Gibraltar electors approved the purchase of the property immediately east of Fish Creek Beach at a price of $1.4 million.
The special meeting of electors was held at the Old Gibraltar Town Hall on Aug. 31 and the line of voters stretched along the sidewalk on Spruce Street. While voting started as the sun set over the water, it was dark by the time the final ballot was cast.
Dick Skare, town board chair, gave a presentation to three sets of residents since the building was not big enough to hold everyone at once. Skare spoke about the Aug. 3 Gibraltar Town Board meeting when the idea to purchase the property was first brought before the public.
“The things we can do there are restrooms, deal with storm water runoff issues, we can eliminate the beach closings we have everytime it rains,” said Skare. “Access to the water and the view, that was always something we thought was important.”
The Ruth M. York Trust opened discussion with the town about purchasing the property earlier this year. The York’s declined the original offer of $490,000, the assessed value of the property. The town then declined the counter offer of $1.4 million, but eventually settled on that price.
At that Aug. 3 meeting, the board held an advisory vote of the audience members on the purchase price of $1.4 million. The audience approved the purchase at that price with 35 in favor and zero opposed. That advisory vote held true during the binding vote on Aug. 31 – 233 voted in favor while 34 opposed.
While some residents questioned the purchase price given the significantly lower assessed value, some waterfront property owners were worried that the purchase would increase their own assessment and spike their own taxes.
“Our assessor said this one sale does not make a market, therefore it will not affect [other assessments],” said Skare.
The town will issue municipal bonds to pay for the property and Skare estimates a tax increase of 11 cents per $1,000 in home value during the entire 20-year bonding period. By purchasing the property, the town will also lose $1,201 in tax revenue from property taxes currently paid by the York trust.
The Parks and Lands Committee will now make recommendations on what to do with the property. Skare hopes to clear brush from the property and have some kind of use on it for the 2017 summer season.