~Submitted by Dawn LaFrance-Linden
In my previous letter (Share the Path – Vote YES; October 24, 2022), after discussing the reasons I support the Minuteman Extension project overall, I described Article 10 as a housekeeping issue.
Two commenters objected to that, and other letters to the editor have used terms such as “an unprecedented hostile takeover of our neighbors’ private sanctuaries – their yards” and referred to dire outcomes like “[o]ur neighbors across the street would lose about half their driveway.” So, I did some homework.
This project involves three types of transactions: the Town (1) buying land (making the entire RBT town property); (2) paying for permanent access to small pieces of land (usually for existing infrastructure); and (3) paying for temporary access (for construction).
A deep title search required by Massachusetts determined that in 1873 the Boston and Lowell Railroad had not bought all of the right-of-way, but had some easements that expired when the railroad ended service.
When the Town acquired the right-of-way in 1963, it was still thought that the sections that turned out to be easements were included. Those assumptions stayed in place through every subsequent land action (development, purchase and sale, etc.). Now, it turns out, some abutters own land that was not known to be part of their lots before.
The Town designed this project to fit within the then-recognized property lines. The abutters who have been identified as the owners of land within that area have received an incredible windfall: In return for correcting the long-standing error of ownership, the Town will purchase the land required for the project at the highest market value. Also, the Town will be compensating owners for the use of land for construction, utility installation, and maintenance. The permanent easements on Railroad Ave are different because they have been accurately recorded and already belong to the Town. They were created when those residences were built.
Far from being victimized by the Town “forcing an unprecedented hostile takeover of our neighbors’ private sanctuaries – their yards” each affected abutter only gains from land they have never used as private property.
All land acquisition votes require a 2/3 (67%) majority to pass and last year it fell short at 61% – a clear majority, but not high enough for these types of actions.
Please make the time to come to Special Town Meeting on Monday, November 14 and vote YES on Article 10.
[Editor’s note: This letter arrived on November 8 at 12:12 before the deadline. But due
to human error it was not processed for publication until the morning of November 13.
We apologize for the delay.]