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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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Residents Challenge Middle Township Land Sales Program

The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Whitesboro.

By Vince Conti

COURT HOUSE – A group of residents, many from Whitesboro, used the Aug. 15 meeting of the Middle Township Committee to challenge the land sale process in the township. Land salesare routinely held for properties the township has foreclosed on due to non-payment of taxes.  

Dawn Robinson pointed to the fact that many of the properties in township land sales are in Whitesboro and nearby communities. She asked for a list of the properties for a year’s worth of land sales along with how much the property sold for. Robinson said there was a lot of money coming into the township that was not benefiting the communities where the land sales took place. Robinson has purchased property at township land sales before. 

Business Administrator Kimberly Osmundsenexplained how Robinson could get data on the land sales. She also argued that the township probably breaks even at best in the land sales 

Osmundsenreminded the public that the township continues to pay the county and school taxes on the foreclosed land. The buyer pays taxes after the sale, benefiting the township.  

“The township is not in the business of owning all this land,” Osmundsen added. 

Shirley Green of the Whitesboro Historical Society even questioned the right of the township to sell land in Whitesboro. She reviewed the unique history of the community and argued that Middle Township has no right to sell the land in Whitesboro, Wildwood Junction and Wildwood Heights.  

Mayor Timothy Donohue dismissed her claims, saying that any court would recognize the township’s jurisdiction in the area.  

The real issue underlying the debate appeared to be the changing nature of the community as higher land values and rising assessments make it difficult for long-term residents to hold on to their land. These changesoften result in foreclosures and tax sales 

The fact that the funds derived from the tax sales go into the township’s general fund to help balance the budget did little to calm the concerns. The preponderance of foreclosed property in smaller, defined sections of the township means the community deals with the changes while the benefits from the funds are spread across the municipality 

Robinson’s questions pointed to a key expressed concern. Why dothe areas extensively impacted by the land sales see so little direct benefit from them?   

For the township, the land sales are a necessary action to protect the general taxpayer. For communities like Whitesboro, they have a more direct and lasting impact. 

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