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Enough lease nonsense. It’s time for the RTM to come to its senses.

The town’s long standing tradition has been to review the lease of town property on a case by case basis, which is as it should be. The dominant criterion used in such review has historically been the benefit to the community.

Maybe this hasn’t been sufficiently articulated as an official policy, but in fact, it has been town policy. And there is no reason why this should change. To the contrary.

At their meeting this week the selectmen agreed to make this long-standing tradition a matter of official policy. Now the RTM needs to back off, approve renewal of the Mianus River Boat and Yacht Club lease forthwith, and move beyond this unfortunate and counter-productive battle over the town’s lease policy.

It’s wrong to hold the boat club hostage in what is at core a philosophical struggle, driven by RTM members who believe that the town’s lease policy should reflect the highest and best use of the property based on market values.

“The people on this RTM committee are frankly scary,” said Frank Mazza, a former long-time BET member, selectman for many years, and a member and former commodore of the Mianus River Boat and Yacht Club, referring to the RTM subcommittee that’s taken up the matter.

Mazza sees the philosophy that underlies this call for a market-based lease policy as dangerous to the town. It stands in opposition to our historic tradition of giving priority to community value, rather than pure dollar value.

For instance, the $1 a year boat club lease enables the boat club to offer residents affordable boating. It is a public-private partnership that provides public benefit and maintains and improves town property at considerable savings to the town.

RTM member Christopher von Keyserling gets to what I think is the heart of the matter in a memo which provides excellent, well-reasoned suggestions for lease policy guidelines that follow our time-honored traditions. Here are von Keyserling’s suggestions just as circulated in his internal memo (he gave me permission to include them in this blog posting):

1.) highest and best CIVIC use.  The Town real assets were assembled and are for the benefit of the community, no other.

Such is held in trust for the local public benefit, not for its
financial potential.  EG. Town real property has its value in public use,
not its financial value.

2.) Public-Private Partnership.   Where the Town will not finance through
tax levy the improvements to its real assets and/or develop a
use utilizing that real property, it should encourage such
contribution by private entities, preferably NFP’s and community benefit
organizations.  There should also be a stability of expectation by the
lessee provided by continued leasing preference.

3.) Public service increase. Town Lease process should be used to extend
the service to the public beyond what the Town may
provide through the General Fund.

4.) Safety of Investment.  Leases should protect the life use or
amortization of investment by the lessee to encourage substantial
lessee investment in improvement and maintenance of the Town real

5.) Geographic requirement.  Consideration for such lessee uses which are
geographically specific, and can only be provided at such
location ( eg. boat clubs on the coastline).

6.) Synergy.  Lessees which work best in context with other plant asset and
services. (eg. GEMS next to Emergency service

7.) Unique and unusual.  Special consideration should be given to lessees
with unique public benefit.

Von Keyserling has articulated excellent suggestions for criteria the selectmen might use when considering a particular lease, based on an official policy that calls for a case-by-case examination of all lease proposals. Let’s hope a majority of RTM members agree with the philosophy behind von Keyserling’s analysis.

We have a lease policy. It’s time to move on.