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Updated: 07/16/2014 10:20:01AM

Vacant lot an issue for LP town council

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A small vacant lot gifted to the Town of Lake Placid decades ago has become a big issue now that the land is unused and neighboring non-profit Hu Hope of Highlands County wants it for an expansion of its thrift store on South Main Avenue.

The request from Nu Hope seemed a good use for the unused land. But giving away the land or selling it for a token amount such as $1 would set a precedent that could bring a parade of groups asking for other unused or surplus materials and property.

The small tract of land, estimated to be 50 feet wide by 75 feet deep, is directly south of the Nu Hope thrift store. The land was donated to the town by area resident Hoz Compton to accommodate a double wide mobile home that served as the Lake Placid Police Department headquarters in the 1980s. Until the move to the temporary office, the LPPD had shared office space in town hall.

“I recall the land was gifted to the town by Mr. Compton,” said former Town Clerk Arlene Tuck who now holds a seat on Town Council. “At the time, the land donation was combined with the donation of the double wide to create the LPPD offices.” The double wide mobile home had been a temporary location for what is now SunTrust Bank on Interlake Boulevard.

The town now has no use for the small lot and council members concede maintenance of the land has been lacking. Town staff has looked at the site and can envision no use for it. But, giving the land away creates a snag. And offering the land on a government surplus website could inflate the price beyond the reach of Nu Hope. Another town resident expressed interest in the land, too, the council was told.

Royce and Tuck both suggested simply giving the land back to Compton. That would allow him to gift the land to Nu Hope, sell it, or “do whatever he pleases with it,” Tuck said. Town Administrator Phil Williams told the board he had exchanged emails with Compton about the issue. “He (Compton) said a gift is a gift,” Williams said. “He says we should do with it what we want.”

Royce suggested the land could be given back to Compton and possession then given to Nu Hope in one transaction. Councilman Steve Bastardi suggested it would be “cleaner” to give the land back to Compton and let him give it away or sell it.

It was finally decided to delay a decision to allow staff to determine how best to dispose of the unwanted land. Also to be tackled is a determination of how other surplus items or real estate will be disposed of in the future. The property is likely to be sold to Nu Hope for $1 with a letter of support from Compton.

In other action:

• The town’s millage rate was tentatively set at 3.67, the same as the past several years. The tentative rate can be lowered as the budget hearing process continues but cannot be raised. Last year’s “roll-back” ad valorem tax rate was 6.65. Budget review meetings are set for July 23, Aug. 7 and 28, and Sept. 8. All of those sessions will start at 5:30 p.m. in Council chambers at Lake Placid Town Hall.

• Town Council discussed the ill-fated plan to install mail distribution boxes in uptown Lake Placid. The plan met with a firestorm of opposition and the “cluster boxes” were removed. A letter will be sent to postal officials saying Council prefers traditional door-to-door mail delivery in Lake Placid and asking the town be notified if any change to mail delivery is anticipated.

• Approved an interlocal agreement between the town and the Highlands County School Board for the construction of restrooms and a parking lot at the tennis courts on Green Dragon Drive, nestled between the high school and middle school and directly across from Lake Placid Elementary. The improved parking is expected to alleviate traffic concerns as parents pick up and drop off children for school.