Town ‘Takes’ children’s park in tax delinquent legal action. Post 54 Tuesday, September 25, 2007   By Amanda Dumond   Democrat Staff Writer

Barrington Decides To Take Camp Property

BARRINGTON NH- Selectmen agonized over the decision but ultimately voted Monday night to take a Christian summer camp’s property by tax deed.

Camp Fireside, which has offered camp for children ages 8-17 and for families since 1952, had asked the town for an extension to repay the $273,000 in back taxes it owed since 2004 and to have its nonprofit status renewed.

The camp has until Oct. 1 to repay the taxes in full.

The camp was in the process of pursuing a grant through the federal Wetland Reserve Program, which would have placed the camp in a conservation easement, to pay for the back taxes, but officials would not know the camp had received the funding until early next year.

Town officials said the camp accumulated that debt because it had not maintained its non profit status for several years. Camp directors have contended that part of the problem is that the town and the camp could never come to an agreement about four years ago over what portions of the property were tax exempt.

Camp Fireside wanted nearly all 175 acres it owns to be tax exempt, while the town only wanted to recognize the property immediately used for camp facilities. The town considers about 12 acres of that property to be tax exempt while the camp directors said that only 30 acres of the total property are not used for the camp’s programs.

Town officials have said the camp has not refilled for its nonprofit, tax exempt status for about seven years, and the town has tried to collect taxes from the past three years. Selectmen Chair Vicki Roundy said that the board could not make an exception for the camp given that it had been delinquent on its taxes for the past four years and that board directors waited until two weeks before the Oct. 1 deadline to ask for the extension.

Fellow board member Jackie Kessler also said the camp was an important part of the town’s history but that it must “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Camp directors apologized for not paying the taxes and failing to refile as a nonprofit in a timely manner. “We’re trying to be good stewards,” board director Carolyn Costantino said. “We also just want to be a part of Barrington.” “You do have the responsibility of good stewardship,” Selectman David Frase said. “It kills me to see it get to this point.”

Members of the Ayers Lake Association supported the camp’s efforts to secure the grant, which could have helped those on the lake to keep invasive plants from choking the lake. The community has been allowed to access the camp’s beach on a limited basis and a makeshift boat ramp also is on the property off Daniel Cater Road, which has caused safety concerns.

Some residents have expressed resentment the beach has highly restrictive hours for public use. The Recreation Department also has eyed the beach as a possible location for its swimming and summer programs. George Bailey, a former selectmen chairman, said the camp could not claim land to be tax exempt if they could not prove it was being used for religious educational purposes.

He also plugged the property as a prime location for recreation programs. It’s a wonderful opportunity for the swim program,” he added. “We can have more recreation programs in town, and we can still preserve the property” in a conservation easement.

The board voted 3-1 to take the property by tax deed, with Selectman Ken Grant voting against the motion. The camp will be unable to pursue the grant further, but has three years to repurchase the property by repaying the back taxes and any interest, fees and penalties.
Camp directors had said that it’s not possible for the camp to repay the back taxes immediately without the grant.

Recently appraised at $900,000, the camp would have negotiated for a lower grant amount closer to the taxes owed, said Phil Auger with the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension. Auger was assisting the camp with the grant and added negotiating for a lower price would have made it more likely the camp received the funding.

It’s likely the camp will have to shut down as the tax deed will take portions of the property that include camp facilities. This year about 50 children from Barrington, Gonic and Rochester and around New England, New York and New Jersey attended the camp, Costantino said.


I did not edit the article. I wanted you to see everything.


Crocodile tears hide a fiendish smile

One principle behind the idea of ‘good government’ is that those in power must exercise that power with significant discretion.

The idea that a cop just gives a ticket and a judge decides guilt or innocence is silly. The judge will almost always accept the cop’s word and find you guilty. Judges feel that they must back up the cop, 1- because the cop would never give a ticket out of malice (said with cynicism) and 2- it would weaken the ‘system’, bringing disrespect upon the cop and law.

However, the cop is supposed to make an enlightened decision in whether to give a ticket in the first place. I was stopped one time, speeding. I was only a few miles from home and I needed medicine, badly. The cop said, “Go ahead.” That is using discretion.

Similarly, in this case, the town could have waited six months for the grant to have been put in place. They wanted the property, pure and simple. This ‘taking’ is legalized theft, pure and simple.

The town did not agree to make the property tax exempt. That is what set this entire episode in motion. This is another way a government exercizes its Eminent Domain power. If the not-for-profit were to pursue an Article 78 action, their attorney could show bad faith on the part of the town and this entire procedure would be reversed. That is, unless the judge is beholding to someone who wants the park for the town.

The town wanted the property

The town could have used it’s discretion to accommodate the camp with the amount of property to tax and the amount of property to leave tax exempt, but the town wanted the property so it put the kibosh on the camp.

How is it that a property worth $900,000 can simply be taken for the back taxes of $273,000? Will the town pay the difference? Of course not!

The justification is that the town needs some recreational facilities. Did the town seek to rent the space from the not-for-profit? No. It is better to own than to rent. Why pay for something if you can steal it and get to spin the story so that it is not labeled theft.

Hypocrisy at work

The egalitarian zeal with which the town takes (steals) from a religious organization to ‘give’ to the ‘people’,is only surpassed by the unmitigated gall the Selectmen have when making some of their statements, i.e. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” and “It breaks my heart to see it get to this point.” Yet this broken hearted Selectman did not help by making the camp tax exempt nor voting to wait until the grant was in place.

The stewards of the camp should have been very stern with the town board. They should have put the blame squarely onto the selectmen. The camp could have gotten a loan for 50% of the value of the property, put the outstanding taxes into escrow and sued the town.

See Coach Mitch’s “Ridiculously Simple System…” ™ for details.

Ain’t America Grand.

Mitchell Goldstein - Coach Mitch
518-439-6100 until midnight EST

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