Crystal Lake Eminent Domain Purchase Plan

TO: Members of the Board of Aldermen, Members of the Community Preservation Committee
FROM: Mayor David B. Cohen
RE: 20 Rogers Street Property
DATE: February 23, 2007

Crystal Lake has been a summer tradition for many thousands of Newton residents. This unique community recreational facility has provided thousands of citizens with a refuge from the summer heat, swimming programs for various community organizations, and a chance to meet and congregate with other Newtonians in a relaxed atmosphere. Today is a unique time in our City history, where we have the ability to acquire the property adjacent to the City’s land. This is an opportunity that comes once in a generation, and it is one that I do not intend to pass up.

I write to notify you that I intend to pursue the acquisition of the property adjacent to the City’s Crystal Lake facility, 20 Rogers Street, by eminent domain for the full and fair market value. I have reached this conclusion after protracted conversations and six months of negotiation with the current owner to try to reach a mutually agreeable purchasing price; and after two years of the owner’s steadfast refusal to make repairs to the retaining wall on his property, which has forced the City to limit citizen access to our public beach the past two summers.

I will be petitioning the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) to fund the acquisition of the property for fair market value, which will be used for recreational and/or open space purposes. As required by law, we had the property independently appraised, and we are prepared to offer the appraised value, $2.3 million, for the property. An independent development consultant subsequently determined that the potential for a 40B development on the site would not increase the property value beyond $2.3 million appraisal.

Should the CPC recommend that the Board of Aldermen approve the appropriation, the matter will then come before Your Honorable Board. It is recommended by the Solicitor’s Office that the Board take up this matter in one comprehensive Board Order. The Board Order should include the following elements:

Vote to authorize taking pursuant to both c. 40 sec. 14 (majority vote) and c. 44B sec. 5(e) (2/3 vote of those present and voting). Also, see Section 2 of c. 79.

Vote to authorize CPA funding (majority vote) pursuant to c. 44B sec. 5(d)

Vote to authorize appropriation to fund taking (2/3 vote of those present and voting) pursuant to c. 40 sec. 14.

If funds are to be borrowed, vote to authorize borrowing (2/3 of full board) pursuant to c. 44 sec’s.1, 7 & 8.

Vote to approve deed restriction to be held by a non-profit, charitable corp. or foundation. c. 44B sec. 12(a)

Vote to assign custody and management of the site to the Parks and Recreation Commission. c. 44B Sec 12(b)

It is important to note that the 20 Rogers Street property is currently encumbered by roughly $12 million in liens. The City Solicitor has determined that the only method for the City to obtain a clear title to the property is to acquire it by eminent domain. The City has been in touch with the federal (IRS) and the state (Mass. DOR) government, who hold $6 million of the liens, and we are confident that the City will be provided with a release from these obligations. Although eminent domain extinguishes the liens as described above, the underlying $6 million debt will remain the responsibility of the current owner – not the City.

I have not come to this conclusion without a great deal of careful consideration. A taking by eminent domain is a very serious matter, and it is not being done lightly. However, it is my feeling that this is a virtual once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the City of Newton. At this moment, our community has the chance to acquire the piece of property that directly abuts the City’s Crystal Lake facility. Should we miss this opportunity, who knows when or if it will come around again. I hope you will support this important step toward this worthy endeavor.

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