Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Land grabs in the news

Two stories in the last 2 days, in the Daily News, have caught my attention because they are basically about the same thing.

Yesterday, the Daily ran this story about how Ward 1 City Councillor Larry McCavitt is suing - I guess the Zoning Board of Appeals - over its decision to grant a permit to the (disputed, by him at least) owner of a former clam shack on the Merrimack River.

In the filing on Aug. 22, McCavitt and the other plaintiffs asked the court to "order the city to judicially recover public land and property from a private individual."

As far as I can tell just from reading the stories, the ownership of the shack is up for debate. Mark Roland, however, purchased it from another private individual and wants to live in it. I have never seen in all this reporting if he, or the previous owner, paid/pays taxes on the property.

Today's story is about encroachment by abutting property owners to the old rail bed, which is being developed into the Rail Trail. Port native Peter Nichypor, who lives in New Hampshire, was planning on putting together a book of photographs with images of Newburyport, including the railway bed, when he discovered that uh-oh:

There are fenced-in yards, foot paths, flower beds and shrubs, gardens — and even a pool, Nichypor said.

"It's a land grab basically," Nichypor said. "It's really not their property. I'd like the city to be able to take it back."

The Planning Office had this response:

Geordie Vining, senior project manager for the city, said the Planning Office is aware of some encroachments and has spoken to homeowners in some cases as the Clipper City Rail Trail project got off the ground.

"I have pursued these issues and worked with abutters on a pretty cooperative basis for the Rail Trail that we're looking to construct," Vining said. "I was working with a number of folks on the phase of the Rail Trail that's under construction right now."

He expects the city will do the same for encroachments on the old city branch rail corridor, Vining said, as the design and building of the multiyear Rail Trail project progresses.

"There are, there were, several encroachments on the rail corridor," he said.

As Plum Island and other areas continue to be developed and people are selling their properties at alarming rates, these types of encroachment (or alleged encroachment) will likely be in the news more and more.

People just don't know where their property lines are, or they think it's OK to move a little over here and maybe just a nudge in this direction because nobody is using that old rail bed, or that public right of way to the beach.

It's a problem everywhere, not just here. I suspect it's been a problem ever since the first human owned some property, whenever that was!

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