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Posted on March 26, 2018 at 12:46 PM by PattiAnn Schultz
There has been a lot of conversation this week about the town buying the Webster West Golf Course. This is being compared to what the Town of Penfield did recently to stop development from happening. There are a few things that need to be said about the Penfield purchase first. Penfield did not bond the $3.6 million as an open space referendum. They did save the land from development but it does not have the tag "open space" on it. Also, they paid over the assessed value to buy this property and where offered a contract by the owners of the property.
Now, here in Webster, the owners of the golf course made a deal with a developer. That contract still stands with a condition that they get Planning Board approval. I also hear, but do not know this for a fact, that the contract is for $1.5 million and that is far more than the current assessed valuation of the property. Your Town Board certainly is not going to overbid for a piece of property that is assessed below $1.5 million.
In the past when the Town of Webster bonded $5.9 million dollars to purchase 1,426 acres of open space (this number does not include Webster Park or any of our 11 town parks acres), we did not pay retail price. Why in the world would the Town Board ask taxpayers to pay more than what the land is assessed for and what the current property owner(s) are paying taxes on? We believe our assessments are accurate and fair market value so why pay more than that? How is that good business for taxpayers of Webster to pay above market value?
What we have done is to have a contract with the property owner that both the town and property owner agrees upon. Then a mutually agreed upon appraiser would do an appraisal of the property and the assessed values he/she came up with would be the price both sides would agree upon as the price per acre. This worked out very well for the owners of the properties and for the Town of Webster in saving the 1,426 acres we have today. This process also takes away any perceived “hanky-panky” that might come in to play in later years that the Town Board might have sold some land to a friend for a price above market value. If you are going to spend taxpayer’s dollars it must be a sound and above board process without the chance of any collusion.
At the Planning Board meeting last Tuesday it was asked/stated a few times that the town should buy the land. Planning Board member Bill Rampe suggested that residents talk to the Town Board. At this time, the Town of Webster has no money left in the Open Space fund because we spent the last of it a few years back to make up the 1,426 acres that we have today. The $5.9 million bond is not paid off yet, and will not be until 2027. The Town Board is not currently looking in to getting another bond since this would only add to the town’s debt and would raise property taxes. I would also not recommend that the Town Board pay over assessed valuation for any piece of property in Webster.
So, believe it or not, the choices left to purchase open space are easy. One option is that the residents of a surrounding area can pool their money and buy the land around them as open space to their subdivision and pay the taxes as a group in to the future. This way those residents can control the land, what it is used for, who uses it, and they also assume the responsibility of maintenance.
The other option is for the town to buy the land(s). This would require the town to pass a referendum, voted upon by all of the residents in town, to purchase any properties with taxpayer’s dollars. So if this is what the residents of our community would like the Town Board to do, I would recommend we go for a large amount of money ($8 to $10 million) to buy up as many acres as we can so that, going in to the future, we are not constantly having these disagreements amongst neighbors in town.
In my last two columns I have laid out how to purchase open space and why the Town of Webster is not accountable for the higher taxes of other taxing entitles in town. Now it is up to you, the Webster residents, to let the Town Board know how you feel about this.
As always, if you have any questions about your town government, please feel free to contact me during regular business hours at (585) 872-7068; or email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ronald W. Nesbitt