Opinion

Letter to the editor: Swampscott rail trail blues

I currently represent 28 Swampscott residents vehemently opposed to the rail trail.

Although I specialize in eminent domain litigation, I was not engaged by these property owners to bring lawsuits against the town but, rather, to review the chronology of events and the current status of the project. Although there have been no actual takings from my clients this project

might advance to the point that the Town may take by eminent domain the entire corridor required for this rail trail.

My review of this project has uncovered numerous procedural and financial problems. It appears that town officials have not been transparent with its residents regarding the scope of the project.

In the last month, my office has directed letters to the Board of Selectmen, Town Administrator, Conservation Commission, Finance Committee and most recently, the Planning Board. All of the letters have outlined significant problems with this project as planned.

The letters detail specific legal and financial issues that represent an abuse of the eminent domain process if the town were to go forward. It is not a question of public purpose but, rather, an abuse of the process and a violation of the due process rights of all property owners affected.

Prompting this correspondence to you is the fact that not one town official has responded to my communications in any way, shape or form [other than a basic acknowledgment from the Planning Board Chair, who supported the rail trail].

It is surprising and most unfortunate that there would be no other response to these communications, which outline very serious problems with this proposed corridor and the information that is being withheld. A reasonable person would think that the 28 taxpayers I represent are entitled to a level of respect and should be afforded the courtesy of some response from town officials.

If possible, perhaps you or interested Swampscott residents could take a leisurely ride over to the abutting properties located at 48 and 36 Bradlee Avenue. These two properties for years have been faced with the potential real estate reality of having the trail bulldozed directly between their existing homes.

You will see that these two properties currently enjoy a very attractive and valuable buffer zone consisting of shrubs, trees and an elevation providing a desirable sense of protection and privacy. The projected layout calls for the total destruction of that valuable natural buffer, and many more Swampscott properties will be similarly impacted.

Throw in a 10-year construction easement on these properties and the fact that the town has received erroneous title information on a majority of the properties and you really have a terrible situation. The harsh reality is that the town will be on the hook for paying for many of the components of this project, which is a fact that town officials downplay or simply ignore in public hearings. Silence is golden, but not here.

Peter E. Flynn is a Saugus attorney.

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