OTISFIELD — A Massachusetts woman bid $57,500 — more than twice what selectmen were asking — for a 99-year lease of a waterfront lot in Heniger Park on Pleasant Lake.

Linda Cleary made the only offer for Lot 4, which the town advertised for a minimum bid of $25,000. She submitted her handwritten bid on a paper bearing only her name and telephone number. Selectmen accepted it at their meeting Wednesday night.

“This is a nice surprise,” Selectman Chairman Hal Ferguson said. “If you’re going to get one bid, I guess that’s the bid to get.”

The lot was advertised in local and Boston newspapers, on the town’s website and bulletin board.

Although Selectman Rick Micklon expressed some concern that Cleary was not clear that the money bought her a 99-year lease, not the purchase of the lot, Ferguson said Cleary has been contacted, understands the terms and is “very pleased” about making the winning bid.

Board members said Cleary visited the area and is looking forward to spending many years with her family on the lake. She and the town have 30 days to complete the paperwork and lease document signing.

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Cleary 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 her to have a taxable structure on site within two years.

The lot is part of the 100 acres the town was given in 1943 by noted Broadway producer Jacob Heniger. His will stipulated that selectmen decide what would be done with the real estate. It was eventually divided into approximately 35 lots and leased by the town.

In 1965, the first leases were drawn up for fees ranging from $0 to $50 per year for 50 years. Tenants were allowed to build camps, paying taxes on the full value of the structures.

In recent years, the board and a town committee re-evaluated the leases, saying they need to reflect values of other Pleasant Lake camp properties.

In 2014, voters approved forming a committee to reconsider the lease terms. The result was new 99-year agreements that set the value of lakefront lots at $213,000 and back lots at $44,340. A land capitalization rate of 2.2 percent is applied as the lease payment. Buildings are taxed at $12 per one thousand dollars of assessed value.

Only eight of the 37 leaseholders signed the new leases by the April 30 deadline.  If they all had signed, property taxes were expected to increase from $9,528 to $100,551 annually, based on the current tax rate.

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The agreement gave tenants the opportunity to continue the arrangement with the town for the next 99 years at 10-year increments, or let their leases run out. Only those tenants who did not sign the 99-year lease and whose lease runs out in 2015 were given the opportunity to sign a new lease until 2040. Of the 15 who were given that choice, only three signed up, Ferguson said.

Several tenants have placed their buildings on the market while others continue to argue about the fairness of the lease through the Heniger Park Association President Patrick Casey, who has asked for reconsideration of the lease terms.

Selectmen said Wednesday they will send a letter to Casey from the town’s attorney reiterating the board’s stance that they will not reconsider the terms of the new lease. The letter will again advise those whose lease ends on July 7 to reconsider taking the 2040 lease.

If the lease is surrendered, selectmen said they will put the lease out to bid. Building owners have the right to move the structures, destroy them or leave them and the town will take possession.

“I’m glad I signed,” said Ed McCarthy, one of the eight who signed the new lease. “I don’t have to ever deal with this again,” he said at Wednesday night’s meeting.

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Tenants say they are stewards of the lake

OTISFIELD — Kay and Jack Harward of Florida, who lease a lot in Heniger Park, reacted Wednesday night to comments made by Selectmen Len Adler last month that if tenants don’t like the new terms they could “take your house and go.”

“We feel like pariahs,” Jack Harward. “We only did what you asked us to do.”

“We’re not freeloaders,” Catherine Harward said. “We paid our taxes. We didn’t get a free ride.”

“It’s been a nightmare,” she said. “You’ve made it so we feel like renters.”

The Harwards, who are in their 80s and have leased a lot for the past 30 years or so, said they developed the property, put in an artesian well and made other improvements. They consider themselves “stewards” of the lake, they said.

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Selectmen said they fully agree those leasing lots have protected the health of the lake for years.

Catherine Harward said she felt forced to accept the new terms. They have invested too much to walk away, and they want to continue sharing the property with their children and grandchildren, she said.

“I think we didn’t get such a good deal,” she said

Selectmen Chairman Hal Ferguson and Adler reminded the couple that they leveraged a quarter of a million dollar property and can sell the lease like their neighbors, recouping hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“You leveraged a quarter of a million (dollar) property for $50 a year,” Adler said.

Adler said when the original leases were drawn up in the early 1960s, land on lakes was “worthless.”

“That changed over the years,” he said. “(Previous boards) didn’t have a crystal ball.”

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