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September 6, 2013

Conomo residents' conundrum

Tenants ponder futures after mixed court ruling

ESSEX — A decision by an Essex County Superior Court judge earlier this week essentially said home ownership in Conomo Point can be decided on a case-by-case basis over this town-owned land.

Now, residents are wondering what it may mean for their own futures.

The leases around Beach Circle, Robbins Island Road and northern Conomo Point are set to expire this year, the second year under a three-year, short-term “bridge” lease program.

Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki said town officials will likely be discussing the possibility of offering a third year to tenants in the future. But the town does not have any obligation to continue leasing, residents said.

Middle Road resident Jean Goldsberry, now in her 80s, said she would be interested in leasing, should the rent rates be reasonable. But those land rental rates over the last year have resulted in another suit against the town, with tenants claiming the bridge lease rates are far too high.

Goldsberry said that, before the bridge leases, she paid roughly $1,000 annually to the town in land rent (tenants also pay property taxes). But in 2012, she said, the rent went up to about $5,000, this year, it has been nearly $8,000, and the rent next year is going to be more than $10,000.

“The cost is so prohibitive,” she said, noting that she and her husband, John, took control of the lease when John’s parents died in the 1960s.

Goldsberry is on a fixed income. Like other seasonal residents of Conomo Point, she has a second house, but added that she is concerned about Conomo Point and how the town will act as landlords in the future. Plus, she said that she and her husband’s bid to take over and clean up a nearby house at 138 Conomo Point Road is “a dead deal” blocked by the town — even though the Goldsberrys offered to pay back taxes while taking over the lease.

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