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LBK Condos seek relief from undergrounding cost

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

A pair of condominiums are seeking a way to reclassify themselves by performing undergrounding work on their own properties in an effort to avoid paying the town at a higher level if the neighborhood power line burial project passes a public vote in March.

It all comes down to the fact that if an overhead power line exists on a parcel, that property is placed in a higher assessment category according to he town’s method that the commission adopted to pay for the $23.8 million undergrounding project.

Two condominium properties, Spanish Main and Club Longboat, are not happy because other than the presence of overhead lines on the edge of their properties, and in the case of Club Longboat — running to a community building — all of the residences are undergrounded.

The presence of an overhead line catapults these properties into an assessment level increase of more than $4,000 per unit owner.

In the case of Spanish Main, resident Tom Friewald says that the homeowners will collectively pay more than $1 million to the Town in assessments to bury a line that is estimated to cost only $300,000 if they do it themselves. And in the case of Club Longboat, resident and Commissioner Jack Daly said the owners there can avoid $300,000 in assessments if it spends $50,000 burying a line itself and avoiding being characterized as an “above ground” community.

The problem is the town has adopted its methodology, posted the cost to each parcel owner and numerous residents have already voted via absentee ballot based on the cost and information presented by the town in meetings and on its website. If only these two Condoproperties reclassify themselves, it could shift about $1 million onto other property owners. At issue is the Commission on Monday must decide if and when the town will freeze any reclassification of properties and preclude such changes in classification.

Many residents in Spanish Main and Club Longboat say the idea of undergrounding is a good one but they feel the way the town’s system works puts an onerous burden of cost on their backs. In the case of Spanish Main if they bury their own line it would reduce the individually assessed cost from $5,000 to about $500 for its 212 owners

In the end, the discussion scheduled on Monday will likely focus on:

• Is it fair and legal to allow such properties to become reclassified while voting is going on based on published data and a general vote is scheduled for March 15?

•Can the town set an arbitrary date that it feels is fair to allow these communities and any other property owner to contract work in order to reclassify themselves to pay a lower assessment?

•How can the town make up funds that would not be paid by these condo owners if it wishes to not impact other property owners beyond what tis represented today?

The Special Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9A.M. on Monday, Feb. 22 at Town Hall.

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