Windermere’s boathouse debate will continue — at least for another week — after the Town Council declined a motion to approve new lease terms for the town’s five boathouses during its Oct. 12 meeting.
Ownership of the 100-year-old structures has been in question for decades. Occupants only possess quit-claim deeds, which transfer titles in real property to a grantee. The town also lacks documentation of ownership but does own the land on which the structures sit. The town began leasing the boathouses 20 years ago, each with an initial 10-year term which automatically renewed for another 10 years. In August, leases were extended on a month-to-month basis while fair market rental value was assessed by Calhoun, Dreggors & Associates Inc.
“The location is unique,” said appraiser Richard Dreggors, who was present during the Oct. 12 meeting.
Dreggors noted the assessment took into account the fluctuations in the depth of the water surrounding the boathouses and their proximity to the Butler Chain of Lakes.
Town Council members discussed a new 20-year lease agreement for the current occupants, which placed rental values on the number of 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. Other terms have occupants assume the cost of minor repairs to the structure surrounding their slip while the town would assume the cost of major structural repairs.
Boathouse occupant George Poelker, who shares one of the two-slip units, wanted the agreement to guarantee some form of compensation to the current occupants for their surrender of boathouse ownership to the town.
“In my view, that remuneration is to clear up any question whatsoever about ownership,” he said. “I would like to see (remuneration) handled the same way, i.e., per boathouse or per slip. I just think it ought to be consistent.”
Windermere Mayor Jim O’Brien expressed concern over the fairness of a remuneration formula.
“How do we tell one person who put $10,000 into their boathouse in the last year that they’re going to get the same amount as someone who put little or none into their boathouse?” he asked.
“We did an appraisal for fair market rent and demand; we didn’t do an appraisal for the value of each structure,” Council Member Tony Davit said.
Additional questions included lease availability for local residents, in the event a current occupant does not renew his or her lease and the length of new-occupant leases. A half-joking remark by Poelker put the situation into perspective.
“You guys think you’re getting rid of this issue,” he said. “You’re going to hear something about boathouses almost every other month, in my opinion, forever.”
Council members agreed to further discussion of the lease terms during a Town Council Workshop scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25, at Town Hall, 520 Main St., Windermere.