Facts, Rumors, and Rumors about Facts

By S.D. Plissken | September 27, 2018

Just rumors. Really, rumors? Or are they just facts that you don’t like?

Closing of China Pond

On Tuesday, September 25, 2018, a sympathetic resident posted on local social media (Our Milton Home Facebook Group) that “China Pond is closing forever! I am devastated!!!!” When asked about this, the resident replied,

No. She [i.e., one of the owners] told me they couldn’t get the proper [State] permits [for Ray’s Marina]. Their lease [on China Pond] is up on October 7th and they’re gonna take a break and spend quality time with their children.

This seems pretty straightforward. The resident poster spoke with one of the owners and then reported what they had said.

It is not the State’s fault that the Cumberland Farms landlord raised the rent on the China Pond tenant. The State only is to blame for years of permitting issues having to do with parking at the hoped-for Ray’s Marina complex restaurant.

Cumberland Farms is not to blame for raising the rent on China Pond at the expiration of the lease. The Town of Milton is responsible for that. What did you suppose would happen when taxes are increased at double the rate of inflation for over a decade?

The Town of Milton imposed exorbitant taxes on Cumberland Farms (and all the rest of us); Cumberland Farms simply passed that increase on to China Pond at its earliest opportunity – the expiration of the lease. That is the way of the world and completely to be expected. In effect, the Town of Milton raised China Pond’s rent. And yours, and mine.

By the way, one of our commenters says that the Board of Selectmen (BOS) knew about the China Pond closing a couple of weeks ago. Selectman Lucier mentioned it in a BOS Meeting. At present, that is just a rumor, although one capable of being checked. (Editor’s Note: This has since been verified. Selectman Lucier announced the China Pond closing in the BOS Meeting of September 10, 2018).

Ray’s Marina

Ray’s Marina closed in 2002 after fifty years in business. According to the Town’s online assessing database – Avitar – the property was sold to Ocean Management Group for $742,000 on August 13, 2007. Those would be the people that had RVs displayed there for sale for some years before the recession. The businesses that suffer most in a recession are those that sell “optional” products, such as RVs. Did the Town “encourage” them in any way? No, it continued to raise their taxes, despite the recession. TD Bank called in their mortgage on May 30, 2013.

The current owners bought the property for $180,000 as Gold River, LLC, on August 21, 2015. (Note the $570,000 drop in price from the foreclosed bubble price of $750,000 to the reality price of $180,000). Gold River has presumably been paying Milton’s ever-increasing taxes on that amount for three years now. It is currently assessed at an increased value of $189,900.

By calculation, that would be about $4,916 in taxes this year, about $5,370 last year, and about $5,140 the year before. Gold River will have paid a three-year total of about $15,246 in taxes on a non-performing property. That is to say, nothing at all came in the door and $15,246 went out the door. They have paid already something like 8.6% of the purchase price in taxes alone, while seeking State approvals.

The costs are a fact. Ask yourself, if this were you, how long could you keep paying that much for a non-performing property? Not long, that is a fact too.

Binker Brothers Antique Store

On August 3, Mr. Elder posted regarding Chris and Michelle Penta’s purchase of the old Grange building for their Binker Brothers’ Antiques business. He congratulated them on their commitment to remaining in Milton Mills. The Pentas posted on August 9 that they had begun renovations and were seeking information about contractors. Chris Penta sought to get rid of old appliances on August 14.

But there was a dark cloud on the horizon, a Town of Milton-shaped cloud. Michelle Penta posted on September 2:

Starting a business has many necessary steps. Apparently our town has one additional step that doesn’t exist in other communities. It is a step that delays opening/generating income by AT LEAST 30 days. This has been a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs. Receiving all the encouraging words and support from other residents gives us the motivation to keep on going. Maybe together we can work towards changing the process to be more user friendly, for the next person who wants to create something great in our town.

This would appear to be referring to a particular definitional twist. The property is zoned “commercial,” which you might think would include a little antique shop. No, that is a “retail” use. I suppose the Pentas can open all the shoe factories that they want, such as used to exist in Milton Mills, but not a retail antique business. Unless they get a variance. Really?

Michelle Penta posted again yesterday:

Chris Penta and I have been diligently preparing and the time is here! We are going before the zoning board to seek approval to open an antique store in Milton Mills on Thursday 9/27 at 6pm. Endorsement from residents is powerful! This is a public hearing. Anyone can attend and speak. If you want to see a fabulous store that supports local artists and sells ridiculously cool stuff, please show up on Thursday! We are super excited, hopeful yet nervous! The zoning board approval is critical! Your presence would be greatly appreciated!!!

So, I do not see that anything said yesterday was only a “rumor.” It seems pretty fact-based to me.

China Pond is closing because their rent went up. Their rent went up because Cumberland Farms passed their Town of Milton tax increases on to their tenants. No surprises and no rumors there, just basic economics. The taxes are what economists call a “pass through” expense – they go right on through to the tenant. The Town raised the rent.

The Ray’s Marina restaurant project stalled on State regulatory issues regarding parking availability. Thank the State for its help. However, the Town of Milton tax rates definitely contributed to the financial pressure on those prior owners during the “great” recession. And it has been no picnic for the current owners either. The numbers are right there in Avitar. They are stalled by the State and the Town of Milton is bleeding them dry. Discouraging.

The Binker Brothers’ antique store is stalled on the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s (ZBA) interpretation of what constitutes “commercial” use. Factories, yes, quaint antique stores in renovated historical buildings, not so much. (It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is).

I have no words. The meeting is posted by the Milton ZBA and the antique entrepreneurs have asked us to attend.

Evidently, we should all be there with bells on. We’ve been invited. Tonight at the Emma Ramsey Center, at 6:00 PM. That is the rumor anyway. Pitchforks optional.

References:

Binker Brothers Antiques. (2018). Binker Brothers Facebook. Retrieved from www.facebook.com/Binkerbrothers/

Milton NH Community News. (2018). Milton NH Community News Facebook Group. Retrieved from www.facebook.com/ourmiltonnews/

Our Milton Home. (2018). Our Milton Home Facebook Group. Retrieved fromwww.facebook.com/groups/OurMiltonHome/

Town of Milton. (2018). Assessment Data Review Online (Avitar). Retrieved from data.avitarassociates.com/logondirect.aspx?usr=milton&pwd=Milton

Town of Milton. (2018, August 17). Case2018-2 Request for Special Excpetion [Sic], Chris & Michelle Penta. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/uploads/zba_189_808339455.pdf

Town of Milton. (2018, September 10). BOS Meeting, September 10, 2018. Retrieved from youtu.be/PlwhI_Uz_rs?t=1673

Town of Milton, ZBA. (2018). Agenda. Retrieved from www.miltonnh-us.com/uploads/zba_189_2246368897.pdf

Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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