Swampscott Town Meeting backs land taking for rec trail: (Lynn MA) Daily Item, 5/19/05

By Debra Glidden

[The Swampscott MA] Town Meeting on Tuesday approved taking land by eminent domain to create a 1.3-mile recreational trail.

A motion to take property belonging to National Grid, formerly Massachusetts Electric Company, for a recreational trail, passed by only one vote, which sparked some controversy.

Opponents of the trail immediately filed for reconsideration, which opened the subject up for debate again Wednesday night.

Abutter Richard Polisson moved for reconsideration Wednesday because he said people were not allowed to speak on Tuesday, and the presentation by proponents of the trail did not make it clear that some of the land that would be taken belonged to private homeowners, not National Grid.

Marc Caron also spoke against the eminent domain proceedings, because he said it would allow the town to take property for a project that might not be feasible.

"We have no information whatsoever on this. All we know is they are telling us it is free," Caron said.

Swampscott Partnership Initiative Rails Into Trails (SPIRIT) member Marc Barden spoke against reconsideration, and the motion to reconsider was voted down.

Barden said Town Meeting approval of the eminent domain proceeding allows the Board of Selectmen to file for the land taking, but that several conditions would need to take place before that could be done.

The RTIC would have to obtain two valuations of the property, which Barden said could range from no value to as much as $200,000.The RTIC would have to have enough money to pay National Grid for the highest valuation before the town could initiate eminent domain proceedings.

According to the Assessors Office, National Grid pays the town $65,000 a year in property taxes, and the taxes on the utility easement behind the High School, where the proposed trail would go, are $6,407 a year and opponents of the trail said that is revenue the town cannot afford to lose.

Opponents also said National Grid, which currently owns the land, assumes all maintenance and liability for the corridor.In addition to the loss of tax revenue, opponents expressed concern that the project would not be funded privately, and the town would be stuck footing the bill for the project.

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