CHINA — Several residents are worried that the town’s proposal to buy lakefront property for a park could increase local taxes.
Longtime residents Scott Adams, 59, Herb Tyler, 67, and Sheldon Bumps, 68, and part-time resident Scott Croker, 54, don’t think the Board of Selectmen or the China Lake Access Feasibility Committee have an adequate plan for fundraising or for the property.
Town voters will consider the $575,000 purchase of The Cabins on Lakeview Drive at the Nov. 5 election. The town has raised roughly $120,000 for the purchase and would borrow the rest from Bar Harbor Bank and Trust, pending voter approval of the purchase.
The four men said the cost to the town — when interest, lost property tax revenue and park development as well as maintenance costs are considered — would far exceed the $575,000 purchase price.
They also said the fundraising goals are too optimistic and are afraid the purchase would affect their property taxes.
Committee members and the selectmen see the purchase as a way to spur economic growth in the town by having a communal place for China residents to use for recreation. The committee thinks more public access to the lake could increase China’s attraction for budding families.
The loan is for $465,000 at a 3.99 percent interest rate for 30 years. The price of the loan over those 30 years, with interest included, is roughly $800,000.
The town also would lose $8,000 a year in property taxes, if it buys the land.
The town hopes residential development near the proposed park will overcome the lost property taxes, town manager Daniel L’Heureux said previously.
The men said they also are concerned about the park’s future costs.
There is no set plan for the more than 20 buildings on the property or the 6 acres across Lakeview Drive.
“One concern I have with their business plan is they have all these great ideas as to what can happen to the property, but they all come at a cost,” Adams said. “They have no idea what the cost is going to be.”
The four men don’t understand the urgency to buy the land before the money is raised.
“If they’re talking about fundraising for this thing, then what’s the rush now?” Croker said. “Let’s go get the money first and then buy it.”
Dale Worster, a member of the China Lake Access Feasibility Committee, said the committee’s goal is to buy the land and set up an ambitious fundraising campaign that will repay the loan without placing any burden on taxpayers.
“We’re hoping on raising about $100,000 this year, with various organizations in town donating,” Worster said. “Best-case scenario is everything is paid off in two years; but reasonably, we should have it paid off in five.”
He said the committee plans to raise money from individuals and businesses, which includes a $25,000 matching grant from Fairpoint Communications in 2007 to buy lakefront property.
He said the fundraising plan is contingent on acquring the land first, and he did not provide details.
Worster also said Bar Harbor Bank and Trust is considering making a donation. The bank, however, was noncommittal about the contribution.
“There hasn’t been any committment in a donation,” said Cheryl Mullen, the senior vice president of sales and marketing for the bank. “We’ve been approached by the town, which wanted approval to buy the land.”
While the committee insists that the fundraising campaign will eliminate any burden from taxpayers, the four men aren’t as convinced.
“There are a lot of people out here hurting, and it’s difficult for people to pay their living expenses, let alone their tax bills,” Bumps said.
The 1270 Lakeview Drive property has been up for sale for roughly five years, according to Andy Samoiloff, treasurer of Wachusett Properties, which owns the land.
The town’s original offer to buy the property called for closing on the sale in June 2014, but Wachusett insisted that deal be completed this year, Worster said.
“We felt like it was a take-it-or-leave-it deal,” he said.
If voters approve the purchase, the closing would be scheduled for Dec. 31.
Committee members have offered up a number of ideas about what activities the proposed park may offer, but they are hesitant to say that any idea is certain before the property is bought.
Additionally, committee members have said their job is to find a suitable location for a community park, and it’s up to the selectmen to make any final decisions about it.
The lakefront portion of the land is spotted with more than 20 cabins. Committee members said some cabins would remain as changing rooms and rest rooms, while others might be rented out to help fund the purchase. The remaining ones might be sold and moved.
Residents have a chance to discuss the proposed purchase at 6 p.m. Monday at China Middle School. Local voters will consider the proposal on Election Day, Nov. 5, at the China Town Office.
Jesse Scardina — 861-9239