EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 21, 2013

N.H. Supreme Court won't reconsider Plaistow appeal

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — It may be the end of the road in Plaistow’s fight over taxes on the Beede Superfund property.

The New Hampshire Supreme Court denied the town’s reconsideration to hear the case last week.

“It’s shocking and very troubling that the property values on that site have now been trivialized,” Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said. “This is unjust, unfair and just not right.”

Town officials have maintained the Beede group owes more than $1.5 million in back taxes, accumulating since 1990.

The Beede group, unaffiliated companies including ExxonMobil, Cumberland Farms and Sears, was deemed responsible for cleaning up thousands of gallons of contaminants which polluted the 39-acre site off Kelley Road. The Beede group has owned the property since 2009.

“The courts have spoken very forcefully again about the validity of the case we’ve made,” Beede group spokesman Greg Howard said. “Every step of our methodology has proven to be correct.”

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, 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 state Supreme Court, but on July 11, the court unanimously ruled not to hear the appeal.

On July 22, the town filed for reconsideration, but that motion was denied Thursday.

The next step for the town is still unknown, but Fitzgerald said officials won’t give up just yet.

“I will need to discuss this with the Board of Selectmen, but what’s important is we continue the question of fairness and equity,” he said. “That property has been contaminated. The town has and will continue to protect the value that we have in the Beede property.”

Members of the Beede group would like to put the issue behind them.

“Now that the New Hampshire Supreme Court has put this matter to bed, we just want to keep doing what we’re doing, which is treating the water and the soil,” Howard said.

While Fitzgerald was frustrated with the Supreme Court’s ruling, he also was annoyed that the Supreme Court did not hear Plaistow’s side of the issue.

“It should have been addressed by the courts,” Fitzgerald said. “To be dismissed in this matter seems to be very odd and raises a number of serious concerns about judicial due process.”

Work on the Beede Superfund site is continuing this summer, as the group plans to open a water treatment plant by the end of this year. The cleanup is expected to take until 2017 before the site can be used, but groundwater treatment could take up to two decades.