By: Mike Anderson
On July 24th, Town Council decided to kick the can down the road yet again by approving “fair market value” appraisals for the lakeside lots it plans to sell.
It’s the latest chapter in an ongoing land dispute with Lake Drive residents that has dragged on for more than four years.
The gist of the matter is that the Town is terrified of being sued. So, it wants to get rid of more than 400 lakeside lots it claims it owns to avoid liability.
However, the Town only wants to sell the land to the indirect lakefront property owners on the other side of the road.
The problem is that the potential buyers are not happy with the Town’s terms.
They don’t want to have the lots appraised and sold to them at “fair market value.”
After all, they’ve been maintaining the lots and paying hefty property taxes on them for years, if not decades.
The Town’s plan to appraise 3 to 5 sample lots to deterimine the final sale price of the remaining lots also doesn’t make much sense. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, as no two lots are the same.
Lake Drive residents also don’t want to pay all the costs the town will incur to complete the land sales, which continue to grow and now include appraisal, survey, legal and administrative costs.
The Town calls it “cost recovery,” which is another way of saying someone else is picking up the tab.
It all seems a bit like a shotgun wedding. The bride’s dad owns the shotgun. The groom has no choice but to accept his terms.
But let’s say the groom doesn’t want to play along.
According to the Town’s lawyer Andrew Biggart, property owners who choose not to purchase the Town’s lakeside lots would face the specter of a municipal fence blocking their access to the lake, possible trespass notices, and a by-law officer demanding they rip out their docks.
Thankfully, we live in a democracy. And governments including Town councils, who appear to act unfairly towards the people who voted for them, are often punished severely at the ballot box.
One hopes that reason will prevail, and the Town will settle this issue amicably by filing the appraisals in the appropriate container, and assigning a nominal value to the land, much like it does for surplus municipal lands.
It should also split the costs of each transaction with the indirect lakefront property owner.
The Town would appear fair, and litigation will be avoided — which is the goal, isn’t it?