EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 17, 2013

N.H. Supreme Court rules against Plaistow

Beede Group doesn't owe $1.5M in taxes

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — PLAISTOW — The town’s appeal over $1.5 million in taxes owed on the Beede Superfund property was denied by the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

The town had argued the Beede Group was responsible for the unpaid taxes, accumulating since 1990. The group includes unaffiliated companies deemed responsible for cleaning up the thousands of gallons of contaminants which polluted the site.

“We’re gratified that the court came to the decision that it did,” said Greg Howard, spokesman for the Beede Group. “Hopefully, this puts this matter to rest.”

Selectman Daniel Poliquin felt differently.

“It boggles my mind,” Poliquin said. “I find it very hard to believe that they could rule that way.”

The town appealed to the Supreme Court in April after the New Hampshire Board of Land and Tax Appeals ruled the Beede Property was improperly assessed.

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 board sided with Beede and assessed the property at $200.

“I just don’t understand how all those acres can be valued at $200,” Poliquin said. “This isn’t going to be the end of this. We will have to talk to our attorney and see what the options are.”

The town’s attorney, Sumner Kalman, did not respond to a request for comment.

The court ruled unanimously Thursday. The town has 10 days to file a motion for the court to reconsider.

Selectmen’s Chairman Bob Gray said did not expect the town to go that route.

“I don’t know what that will do at this point,” he said. “The only way is to perhaps introduce legislation to change the law.”

Poliquin said he was frustrated with the impact the decision will have on the taxpayers.

“Every citizen in town is going to be impacted because of this,” Poliquin said. “The Beede Group has managed to put one over on the town.”

He also said government agencies have not looked out for the town throughout the dispute.

“This decision just goes along with everything that has transpired throughout the years,” he said. “It’s like they have carte blanche. All of our fellow judicial agencies back them up; no one makes them do what they should be doing. They should be alleviating the community impacted, not the companies involved in this.”

Poliquin referenced the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to build an access road to the site off Main Street, against the town’s wishes.

“That created all sorts of havoc in town,” he said of the Beede saga.

The Beede Group had argued it wasn’t responsible for taxes owed by the previous owner.

“We understand the town might be upset, but it doesn’t make sense for us to be the ones paying those taxes,” Howard said. “The former owner owed more than $400,000 before we even took it over.”

Mark Henry, the land’s previous owner, was sent to prison for 37 months for environmental fraud in 1996.

With the decision issued, Howard said, he hopes the group can focus solely on the cleanup.

“We just want to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re digging holes, extracting water and trying to do the best we can.”

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.