Windermere’s five boathouses will not be part of the next Town Council meeting agenda — but not because issues surrounding the 100-year-old structures have been resolved.
After more than an hour of discussion during an Oct. 25 workshop, council members were unable to support a new 20-year lease agreement.
The contract, introduced during the Oct. 12 Town Council meeting, would cover all current boathouse occupants and place rental values on the boat slips in each unit. According to the terms, the first three slips, located in boathouses 1 through 3, each would lease for $150 per month. Four smaller slips, in boathouses 4 and 5, each would lease for $125 per month. Occupants would be responsible for insurance on the historic structures, but maintenance responsibilities would be shared with the town.
One of the more difficult issues in the ongoing debate is compensation. The town and current boathouse occupants lack documentation of ownership, but the town owns the land on which the structures sit. Each occupant has spent decades maintaining their respective boathouses, and compensation is intended as a goodwill gesture for turning over ownership to the town. However, disagreements persist over how compensation would be paid.
“If a current lessee decides not to move forward, they would get a cash buy-out of X dollars,” Council Member Bill Martini said. “If they decided to move forward, that same amount would be divided out, resulting in a proportionately lower lease rate.”
“Only if it’s a discount,” Council Member Andy Williams said of the compensation proposal. “That way, we’re not coming out of pocket.”
“I don’t know how the taxpayers are going to accept that,” Council Member Chris Sapp said. “Whether it’s a discount or money paid, it’s still paid by the town.”
The Town Council also was unable to agree on a process for reallocating boathouses when a lease is not renewed. Council Member Tony Davit expressed his concern over any contract that would not include new lessees.
“We’re delaying the inevitable discussion, 20 years from now, that we’ve been having for the last 30 years,” he said.
Council Member Mandy David agreed.
“If this is a lease for new lessees … and works for current tenants, that’s fine with me,” she said. “We need to settle this and just move forward from here.”
“As we sit here tonight, I don’t think we have the support to bring (the lease agreement) back to the next meeting,” Windermere Mayor Jim O’Brien said. “Our objective is to deal with all these matters so future Town Councils won’t have to.”
Council members were able to agree on the need for more public input in the matter of reallocation — and for additional talks with current boathouse occupants in the matter of compensation. Another workshop has been scheduled for Monday, Nov. 29, at Town Hall, 520 Main St., Windermere. Current boathouse leases will remain on a month-to-month basis until the matter is resolved.