By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer |
Mayor Mitch Landrieu has promised to revisit Municipal Yacht Harbor boathouse leases to ensure that taxpayers are getting a fair deal.
The administration’s announcement comes a day after an investigation by The Lens and FOX8 News revealed that the leases are going for just $200 a month, way below market rate. Meanwhile, former tenants have pocketed almost $13 million over the past 15 years by privately selling 75 of the generous leases.
“The mayor is committed to revitalizing this important asset to the city,” Landrieu’s director of intergovernmental relations Mike Sherman said. “The legal department is analyzing these, and our goal is to get these to fair market value.”
Sherman could give no indication of a timeline but said the issue is a priority.
Meanwhile one boathouse lease owner said he’s getting a fair deal from the city.
“It’s not really that unfair. Given the circumstances, the lease is reasonable,” Jefferson Parish boat salesman Eric Beier said. “We’ve had this kind of conversation with the harbor board, and sometimes it’s been pretty heated. We’ve had some people on there that thought it was all a bunch of millionaires out there, and so on. But when they started looking into it they realized this is not waterfront property like in Miami or Florida.”
In addition to his $2,400 a year city lease, Beier pays $7,100 a year in flood and fire insurance, and $3,100 a year in property tax to the city assessor. He bought the lease on boathouse 45 for $140,000 in 1988, and said he has had to invest another $125,000 since then in repairs and upkeep.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to fix it,” Beier said.
While insurance is a requirement of each boathouse lease, many tenants did not insure their properties and had to take out bank loans after Hurricane Katrina. And Beier said needed repairs to pilings under most boathouses could run to more than $40,000.