Wind: 5 mph
The town of Waitsfield is in the
process of bringing condemnation proceedings against Virginia Houston and one
other landowner in order to secure a piece of property that the town believes
is essential to the fresh water project being built to service the village.
town wants to locate the well on property that belongs to Virginia Houston.
While I am not convinced that the town has acted in good faith in all its
dealings with Houston, and while I am certain that the town has not negotiated
with Houston in good faith, the right to proceed with condemnation is the
town's to exercise. They may very well win.
On the other hand, the town appears ready to abate the taxes at a great cost to
the tax base (which will mean higher taxes for everyone else) in order to
secure a permanent easement on the Neill farm so that the Mad River Greenway
can remain open to the public. Keep in mind that the potentially expensive 50
percent tax abatement must be paid for every year in perpetuity. Just multiply
the cost of abatement by 50 years. Is that cost greater than the amount offered
to Virginia Houston for her much more valuable well location and access to the
extremely valuable aquifer? You betcha!
Suggestion: Condemn the greenway. Offer the Neill's the same deal the town offered Virginia Houston. Or in the alternative, abate the taxes by 50 percent on the Houston property -- the entire Houston property -- forever or until the water runs out. How much would that be? Start with one-half of Houston’s current taxes times 50. The water will likely last a lot longer than 50 years, but that would be an interesting starting point for negotiations.
If taking by condemnation is a plausible solution in the case of Virginia Houston, then condemnation should be considered for the greenway parcel. Good for the goose, good for the gander is a gender analogy. I can't think of what the political analogy would be, but I’m sure you get my point.
If I lived in Waitsfield (I pay property tax in Warren), I’d vote against a tax abatement for the Neill farm. I would also oppose taking by condemnation the Houston property. Neither abatement nor condemnation would be fair to the taxpayers of Waitsfield.
Carl Lobel lives in Warren.