By James Niedzinski
---- — ROCKPORT — Leaseholders of about 150 cottages along Long Beach will now be able to negotiate longer leases with the town, including for up to 30 years.
Voters backed the article at Saturday’s Annual Town Meeting, but both residents and officials only recently realized longer lease agreements could have been approved at a town meeting since 1908, when the town first agreed lease agreements should not exceed 10 years.
Ward Talbot, a longtime Long Beach resident, said state legislation allowing for longer leases on town buildings sparked the talks of longer leases. However, it later became clear the law only had to do with town-owned buildings, not land.
“It almost came by accident,” Talbot said of the longer lease article.
Talbot said the increase in length helps residents get the best mortgage available
Talbot, as well as town officials, said the main reason for extending the lengths of the lease is to make it easier for anyone to gain access to a loan or mortgage and lease property, and a 30-year loan is seen by many banks and homebuyers or lease holders alike as more viable.
“Unlike what you hear, there are a lot of people down here under limited financial circumstances,” Talbot said. “It’s next to impossible to borrow money to fix up a cottage.”
Last year, the 150 cottage owners paid $310,602 in rent to the town; $2,533 for a front row cottage and $1,568 for a back row cottage, according to administrative assistant to the Board of Selectmen Debbie Powers.
Officials from the town treasurer’s and tax collector’s office could not readily provide the total amount the cottage owners paid in taxes on the properties.
Talbot said he recognized lease rates may be affected by longer leases, but that was likely to happen regardless of the lease length. He said that, in the past, amendments to the leases were made to increase the length of the leases from five to 10 years as well as increasing the rent.
“Past practice shows they (the town’s selectmen) have the ability to make any kind of amendment that is for the good of the town,” he said.
And while many residents want to keep the cottages under town control, the ones that are looking to sell are seeing a smaller pool of buyers, Talbot said.
The current leases were approved in 2004 expire at the end of this year, and the town is currently drafting new lease agreements on the cottages.
Residents at Saturday’s Town Meeting also backed $75,000 for a sediment transport study on the beach itself.
According to Town Clerk Patricia Brown, all of articles discussed at the Annual Town Meeting gained approval, with two exceptions; the dates of the Annual Town Meeting and Annual Town Election will remain the same.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.