Couldn’t make the BOS meeting last Wednesday, so I just got to watch the finale of the Boat Trailer parking issue. Can you guess?
A very articulate island resident got up to make a few points about their plight:
1) They don’t have anyplace else to put their trailers. I think we covered that last week. Local marinas will store your trailer for the summer for about $100. Many non-island taxpayers like condo owners have restrictions against storing trailers on their property. Many more would rather not have the eyesore.
2) They have been leaving them at Mast Landing for years. OK, that’s a valid point. But there is a relatively modern ordinance against that, and prior non-enforcement has been to their benefit.
3) They don’t get water and sewer. Neither do a lot of other people. Water users bear the entire cost of their service. Sewer users bear the cost of operation, while the general fund, including island residents, bear the cost of the infrastructure. That’s justified by the argument that everybody benefits from the protection of water quality and the enabling of townwide infrastructure like the downtown, hospital, and schools.
4) They don’t have fire protection. That has always been the case, and is reflected in the value of the property, which is the basis for the tax bill.
What wasn’t mentioned was that there are already additional exclusive services provided to island residents:
1) Free unlimited boat slips at town facilities including Mast Landing and the Back Bay. Anybody with a boat care to put a value on that?
2) Free unlimited parking at the water access parking lots.
Beyond that, the assessed values of Wentworth island properties were not increased dramatically a few years ago as were the land based waterfront values. That’s probably because there are virtually no credible real estate transactions recorded to base a revaluation on. These properties are typically transferred for $1, presumably between family members. The net result is that Wentworth island lots are assessed at about $170,000 on average. Where in the real world can you get private waterfront property, with a free unlimited land boat slip and parking, for $170,000? Wentworth waterfront lots on the mainland are assessed at $500,000.
But all that just avoids the big picture. It’s not the business of the Board of Selectmen to decide who is getting their money’s worth for their tax dollars. The assessment is supposed to be based solely on the fair market value of the property – period. We pay our share of the cost to run the town as a fixed rate tax on that assessment. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether we have access to or use the various town services. Island residents can whine all day about their trailer parking plight. We land based taxpayers have problems too, individually and collectively, and many of us that are paying, as in my case 7 times more in taxes than these undervalued island properties, are not being offered offsetting services.
Plain and simple, providing yet more exclusive town services to this select group of 40 taxpayers is nothing short of shameless pandering.
Island properties ..just an aside.
Fire protection. The island people on the Big Lake do not have the
traditional fire protection that in town people have as in fire hydrants,
but the taxpayers foot the bill for a well equipped Fire protection/saftey boat that is
at the “ready” at all times
I guess the point is that when these people bought their island property on Lake Wentworth, they were fully aware that island life is different and that there is no provision to try to put out a structure fire out there. That’s part of the decision to buy the place and is a consideration in what you are willing to pay for it vs waterfront on the mainland that is generally assessed at two and a half times island values. I imagine the town providing free exclusive use of town docks and free overnight parking at the waterfront goes into the equation as well and adds to the value of the property.
Regardless, property taxes are a wealth tax and have nothing to do with the individual services that we use or have access to. The Selectmen have just given 6 months per year of exclusive use of a piece of town property that everyone recently paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for, to these 40 or so taxpayers. It’s simple pandering.
The guy at the meeting complained that they don’t get police patrols. I think his real complaint was that the police did patrol the Mast Landing lot and ticketed his trailer parked next to the sign that says you can’t leave it there for more than a week.