OTISFIELD – Only eight of the 37 lessees at Heniger Park on Pleasant Lake signed new 99-year leases with the town by Thursday’s deadline, an official said.

“We’ll see where we go from here,” Board of Selectmen Chairman Hal Ferguson said Friday.

The returned 99-year leases were from two whose agreements expire this year, one that expires in 2016, three that expire in 2017, one that expires in 2019 and one that expires in 2020.

Those whose leases expire June 30, 2016, have the opportunity to sign a lease extension until 2040. It is a one-time offer by the Board of Selectmen, Ferguson said.

After that date, all bets are off, he said, because new members on the board could generate new lease agreements. 

The 100-acre park of mostly wooded land on the west shore of the 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.

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In 1965, the board drew up agreements allowing people to lease 37 lots for fees ranging from $0 to $50 per year for 50 years. Lessees were allowed to build camps, paying taxes on the full value of structures.

The leases were calculated on an assessed value of $15,000 for back lots and $30,000 for lakefront lots, multiplied by the tax rate. The lease fee of $0 to $50 was added on.

Under the 99-year agreements, the value for lakefront lots is $213,000 and back lots is $44,340. A land capitalization rate of 2.2 percent is applied as the lease fee. Buildings are taxed at $12 per thousand dollars of assessed value.

If all 37 had signed new leases, property taxes were expected to increase from $9,528 to $100,551 annually, based on the current tax rate.

The new lease was developed by a committee and selectmen, with input from lessees and others, over two years. In June 2014, voters backed selectmen’s efforts to change the terms to reflect values of other Pleasant Lake camp properties.

The agreement gave lessees the opportunity to continue the arrangement with the town for the next 99 years at 10-year increments, or let their leases run out.

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The new terms were criticized by some lessees who said it forces them to them to put their property on the market.

Late last year, the Heniger Park Association, which is made up of a majority of lessees, publicly challenged the terms and asked for concessions that would provide better financing terms. Members argued that the fee increase is unfair, in part, because they do not own the land, making it difficult for them to sell their camps.

The board conceded to 14 of the 28 requests over the past few months, including agreeing to work with financial institutions by extending the 10-year incremental lease to a 20-year incremental lease to allow for a longer mortgage.

Last week, selectmen received a package from the association asking for more concessions but Ferguson said no further considerations will be entertained.

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SIDEBAR

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OTISFIELD — The town is advertising to lease Lot 4 in Heniger Park, and several people have already inquired, Board of Selectmen Chairman Hal Ferguson said.

The minimum bid of $25,000 is based on factors such as the asking price of several Heniger Park lots that are up for sale, he said.

The future lessee can improve the building shell on the property under the direction of the local code enforcement officer or apply to the Planning Board for a new building permit, Ferguson said.

The lease requires the lessee to have a taxable structure on site within two years.

 Bids will be opened at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 3, at the Town Office.

 The winning bidder will be able to sign a 99-year-lease for the property.

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