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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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Selectmen scrutinize town rental policies after OK'ing 3 leases

Published 4:27 am, Friday, May 16, 2014
  • The historic Emily McLaury house on Myrtle Avenue, a town-owned property, is being rented for $1,500 a month. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News
    The historic Emily McLaury house on Myrtle Avenue, a town-owned property, is being rented for $1,500 a month. Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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The leases, approved Wednesday by the selectmen, are for: Cabin 10 at 260 Compo Road South, which is being rented for $2,110 a month; 260 Compo Road South, Knollhouse unit No. 2, rented for $1,800 a month, and the house at 99 Myrtle Ave., rented for $1,500 a month, according to Gail Kelly, assistant town attorney.

"In general, the rents charged are equal to fair market value," she said. "The average monthly rental amount is roughly $1,300." According to a spokesman at William Ravies Real Estate in Westport, monthly rentals for smaller residences, like cottages, can run anywhere from a low of about $1,600 per month to a high of about $9,200. "It's jumps all over the place," said the woman, who asked not to be identified.

There are nine residential town-owned properties leased to individuals, Kelly said. While the properties are generally offered first to town employees, the people currently renting the three properties in question aren't employed by the town.

Selectman Helen Garten said that when she was a member of the Board of Finance, that panel reviewed the town's leased properties.

"We looked at the pros and cons of maintaining these kinds of properties," she said.

In particular, the finance board discussed whether the town "wants to be in the rental business." She said a committee should be set up to look into the matter to "develop a long-term policy" for such properties.

She said the leases given should also be "longer than a year." Kelly said leases previously were for three years for the properties when rented by municipal employees.

First Selectman Jim Marpe said the one-year leases could give tenants "the mind-set not to maintain the residences" since they don't know if the lease would be renewed.

Selectman Avi Kaner said that also means renters are "always looking over their shoulders," uncertain if they will be in the same place the next year.

Public Works Director Stephen Edwards said leasing the properties is a way to keep them from becoming blighted or run down.

Kaner asked what the town would do with the properties if they were no longer leased. "We are not in the business of selling land," he said.

He also supported Garten's call for a policy on leasing properties. Marpe said he's asked Garten to "take a look at all our leases." He added: "Maybe now it's time to establish a group (made up of members from a number of town boards) to look into this" to develop an "umbrella policy."