May 15, 2014

Editorial: Sale cancellation shorts taxpayers

The Essex County Board of Supervisors has made a decision that has us baffled.

The supervisors put up for auction and then canceled the public sale of the former Frontier Town theme park to George Moore of Keeseville in order to resell it to the Town of North Hudson.

Moore got the four parcels that make up the bulk of the Wild West park for a high bid of $49,500 in the April 30 tax auction.

In rejecting the sale to Moore, the Board of Supervisors cited a supposed understanding among themselves — which some of them said they didn’t know about — that Frontier Town would be sold only if the amount offered was more than the taxes owed.

Since $143,000 was owed on a place that has sat abandoned since 1998, that was a high bar. And for some reason, the understanding applied only to Frontier Town, not the other 101 properties in the sale. Most of those parcels went for far less than taxes owed.

In nullifying the sale to Moore, the board did something else unusual — it voted 17-0 to sell Frontier Town to the Town of North Hudson instead. The sale price? Only $10,500 more than Moore’s winning bid and still far less than back taxes.

So on one hand, Frontier Town can’t be sold for less than taxes owed, then on the other, it can be — if it’s the municipality where it’s located that wants it.

Moore is understandably conferring with his attorney, so it’s possible the courts will make the final determination on who gets Frontier Town.

In justifying the rejection of Moore’s bid, supervisors repeatedly cited the benefit to the community of North Hudson.

How the old theme park would benefit the town specifically was not mentioned, but the supervisor said that acquiring the property was “critical to the economic growth of North Hudson.” That is interesting since it has been sitting unused and undeveloped in mostly private ownership for 16 years. 

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