The Whitefield Board of Selectmen will hold an informational meeting for Clary Lake waterfront owners who requested tax abatements due to the lake’s depleted water levels in the previous year. The meeting, to be held Nov. 17, aims to educate landowners about the town’s current valuation of waterfront property, which is already “as low as it gets,” Whitefield Assessors’ Agent Tom Hayes said.
In preparation for the meeting, Hayes provided selectmen with the waterfront valuations in other towns at the board’s Tuesday, Nov. 3 meeting. Whitefield adds $10,000 in valuation for waterfront property on Clary Lake, Hayes said, regardless of the property’s acreage.
In comparison, Jefferson adds approximately $75,000 to the valuation of Clary Lake waterfront property. Due to the depleted water level of Clary Lake and the ongoing struggle of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to enforce the water level order it issued in 2014, selectmen were clear there would be no effort to increase the valuation of lakefront property.
Selectmen were in disagreement, however, over whether the tax abatement requests would be met with approval. Approximately five tax abatement requests from Clary Lake waterfront owners were received for the 2014 to 2015 tax years. They were not considered because they were received after the statutory deadline for tax abatement requests.
According to state law, tax abatement requests must be filed within 185 days of a municipality establishing its tax commitment. Whitefield set its tax commitment on Sept. 29 for 2015-2016. The abatement requests received reflected a misunderstanding of Whitefield’s current waterfront valuation practices with some requesting relief in excess of the added $10,000 in valuation for the property, selectmen said.
While there was a general consensus on the board that waterfront property would be worth more if the water level of the lake increased to its average volume, Selectmen Tony Marple and Dennis Merrill argued lakefront properties were still worth more than other land lots in town and should not be given the same valuation.
When asked how the town could assess the loss in property value due to Clary Lake’s low water level, Hayes said he didn’t believe there was a loss in value. The valuation “was too low to start with,” Hayes said.
Meanwhile, the DEP is standing by the notice of violation it sent to Pleasant Pond Mill LLC and its manager, Paul Kelley; and AquaFortis Associates LLC and its manager, Richard Smith.
In an effort to enforce the water level order it issued to Pleasant Pond Mill and Kelley in January 2014, the DEP issued a notice of violation stating the conditions of the order must be met or the alleged violators listed on the notice could face penalties ranging from $100 to $10,000 per day starting Oct. 1.
The water level order is currently under appeal in the Lincoln County Superior Court. Lawyers from the PretiFlaherty law firm, representing Kelley, Smith, and their companies, requested a stay of enforcement on the notice of violation pending the outcome of the appeal.
The DEP responded to the stay of enforcement request on Oct. 22 in a letter stating the request was denied.