2017-05-26 / Front Page

Arundel mulls land sale

Nearly 40 acres taken for back taxes could go to bid
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — The town buyeth, and the town selleth away.

When Arundel residents gather for their annual town meeting, June 14, they’ll be asked to approve spending $375,000 to buy 35 acres of land on Limerick Road, with 29 acres going to the Arundel Conservation Trust for $175,000 and the rest staying in town hands for use as home to a new 8,000-square-foot town office costing roughly $2.1 million in building construction and site preparation.

By that time, however, selectmen may have reached a decision to sell four other lots totaling 39.75 acres. According to the most recent assessment records on the town website, for the 206-2017 tax year, those vacant lots are valued by the town at $319,200.

All of the lots were acquired by the town between 1994 and 2014, taken by foreclosure for failure to pay property taxes.

The idea to sell them off was precipitated by an April 24 email from Mountain Road residents Don and Karen Holbrook. The couple recently approached the planning board about building a private road to a portion of their property to service a pair of house lots they plan to give to their children.

The planning board said that would mean re-grading the existing driveway and moving underground power lines, work that tallied to a prohibitive cost of more than $300,000. Because the Holbrook property abuts a 5.26-acre parcel owned by the town on Bergeron Lane, the couple asked Town Manager Keith Trefethen if the town might be willing to sell, on the hope that building an access road across that lot might be a cheaper endeavor, even with the purchase cost.

“At this point we aren’t even sure this would cost any less money,” Karen Holbrook wrote in an April 24 email. “We are just looking at possible options. Otherwise, our kids will look to purchase land in another town.”

The town acquired the Bergeron Lane lot, which it has accessed at $3,500, in January 2013.

When he brought the Holbrooks’ enquiry to selectmen at their May 8 meeting, Trefethen suggested it might be worth researching how many tax-acquired properties the town has on the books, and reviewing them all, to see which properties selectmen might want to hold on to, and which could be put on the market.

Trefethen said at the time there may be as many as 10 such lots. However, at the board’s May 22 meeting, Trefethen said he’d been able to identify five lots taken by the town for back taxes.

By that time, however, one of the lots had been returned to the previous owners. Ronald and Barbara Maurice of Biddeford had been in to the town office and paid off the back-due taxes in full on a 10.11-acre lot off of Route 1 behind Fritz’s Lane.

Selectmen have a policy of selling tax-acquired lots back to the previous owner for what was owned in taxes. Trefethen did not say how much the Maurices owed, but with the bill paid, he had begun the process of returning the lot to them, he said.

The remaining lots include, in addition to the one on Bergeron Drive, the following, listed by tax maps location:

 Map 12, Lot 7 — 30.99 acres off Portland Road, acquired in January 2014 and assessed at $234,500 and described by Trefethen as being, “next to the tire warehouse facility,”

 Map 33, Lot 13-A — 1 acre road off of Old Post Road, acquired in July 1994 and assessed at $35,700, which Trefethen said the town has tried unsuccessfully to sell before, and,

 Map 43 Lot 42 — 2.5 acres wedged between River Road and the railroad tracks, acquired in April 2005 and assessed at $45,600.

Trefethen said that while vote approval would be required to sell most town-owned lots, selectmen have the authority to put those taken for back taxes out to bid.

“I say we sell all four of them,” board chairman Velma Hayes said.

“I would say list them all,” Selectman Jason Nedeau said.

“Any profit we can make is good,” Nedeau said, although he cautioned that some residents will no doubt balk at whatever price is realized.

“Any dollar amount you put forward, they’re going to complain,” he predicted.

Hayes pointed out selectmen can reject any and all offers, for any reason, and are not obligated to take any lowball bids.

In some cases, she said, there may be only one bidder. For example, the River Road property, she said, is “only of use to the abutter or the railroad.” However, “the abutter is interested in that if we do put it up for sale,” she said, indicating the town may well be able to offload at least one of the four lots.

However, Hayes said the abutted recently had his own property surveyed and has declared, based on the results, that the town-owned lot must be smaller than 2.5 acres.

“He says that is wrong,” she reported.

Trefethen said he would return to the next board meeting June 12, with more detailed information on each lot, including recalculations of lot sizes, where necessary, and updated assessments, as well as a schedule for advertising the properties and deadlines for submitting bids and making a decision on any potential sales.

Selectmen are expected at that meeting to decide which, if any, of the four lots to sell.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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