10/01/2004

Medway to take house by eminent domain
(Bellingham MA) Country Gazette, 10/1/04

By Jennifer Pollack

[Medway MA] Selectmen voted 5-0 Monday night to take the historic 3.29-acre property at 2B Oak St. by eminent domain and pay $450,000 to owners Michael and Mary Narducci.

With an Oct. 15 historical demolition delay deadline looming, officials felt the need to act quickly to prevent the Narduccis from developing the site.

The Narduccis, while they cannot get the property back, will have three years to make a claim in Land Court and attempt to prove the property was worth more and settle. The Narduccis do not live in the house on the property.

On Sept. 13 only two of the selectmen were in favor of the taking and this week some voted for it with still mixed feelings.

"I don't think the town or government has any business telling anyone what they can do on their own private land," said Selectman James Galligan. "However, I do believe the house itself, the residents and the historic structure are important to the history of the town."

"When we use eminent domain we are at the edge of a slippery slope," said Selectman Raphaela Rozanski. "But I do see the value of that property for the town of Medway."

The Greek Revival home on the property was built in the first half of the 1800s and owned by Addison Thayer, who put up the dam at Chicken Brook, which formed Choate Pond and powered a stone mill he started across the street. It was later the United Shoe Mill.

The town has not yet determined plans for the house, but decided it needed to act before the deadline expired. Ideas were tossed around such as partitioning the property and selling the house with historical restrictions to a tenant who cares about the history and keeping the rest of the land for the town as open space.

The town will use Community Preservation Act money, authorized by the June special Town Meeting, to take the homestead. CPA money comes from a 3 percent surcharge on residents' property taxes and must be used to promote open space, historical preservation and affordable housing.

Prior to the Town Meeting, the town had offered the Narduccis the assessed value of $439,000 to buy the house, which they rejected without a counter offer. After the meeting the town offered $450,000, which was also rejected.

Mark Cerel, chairman of the Community Preservation Committee told the board on Monday night, "maybe (eminent domain) is the last tool you take off the shelf when there are no further options, but that's where we are right now."

"The downside to taking no action is the loss of a precious part of Medway in the heart of Medway," he said. "If that happens, we're all going to have to answer to future generations."

The issue was tabled at the Sept. 13 selectmen's meeting to give the town two additional weeks to negotiate with the Narduccis on a purchase price.

"An attempt along that vein was made and we're at an impasse," said Selectman John Williams.

The town sent a letter to the Narduccis on Sept. 22 asking them for a selling price and to postpone pending demolition to continue negotiations.

The Narduccis responded in a letter. "Seeing that we are not willing to accept your offers, I can only conclude that the Board of Selectmen has the authority to vote for or against the taking by eminent domain. We are powerless in the outcome of your vote," the letter says.

At the Sept. 13, meeting Cerel told the board he had been by the property and seen bulldozers clearing the land and standing ready to knock down the house when the demolition delay expired.

Several residents sent letters to selectmen supporting the taking and a packed house on Sept. 13 mainly voiced support with the exception of two residents. When selectmen voted on Monday, a crowd of a few dozen cheered.

After the vote Cerel thanked the board for putting their personal preferences aside.


Bellingham Country Gazette: www2.townonline.com