“Friendly” Land Taking to be Considered
By Gregory T. Federspiel
While the focus of the Special Town Meeting to be held Saturday, June 11, 1PM at the Memorial School will be on a series of amendments to the Town’s zoning regulations, one article will ask voters to consider giving the Select Board the authority to take be eminent domain a small parcel of land-locked land out behind the intersection of Forest Street and Loading Place Load.
Currently, the 2 acre parcel is owned by the Halloran Family Trust. The land has been in the Halloran Family since 1930. The lot is an old “wood lot” that likely served as a source of firewood for one of the Village homes. It is a fairly narrow, long lot that as a stand-alone parcel does not have much utility. The land does not have direct access to a public way. However, the land could add value/new options to abutting land, in particular the parcel currently owned by the Manchester Housing Authority where four affordable housing units for families are located in two duplexes.
The Manchester Affordable Housing Trust and the Manchester Housing Authority have been working on an ambitious project to renovate the units of the Authority and expand the number of affordable units. This includes Newport Park, The Plains, and the units on Loading Place Road. The plan includes partnering with a developer (most likely a non-profit housing firm) to renovate the existing units, add additional affordable units, and help fund the effort through some amount of market rate housing. The Halloran property abuts the MHA property along Loading place Road and could be used to support the redevelopment of that site through the siting of housing units, infrastructure, or open space needs.
When originally purchased there was a misunderstanding about what parcel was actually purchased. At the time of purchase no deed was recorded. Mr. Halloran took procession and care of what he thought was the correct parcel but in fact was another parcel. This incorrect parcel was sold to another family but Mr. Halloran continued to use the property. Some fifty years later through an adverse possession claim (use of a parcel for 20 or more years allows one to claim it as one’s own) Mr. Halloran filed a deed on the parcel. An adverse possession claim is not considered a clean title.
The Halloran heirs no longer want to hold onto the property and would like to see the parcel be used to support affordable housing. They are willing to donate the land, but the title imperfection is a problem. An efficient and relatively easy way to create a clean title is to have the Town “take” the land through the eminent domain process. The Family is agreeable to this approach hence the “friendly” taking noted in the tittle to this article.
The Affordable Housing Trust voted unanimously to support the acquisition of the property as a way to enhance the options for redeveloping the current pair of affordable duplexes on Loading Place Road and recommended that the Select Board place a warrant article setting into motion the taking process. The Select Board reviewed this option at their May 16th meeting and tentatively agreed to place such an article before voters at the June 11 Special Town Meeting. The Board meets again on May 24th to finalize the agenda for the Special town Meeting.
In theory there is a chance that someone could make a claim for the property though given that this has not happened in over 90 years it seems highly unlikely. If such a claim were to materialize and verified, then payment might be necessary. With an assessed value of just over $10,000 the claim would be small. The Town would have to decide if paying such a claim was worth it at a subsequent Town Meeting but again, this seems a remote possibility.
Advancing affordable housing is a slow process. This is one effort that could make a small contribution.