2009-06-25 / Letters to the Editor

Town should sell vacant Jamestown Shores lots

At the June 15 meeting of the Town Council, a request to sell two recently acquired parcels of land was discussed. The reasons to sell or not to sell varied. One noteworthy reason was not to sell because the town was in such a good financial state that we did not need the money. That is indeed excellent news from which we can assume that there will be no tax increase in 2010 for, after all, taxes can be reduced by increasing revenue.

You may have read over the past two years or so the numerous legal notices in the Press announcing the court filings to foreclose on the right of redemption of tax delinquent properties, allowing the town to acquire permanent and uncontested ownership.

I understand that the legal fees for each filing cost taxpayers $5,000 and that these costs were supposed to be recouped by selling the property to an abutter with a covenant that would prohibit a dwelling to be constructed, which can easily be monitored by building permits, but would allow for such uses as a children’s playground, gardens, storage of a boat or a recreational vehicle, a new septic system to replace a failed one or similar uses.

The proceeds from the sale of the property would then be used for the next $5,000 filing, resulting in no cost to the taxpayers and even providing a profit. Since this involves litigation, the process was eligible to be discussed in executive session, prohibiting any input from taxpayers.

Luck would have it that although the above sequence was not followed, the plan hit pay dirt when one owner of a waterfront property, not in the Jamestown Shores, came up with $80,000 in back taxes. Had this not happened, the taxpayers would have been left holding the bag for all those $5,000 filings.

Another surprise appeared when two parties actually came forward with a request to purchase two lots. Either they were basically honest folks and wanted to do the right thing or they did not know about the timehonored Jamestown custom of encroaching onto property owned by the town.

Most of these lots were either abandoned by their owners or heirs and, had they been left alone, they would have remained vacant because an abutter would be reluctant to squat on them lest the owner suddenly shows up.

But now that the town owns them, there is noth- ing to stop an abutter from taking them over and making use of them for purposes described above. The eloquent statements of preserving open space now have no basis in fact. Such encroachments would never be contested, just look at the numerous rights-of-way to the waterfront that already have or are slowly disappearing, like High Street and Westwood Road among others, not to mention the mother of all land grabs, Newport Street between Fort Wetherill Road and Highland Drive.

There will not be an Oklahoma land rush to purchase these unbuildable lots, but there will be a series of California gold rush claim jumpers that will never be agenda items. The taxpayer has again been left in the dust and the attorneys making the filings are laughing all the way to the bank.
Frank Meyer

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