GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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September 26, 2013

Long Beach tenants to see 10 year leases

ROCKPORT — The tenants of the 154 houses and cottages on the town-owned land at Long Beach don’t know yet what they will pay in rent next year once their current leases expire Dec. 31.

But they’re assured of being offered new 10-year leases after a 3-2 Board of Selectmen’s vote Tuesday night.

Erin Battistelli, who chairs the selectmen, joined fellow board members Eliza Lucas and Sarah Wilkinson voted in favor of extending new 10-year leases, with vice chairman Paul Murphy and selectwoman Wilhelmina Sheedy-Moores — who sought shorter-term lease extensions while the town sought more financial and other data — opposed the 10-year term.

While some town residents and officials – including the town’s own Finance Committee — had pushed for shorter terms and more input, the tenants at Long Beach, who own their cottages on town land that’s been leased since the early 1900s, had been hoping for leases of up to 30 years to better leverage financing. And a proposal to extend leases beyond 10 years was approved at Town Meeting in April.

But Battistelli said that lifting the 10-year restriction, as approved at Town Meeting, was for more flexibility, there was no goal for a longer lease.

“The purpose of asking Town Meeting to lift that restriction was to ensure we had all the tools that we needed to look at options for the town,” she said Wednesday.

Long Beach tenants are happy with the board’s decision, according to Steve Sheehan, secretary of the Long Beach Improvement Association.

Sheehan said an affordable long-term lease fair to both the town and tenants has always been a mutual goal. The LBIA had previously suggested a 30-year lease term. The houses on Long Beach are seasonal, residents also pay year round taxes on the land and house.

“With the 10-year lease decision now official, the ability to secure a conventional mortgage on Long Beach properties is highly unlikely,” he said. “The owners will accept it, rally together and preserve the uniqueness of (Long Beach).”

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