EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 26, 2013

Plaistow appeals N.H. Supreme Court decision

Plaistow battles over Beede site assessment

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — PLAISTOW — Town officials won’t give up the fight over taxes on the Beede Superfund property.

The town has appealed the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case over the assessed value of the Superfund site.

The town maintains the Beede group owes more than $1.5 million in back taxes since 1990.

“We just want them to at least hear the case,” Selectman Daniel Poliquin said yesterday. “In my opinion, the decision was not justified.”

The Beede group, unaffiliated companies including ExxonMobil, Cumberland Farms and Sears, was deemed responsible for cleaning up the thousands of gallons of contaminants which polluted the 39-acre site. The Beede group has owned the property since 1990.

Greg Howard, spokesman for the Beede group, said he was surprised the town was appealing.

“I just hope they have their lawyer on retainer,” he said. “We feel the court spoke very clearly on this.”

The two sides have been fighting over the 2009 and 2010 assessed values of the site. The town had assessed the 39-acre property at $763,340 when the group took over the site in 2009, but the Beede group had assessed the property at zero.

After taking into account the $50 million needed to clean up the site, the state Board of Tax and Land Appeals sided with Beede in April and assessed the property at $200.

The town appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, but on July 11, the court unanimously ruled not to hear the appeal.

“There is just no way that property is valued at $200,” Poliquin said. “It’s just not correct.”

Howard was adamant the town’s worries about the back taxes and the assessed value of the land should be two separate issues.

“There is confusion over two separate issues,” he said. “The only one being adjudicated is the current assessed value of the property. This isn’t about the back taxes.”

But while the back taxes aren’t being discussed in court, town officials still believes the Beede group is responsible for paying them.

“It’s something we are very concerned about with them not paying the tax,” Poliquin said. “Now, every other taxpayer in town has to pay it off.”

Poliquin said selectmen have discussed whether they would take action to go after the back taxes

“I don’t know of anything definitive we can do,” he said. “There has been some talk, but nothing has been brought to us over what course of action could or should be taken.”

The group is continuing cleanup of the site, with the next major step being the construction of an on-site water treatment plant. It is expected to open this summer.

The cleanup is expected to take until 2017 to complete to the point where the site could be used. But groundwater cleansing will take up to two decades.