OLD LYME — Hope Partnership board member Bonnie Reemsnyder has asked the town to assume ownership of land where the nonprofit currently maintains affordable housing.
According to a letter from the former first selectman to current First Selectman Timothy Griswold, the change would allow the nonprofit to forgo the burden of yearly requests for tax abatements, and would also encourage Hope to develop two town-owned parcels on Flat Rock Hill Road currently designated for single-family affordable housing.
“With two more lots likely becoming available, I would think that the Board of Selectmen would be interested in resolving this tax issue so that Hope would be willing to consider developing the property using the same model. Clearly, it is the only way to maintain their affordability,” wrote Reemsnyder.
According to Reemsnyder, the town did not ask for property taxes on the land from 1994 until 2014. Since 2017 the nonprofit has been required to request tax abatements prior to budget season, which Reemsnyder said is “administratively burdensome to both HOPE and the Town.”
Hope has owned 95 Flat Rock Hill Road, 97-1 Flat Rock Hill Road and 1 Boggy Hole Road since 2014.
From 1994 to 2014, the properties were owned by Old Lyme Affordable Housing.
Loretta McCluskey, operations manager for Hope, said Friday that the original ground leases that were put in place by Old Lyme Affordable Housing specify that any taxes received by Hope will be passed on to the homeowners, unless the taxes are abated or otherwise paid.
McCluskey said that paying the taxes would be a burden to the owners of the affordable houses in Old Lyme.
“What we are looking to do is simplify. Any taxes that we would receive on the land would be passed along to the homeowner and the reality is it would make it unaffordable for some of these [homeowners],” she said. “The last thing we want to do is to make something unaffordable for someone — that’s not what we’re here for.”
She said the question of whether the yearly tax abatement will be approved creates financial risk for the homeowners.
“It’s the uncertainty for the homeowners. That’s where our real concern is — making sure they’re protected.”
If the land is transferred to the town, Reemsnyder wrote that Hope would continue to oversee the “management and affordability certifications of the residents” and secure insurance on the properties, which is paid by the homeowners.
Tax Collector Judith Tooker said Hope has received tax abatements every year from 2018 to the present. She said the abatements in fiscal year 2021-22 are $2,204 for 1 Boggy Hole Road, $1818.88 for 95 Flat Rock Hill Road, and $2301.44 for 97-1 Flat Rock Hill Road. The Hope abatements were added into the total elderly housing abatements for the town in the 2021-22 budget, according to Griswold.
Tooker also said that HOPE has an outstanding tax balance of $7,385.22 from 2017. A call to Griswold to clarify whether Hope requested tax abatements in 2017, when Reemsnyder was in office, was not returned by the time of publication.
At their June 21 meeting, the Board of Selectmen said they would send Reemsnyder’s letter to the Affordable Housing Commission for consideration.
Michael Fogliano, chair of the Affordable Housing Commission, said Friday that he had not yet received the letter and that the commission was working with the Open Space Commission to assess whether the two “building envelopes” on the McCulloch property were buildable.
Reemsnyder declined to comment on her letter and asked that questions be referred to David Carswell, president of the Hope Board of Directors, and Tony Lyons, board member and former president of the board, neither of whom were available for comment.