OTISFIELD — The town’s lengthy effort to increase Heniger Park lease payments to reflect other lakeside property values is over.

A total of 35 of the 36 tenants have or will sign a 99-year lease with the town for lots in the 100-acre park on the west shore of Pleasant Lake, selectmen announced this week.

The action will increase the annual tax roll from the projected $10,642, if none agreed to the new lease, to $106,698, Board of Selectmen Chairman Hal Ferguson said. The money will go into the General Fund, he said.

“We just came to the end of the road, folks,” Ferguson said Wednesday night as he and fellow board members Len Adler and Rick Micklon signed 12 more leases for lot.

All the new leases will be signed by the Sept. 23 deadline. One lot remains uncertain, as the town has not heard from the heirs of the previous owner, despite repeated correspondence.

The land was left to the town in 1943 by noted Broadway producer Jacob Heniger, who stipulated that selectmen decide what would be done with it. 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. Tenants were allowed to build camps, paying taxes on the full value of them.

Tenants paid taxes on an assessed value of $15,000 for back lots and $30,000 for lakefront lots. A fee of between $0 and $50 was added on.

Members of the Heniger Park Reassessment Committee, selectmen and voters at the town meeting agreed last year that it was time to update the arrangement.

Under the new agreements, the value of 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 the current assessed value.

The new agreement gave tenants the opportunity to continue the lease arrangement for the next 99 years at 10-year increments, or let their 50-year lease run out between 2015 and 2040.

Although a handful of leaseholders agreed to the new terms by the original April 30 deadline, 29 of the 37 tenants initially rejected them. The group publicly challenged the terms and asked for concessions that would provide better financing terms. Members argued that the increase was unfair because they do not own the land, making it difficult for them to sell their buildings.

In June, 22 of 27 Heniger Park Association members asked selectmen to reconsider extending its lease offer. In August, the board agreed to, but included an upfront signing cost of $1,000 fee for lakefront tenants and a $500 fee for back-lot tenants to cover legal expenses.

Tenants must provide a copy of a $400,000 liability insurance policy no later than Sept. 30. Also, all environmental issues must be corrected and accepted by the code enforcement officer by then.

The effective date of each 99-year lease will be July 1, 2015. Lease payments will be due twice a year — Oct. 15 and April 15 — to coincide with the date property taxes are due.

Ferguson said he believes a recent letter from the town’s attorney to tenants that clearly stated the terms of the lease, which the board was unsuccessful in conveying to leaseholders, was one factor in getting tenants to take the new offer.

Micklon said he believes the fact that a local bank told tenants they could help with financing under the terms of the new lease.

“We were advised by our Realtor that it would be easier to find a buyer if we had a 99-year lease,” Shirley Boyce said Friday.

Boyce, along with her husband, Jim, are longtime camp owners in Heniger Park but decided to sell last fall when the new lease terms were announced.

They said at that time, the decision “caused incredible sadness and loss in our family to have to sell.”

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.