Edgartown begins preparations for tax-possession lot auctions

Edgartown selectmen Art Smadbeck, left, Michael Donaroma, and Margaret Serpa look over the tax possession lot report. — Photo by Monica Busch

Edgartown selectmen will explore options to sell off lots the town owns, largely acquired as a result of foreclosures due to unpaid property taxes. Selectmen agreed they’d like to plan an auction in spring 2016 for some of the approximately 20 eligible land parcels, but they need to finalize which lots to keep and which to make available.

Administrative assistant to the selectmen Karen Fuller presented a chart of all the properties at a regular Monday-evening meeting.

“Really the next step is that you guys have to decide which ones you want to choose,” Ms. Fuller said to selectmen. “And then we can start the process for a [request for proposals] for an auctioneer.”

It takes approximately six weeks from the time an auctioneer is chosen to when the auction can be held, she said.

Ms. Dolby suggested selectmen look closely at the list of properties before they decide which lots to keep. A variety of town committees have expressed interest in the town-owned properties, including the conservation commission, the affordable housing committee, and the wastewater department. Ms. Dolby specifically brought up land on Chappaquiddick the affordable housing committee wanted to develop, and which was the subject of a lawsuit by those opposed to it.

“Maybe a better idea would be to auction those lots off, and maybe the proceeds of those lots can be used by the affordable housing committee to purchase other lots instead of going into a lawsuit,” Ms. Dolby said.

She said that five years ago, Edgartown had three lots on Chappaquiddick that were affordable housing lots, which cost the town a lot in legal fees.

“It was awful. It was very expensive,” she said.

Ultimately, selectmen agreed to take the list home and look over the lots, and to consider specific lots that town bodies are interested in using.

In other business, selectmen recapped the nearly $30,000 overcharge the town incurred in school budget assessments as a result of incorrect census numbers entered into the Island school budget. Ms. Dolby told selectmen that she had incorrectly reported that the overcharge was part of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High school budget, but that the money was part of the superintendent office’s shared-services budget, and came from the Edgartown School. She said that the town pays into this twice a year, and that the overcharge would be deducted on the last payment.

Mr. Smadbeck said the actual deduction should be approximately $50,000, taking into account the $76,000 savings that the school budget committee has factored in to cover the budget. There was confusion among selectmen about whether this figure was correct.

“Trust me, it should be $50,000,” Mr. Smadbeck said, explaining that Edgartown must be credited for the overall reduced budget.

Correction: A previous version of this article revered to Karen Fuller as an administrator. Ms. Fuller is an administrative assistant.