EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 9, 2013

Value of Plaistow Superfund site reduced to just $200

Land now worth $200; Town to appeal decision

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW – The New Hampshire Board of Land and Appeals has reduced the value of the Beede Superfund Site to $200, essentially waiving all tax responsibilities for the Beede Group.

“To have the Beede Group go out and argue that they have zero responsibility to pay any taxes is outrageous,” said Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald. “This should not stand.”

The 40-acre property on Kelley Road was previously assessed at $79,200. The Beede Group has not paid taxes on the site since 1990 and owes the town more than $1.5 million in back taxes.

Fitzgerald said the town is planning on appealing to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

“I do believe that there is significant case law that would support the town’s evaluation,” Fitzgerald said.

“The Beede Group has been pursuing and seem to have so far accomplished getting the property assessed to nothing,” Selectman John Sherman said. “They’ll now continue to not have any tax obligations in their mind.”

Companies dumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of pollutants on the site over a 50-year period. But the town is arguing that the property still has significant value.

“We have a reused plan that outlines productive reuse of that site in hopes that it will be green,” Fitzgerald said. “We even were recently able to connect surrounding properties with water.”

The town received a $99,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency in 2003. The town has discussed turning it into playing fields, recreational trails, or a cemetery.

With the property value so low, selectmen are worried about the repercussions it will have on the property.

“What is to stop people from going and dumping fuel from their cars on that property now,” selectman Robert Gray said. “They’ll think the ground is polluted and this doesn’t have any value any longer.”

Most importantly for the town however, is the negative impact on the taxpayers.

“We have a fundamental responsibility to protect the taxpayers,” Fitzgerald said. “Good people are being asked to pay for the contamination caused by the responsible parties that are now cleaning up the site.”

Fitzgerald said he hopes the Supreme Court will rule on the decision, not only to help Plaistow, but to set a state precedent.

“This could mean that any parcel of property that is contaminated is worth $100,” Fitzgerald said. “But, any community that is working to try to address the re-use of those properties, should really get a fair share for the taxpayers, given the incredible burdens that these companies have put on them.”

Clean-up of the Beede site began recently with the first truckloads of soil being removed from the site last month. The group is hoping to finish cleanup for the site by 2016.