To the editor:
A recent letter (The Times, Saturday, April 28) outlines a brief history of Conomo Point in Essex.
The author claims the tenants are a source of "aggravation (to the town) and pollution to our river." She further asserts that the tenants "have ... cost this town more money than (it has) ever earned ..." from Conomo Point.
This argument insists that the town's only income is from the rental fees on the leased lots, and this is a gross misrepresentation. In fact, the tenants also pay real estate taxes on the land and buildings, personal property taxes and water bills. Our elected officials are acutely aware of how much revenue Conomo Point generates for the town.
In 1825, the town bought the former Proctor Farm to use as a "poor farm." By the late 1800s, hunters and fishermen had built a number of shanties along the unused waterfront. In 1896, the town insisted that all the tenants sign a standard lease. By 1937, tenants paid a combination of taxes on personal property, land rent, water rents and garage rents. Conomo Point was then and continues to be taxed as if it is privately owned.
In 1986, the leased land at Conomo Point was assessed at $4.7 million and the town collected $5,700 in land rent, but the letter failed to mention the town also collected about $112,000 in taxes. The combined rental income was about $118,000.
During that same period, town residents moved to form the Conomo Point Rent Committee to increase the rent. Prior to submitting their report to the town, the committee voted to exclude any reference to roughly $112,000 in real estate taxes generated by the leases. They claimed that these taxes " ...would be collected by the Town no matter who owned the property." That statement is false and the committee should have known that the town doesn't collect taxes on its own land.
The rent committee presented its report to the Special Town Meeting in March 1987. The vote to increase the rent on all the leases was made against the advice of town counsel. The failure of town officials to heed the advice of town counsel set the stage for the lawsuit filed by the 10 Conomo Point residents in Land Court; the settlement raised the rent and relieved the town of any liability it had for breaking the leases.
The April 28 letter asserts that the homes at Conomo Point pollute the river. The Board of Health has tested the septic systems and tight tanks at Conomo Point and no pollution has been found. Their findings and the state DEP records are available at the Board of Health office.
It is important to realize that Conomo Point is an historic neighborhood inhabited by residents of Essex. These residents have invested millions to build and maintain their homes; which add value to the town's property. They pay thousands of dollars a year in taxes, rent and water bills, income that would be lost to the Town if the leases are terminated.
Is it really in the best interest of the town to sell the Point to the highest bidders?
Demonizing this neighborhood and misrepresenting its value to the town is tearing the Essex community apart.
Martin Street, Essex