APPLETON — Four months after voters at the Appleton Town Meeting narrowly approved the sale of 17 acres of public property, the vacant, wooded lot went on sale on Oct. 19.
Within a day of the Select Board’s unanimous vote on Oct. 11 to contract with Camden Coast Real Estate to market the West Appleton Road lot, the listing was posted on at least six online real estate sites.
And although the city initially told voters during the June city council vote that the land was worth $55,000, it is now on the market for more than double that amount — $145,000. That’s the prevailing market value for the lot, which is residential and can be subdivided, according to Camden Coast Real Estate’s market analysis prepared for the city in September.
If realized, that amount could pay the entire bill for the revaluation of the professional real estate that Appleton is expected to contract soon to comply with state law, something long overdue.
Indeed, the “primary” reason for selling the land was “to raise money so we can do a citywide re-evaluation of all properties,” said Peter Beckett, vice president of the Select Board.
“That was the original thrust, that was the top priority, and we think we’ll have to do it in the coming years,” Beckett said.
It’s been about 15 years since the last revaluation, he said.
Article IX, Section 7 of the Maine Constitution says that such “general appraisals must be taken at least once every 10 years.”
Accompanied by five photos, Camden Coast’s listing describes the lot as follows: “This mature wooded lot offers several possible configurations, conveniently located close to Gibson Preserve, the Appleton Preserve, West Appleton Golf Club and many Midcoast amenities. Keep the lot as one plot and enjoy a private place to call home or use the spacious frontage to your advantage and develop Power supply along West Appleton Road and easy access to the property make this versatile plot desirable – come take a look today and bring your ideas along.”
Both the sale of the land and the revaluation were among three related questions about successful warrants at the June 22 Town Meeting. The land sale, at the heart of the matter, was almost lost.
The warrants were Articles 27 to 29. The first were as follows: Will the municipality vote for the creation of a revaluation reserve fund?
The article was accompanied by a comment from the Select Board explaining: “Real estate sales exceeding its estimated value in 2022 indicate the future need for a revaluation. The city evaluator’s attorney recommended that the city begin planning for revaluation, which could cost as much as $130,000. By creating a revaluation reserve, the city can plan for costs, rather than increase everything at once. Amounts will be allocated at congregation meetings.” The vote was 249 for and 120 against; it passed.
Article 28 dealt with the sale of land. It read: Will the City authorize the Select Board to sell, through a licensed broker, Map 8 Lot 15, half of the city property collectively known as the Grover McLaughlin Lot, totaling 17 acres of which the sale proceeds will go to the revaluation reserve does Fund, if approved, go into undesignated fund balance if a revaluation reserve fund is not approved?
The article came with the following comment from the Select Board: “The land is not currently generating any tax revenue; timber harvesting in the nearby Midcoast Lot over the past 5 years has yielded the city $2700 and this warrant requests permission to harvest prior to sale. The expected asking price of each lot is $55,000. If a $200,000 home is built, the annual land and building tax bill is estimated to start at $3,000 per lot created. This lot has 800 feet of food frontage, making it possible to become as many as five separate lots with a road frontage of 150 feet per lot, according to the city’s building code. If approved by voters, the board’s intent is to form a committee to assess potential multiple lots and the sale will ultimately help cover the cost of a revaluation, which the city saw more than 15 years ago. last completed.” The article was narrowly passed by a vote of 197 to 193.
On a third, related issue, Article 29, the voter asked for permission to harvest wood on the land to be sold. It read: Will the city authorize the Select Board to harvest timber on the land owned by the city known as the Grover McLaughlin Lot (Card 8 Lot 5 and Card 8, Lot 15)? It was passed by 230 votes to 150.
At the recent sale of the 17 hectares, no plan for the timber harvest had yet been advanced. Camden Coast Real Estate advised against a harvest.
According to the property tax division of the Maine Revenue Services, “A revaluation is a process that creates a solid foundation of inventory for tax purposes. The Constitution of Maine states that all taxes on real estate and personal property levied by the authority of this state will be are apportioned and appraised equally according to their proper value. To distribute the tax burden equally, the appraiser(s) must establish appraised valuations in accordance with their proper value. Value alone is synonymous with market value.”
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