GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

September 12, 2013

Letter: 'Life leases' can provide Conomo solution


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

Regardless of whether the town or the lessees own the houses at Conomo Point, one thing remains the same: No final decision has been made as to the future of this spectacular place.

The Selectmen are pushing for continuing the remaining leases on the Point for another 15 to 20 years in order to insure the financial future of the town. While we are all concerned about the current fiscal challenges facing Essex, including the need for the remodeling of the town’s safety facility, renovation of Town Hall and the need for a new elementary school, is it really worth avoiding a resolution to such an ongoing divisive issue? One possible solution that has not been publicly discussed is that of life leases.

A life lease, a legal term used in real estate, is exactly what it says. Current lessees and their spouses would be allowed to live out their lives on the Point. Once the lessee decided to leave or passed away, the house would be removed to create open space. Here are what I believe to be the advantages of such an approach.

A single life lease would allow the current renters to stay put for the remainder of their lives. Their children, and in some cases grandchildren, could continue to enjoy the traditions of the Conomo Point community. This would also avoid the unfair and painful process of selecting which houses should be razed to create even a limited amount of open space.

From a financial point of view, life leases would provide the town with the same revenue stream for the next 15 to 20 years — the timeframe in which the town will be dealing with many of its challenges. After that, at first slowly and later exponentially, the revenue stream will decrease as houses are removed.

While the income stream from these leases will eventually dry up, future remodeling of existing houses in Essex and new construction will offset this loss by providing an increase in assessed property values and an increase in the number of taxable properties, respectively.

Finally, assigning life leases would set in stone the eventual creation of a park that could easily rival the beauty and utility of Manchester’s Tucks Point and Gloucester’s Stage Fort Park.

Unfortunately, for the many Essex residents who would like to see this happen, life leases would provide the least personal satisfaction. The majority of them, including this author, will not be alive when the last house on the point is finally removed.

Many of us in this group are very sensitive to the feelings of the remaining lessees and are well aware of the town’s fiscal challenges. This being the case, just knowing that future generations of town residents will have full access to a beautiful park by the sea, would suffice to gain an approval for such a solution at a town meeting or on a town ballot.

Let’s not postpone making a decision about the future of Conomo Point. According to the most recent plan put forth by the selectmen, postponement leaves open the inevitable sale of more than half of the remaining land. That would be sad.

I believe there is not a single coastal town in the US that would dream of selling its waterfront property. Throw in the fact that it’s a town’s only public access to a beach, and I will guarantee that belief!

Please ask your selectmen and those serving on the Conomo Point Planning Committee to take one more look at finding a different solution to this mess. Life leases might be the answer.

PAUL PENNOYER

Grove Street, Essex