Gloucester Daily Times
---- — To the editor:
The town of Rockport should negotiate the 30-year land leases with the Long Beach cottage owners as they have requested.
Our friends and neighbors at Long Beach make a convincing case that future financing for them would be easier to obtain with longer-term security.
The Long Beach Association very ably looks out for the best interest of the 150 beachfront home owners. But, as I’ve asked previously, who is looking out for the town’s best interests?
For those unfamiliar with the arrangement, the houses are privately owned and the land they sit on — which is owned by you, Rockport’s 5,800 taxpayers and voters — is leased to them by the town government.
According to the 2012 town report, $311,324 came into the town’s general fund from the Long Beach land leases last year. A conservative estimate would place the actual fair market value of the land at $50 million or more. As the realtors say “location, location, location” right?
But 96.35% of the property in Rockport is taxed based on a combination of 100 percent of fair market value of the building and the land, while the Long Beach land tenants are the 3.65 percent exception.
Resident Terry Collins first suggested selling the lots to the Long Beach homeowners — and I agree with him. This upcoming 30-year lease should be the final one. In the long run, the Long Beach homeowners deserve full ownership of their house and land for long-term security and all town residents would benefit by having the land revenue gradually come into town coffers.
Owners of property have an absolute right to choose to sell it or not. We’ve previously sold both tax title land and no longer needed buildings successfully for the public good.
But the best way to answer the question of whether Rockport residents want to sell their Long Beach lots is to ask them. Give the voting public accurate information, and craft a ballot question to get the will of the people.
The loss of lease income would be automatically offset by taxable land assessment and would be substantially higher. The short season at Long Beach — six months — came with the deed and was never a deterrent to ownership.
Try to imagine how much it will cost to fund the annual town budget 30 years from now. And aren’t we fortunate that Rockporters several generations ago knew a sturdy seawall was needed between the beach and the residential area. That foresight prevented Long Beach from ending up like Plum Island with homes falling into the ocean.
The point is to envision a sustainable prosperity for Rockport for generations to come without overburdening tax payers with overrides and unreasonable fees or needlessly borrowing money we don’t have. This opportunity and the public’s prerogative shouldn’t be ignored.
Canterbury Lane, Rockport