afford,” lease-holder Shirley Boyce of Norway said.

The recommendation came after a year of study by the Heniger Park Reassessment Committee and several revisions on how to restructure the leases, which begin to expire in 2015.

The mostly wooded land 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 it.

In 1965, the board drew up agreements allowing people to lease the lots for fees ranging from $0 to $50 per year for 50 years. Each agreement differed. Lease-holders were also allowed to build camps, and most did, paying taxes on the full value of structures.

In 1992, selectmen began leasing lakefront lots based on a value of $30,000, and back lots at $15,000. The change came following a 1991 court settlement.

Selectman Hal Ferguson told those at the meeting that the original 50-year leases were initially only $0 to $50 because the town was trying to entice people to rent the land and because they hoped to recoup money on structures that lease-holders were required to build within two years of signing a lease.

“The reason the leases are as low as they are is because there weren’t people standing in line waiting to get the property,” Ferguson said.

He said lease-holders pay the full assessed values on their buildings, which are almost exclusively used as summer cottages.

“The incentive was to get the property taxes through the buildings, not necessarily the leases,” he said.

While Ferguson agreed that the plan makes lease-holders pay more than some lakeside property owners, he said for an average of less than $5,000 a year, the lease-holders are leveraging property that may be worth a quarter of a million dollars. They are able to rent the property, sell the lease and they have beach rights exclusive to that part of Pleasant Lake, among other amenities.

Ferguson said the total lease payments for the town for fiscal year 2013-14 is $9,528.75 under the current arrangement. That figure, if all 37 lots were under the proposed lease arrangement, would be $100,551.35.

According to town assessor records, assessed values of lakeside lots not in Heniger Park ranged from $206,783 to $213,005 for front lots to $44,340 for back lots.

Heniger Park Association member Robert MacGregor said the plan will be painful for some but he thanked the committee for their willingness to listen to lease-holders at every meeting over the past year.

The committee’s final recommendations will be presented in a warrant article at the annual town meeting in June. The vote is nonbinding to assist selectmen in their analysis of the lease expiration.

Selectmen must approve a lease agreement and then forward the information to the town attorney for final legal approval and the development of the new lease and lease termination documents.

Ferguson said nothing is etched in stone but one thing is certain: The Heniger Park Reassessment Committee unanimously wants the lease amounts to go up, not down.

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