Huntington News | Nahant votes ‘yes’ for eminent estate at municipal assembly
Residents of Nahant, Massachusetts voted yes to the eminent domain on Saturday at the 2021 city annual meeting, allowing the Selectmen board of directors to use a eminent domain as a tool in future negotiations with Northeastern regarding the development and expansion of the university. The article carried with a 647-241 vote and crowd cheers.
Moderator David G. Conlin said more than 900 residents attended the town meeting, which was held outside due to COVID-19 security protocols. Two articles on an eminent domain, Article 21 (v) and Article 22 related to the Northeastern Marine Science Center, or MSC, were presented at the town meeting. The articles required the city to reach a two-thirds consensus before the articles could be passed.
Section 21 (v) requested authorization to borrow $ 1.5 million from the Nahant Community Preservation Committee, or CPC, to help pay for the purchase of the land in question as well as the costs. legal and related matters. The city will be able to use these funds, as well as the $ 3 million in private donations of the citizens of Nahant, to fund their eminent domain cost, totaling $ 4.5 million.
The second section, section 22, dealt with the authorization of the Board of Directors of Selectmen to exercise a prominent domain: the right of the government to take private land for public purposes. Although they will not take away the land from the northeast, an easement of the land will be taken through Chapter 80A, in order to allow the Selectmen board of directors to declare the said land as a wildlife sanctuary and to prevent Northeastern from expanding into this area. The vote, however, was only for permission, but still gives the city leverage in negotiations with Northeastern going forward.
This vote is a blow to the Northeast as the legal battle and negotiations continue.
“Although today’s vote is a setback for environmental research and coastal communities around the world, it is only a step in an ongoing process,” the spokesperson said. Northeast Shannon Nargi in an email to The News. “The university will continue to consider all of its options, as well as any ideas that the Selectmen Board of Trustees can come up with to reach a mutually acceptable solution. Combating the environmental threats facing our planet must be everyone’s top priority. ”
Expansion of the marine science center
For more than 50 years, the university has owned the land on which the current MSC stands and the land on which Northeastern hoped to expand. Nahant had originally zoned the 20.4 acres of the project site as a natural resource district, but the MSC was granted an exemption due to the Dover Amendment, a Massachusetts general law that exempts non-commercial agricultural, religious, and educational corporations from the laws zoning.
Since acquiring the land then owned by the Army in 1967 from the US Department of Defense, Northeastern has built its MSC on East Point, an area of approximately 21 acres at the eastern end of Nahant. In 2018, Northeastern approached the town of Nahant with an expansion plan, which included an expansion in East Point by constructing a 55,000 square foot building as well as several parking lots.
As soon as the expansion plan was introduced, the people of Nahant expressed their opposition to the plane and collided with the university. Arguments opposed include the potential damage to the environment at East Point as well as the effect of a large-scale institution in the small town of Nahant.
“It is important that this is adopted for Nahant and… it gives us leverage in these kinds of discussions. [with Northeastern], so it’s useful from our point of view, and we’re looking forward to having a public park, ”Joshua Antrim, one of Nahant’s three elected officials, said after the vote.
Several offers have been made to the town of Nahant, including a $ 6 million community benefits proposal and the placement of a retention restriction on approximately 90% of the property at East Point. Those opposed to the expansion have argued that the $ 6 million will not be enough if it is spread over 40 years.
“It’s a David and Goliath situation,” said Carl Jenkins, a Nahant resident. “Whatever they give us is the bare minimum, but it’s a giant institution. The tax increase will come from the expansion more than from the university offering $ 6 million. ”
A prominent domain has entered the city’s ongoing conversation about the issue of MSC expansion after a lawsuit brought to the northeast in 2019 by the Nahant Preservation Trust and 28 individual members in an effort to protect the environment. The city, which eventually joined the lawsuit, felt it had no power to fight the university in court.
“The way the city thinks it can exert some leverage over NU, which has not responded, is to initiate this eminent domain proceeding,” said Jeffrey Musman, board member of the Nahant Preservation Trust and inhabitant of Nahant in 40 years. years.
Selectman Mark Cullinan introduced Section 22, warning residents of the problems Northeastern’s proposed expansion would bring. At the town hall meeting he also addressed part of the opposition he had heard regarding the eminent domain.
“The next click you make [on the clicker] will determine Nahant’s future. Choose wisely, ”Cullinan said at the meeting.
Most of the people who made statements at the May 15 town hall meeting were in favor of the eminent domain, echoing some of the same environmental and financial issues this expansion would bring to the town that Cullinan initially addressed. However, many spoke out against the consequences of voting for a prominent estate, worried about protracted court battles and the inability to reach an agreement with Northeastern.
One individual said that voting for a prominent field “would open a pandora’s box” which could be a financial disaster and risk.
Although Musman thinks the majority of the city supports the use of a prominent estate, there are still some, he said, who are concerned about consequences such as increased taxes due to the funding. which a prominent domain would need. However, the council addressed this issue during the town assembly, assuring voters that a prominent estate would be a much better financial option. With a prominent domain, the cost to the average taxpayer is estimated to be around $ 35 per year, according to the selectmen, who found a way to address it without impacting anyone’s tax bill.
According to report and recommendations of the Advisory and Financial Committee, the selectmen who believe the eminent domain is their last resort, introduced the eminent domain clause in the city after making several attempts to come to an agreement with Northeastern and providing offers of mediation, including one as recent as February 26.
“We are certainly ready to see what we can do to accommodate an expansion in line with the Nahant scale that is currently already being developed. … We also believe that Northeastern’s financial contribution to the city should be fairer, ”said Antrim. “But it looks like Northeastern is not willing to stop until he is forced to stop.”
With the permission of the city, the selectmen will be prepared to use the eminent domain as a negotiating tool.
“What most of the townspeople think or want, including me, is that the Northeast does not develop on land that is not developed,” Antrim said. “We are asking, ‘can you please not develop this area, which for the past 50 plus years that Northeastern has owned, has grown back over the years.'”