NAHANT — The town will receive $3 million from local nonprofit Nahant Preservation Trust to go towards the Board of Selectmen’s efforts to enact eminent domain over East Point.
In April, the Board voted (3-0) to place an article on the annual Town Meeting warrant that would give the town authority to take control over a portion of the East Point property currently occupied by Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center.
If passed during the May 15 meeting, Article 22 would allow Nahant to enact eminent domain — a law providing the government the right to purchase private property for public use — in order to declare part of East Point as a wildlife preserve, thus protecting it from future development.
“As many people know, the CPA (Community Preservation Act) funding article, Article 21, and Article 22, which is the eminent domain authorization article, require $3 million from private donations in order to both execute the $1.5 million bond, or enact eminent domain,” Board of Selectmen Chair Joshua Antrim said. “That full $3 million will be donated to Nahant and in Nahant’s possession prior to Town Meeting.”
Citing concern about the impact of Northeastern’s proposed expansion project on the local environment, the board previously declared it would seek public approval to designate $1.5 million of Massachusetts CPA funds — which are used for public areas of need including affordable housing, historic resources, and recreational spaces — to finance the motion.
“It’s exciting for all of us,” Antrim said. “It’s been agreed to that the donated $3 million will be spent first, so that means that if the 80A commission determines the taking fee and our legal fees are less than $3 million, there will be no need to even take the $1.5 million bond.”
He later said: “Our real estate appraisal (for the property) came in at $2 million. We expect about half a million dollars in legal fees — that’s $2.5 million — and then we have $2 million in contingency. If those numbers hold, the private donations will cover the whole thing.”
Antrim previously stated that CPA funds do not affect the town’s operating budget or tax rate in any way, and the principal interest on the money borrowed for the taking would cost the average Nahant household just $35 per year.
However, during a virtual Eminent Domain Information Session hosted by the university last week, Ralph Martin, senior vice president and general counsel at Northeastern, said that if the town were to seek to enact eminent domain but ultimately choose to abandon the effort due to cost, the financial burden to taxpayers could actually be in the hundreds of thousands.
“If the town walks away from the taking, it will owe Northeastern the damages Northeastern will suffer from delaying its expansion project,” Martin said. “In a litigation process the selectmen themselves say will last two to three years, those delayed damages will be substantial, in the range of $6-9 million.”
Antrim, as well as Nahant’s legal consultant Attorney James Masterman, countered Martin’s statements, stating that Nahant will not need to pay construction costs for the project even if the town abandons the taking.
“If the price is too high and the town decides to abandon the taking, the private donations will still be spent first,” Antrim said. “This is huge news, and the generosity is greatly appreciated. I think it’s important to let that sink in — that that money will be spent first, and that potentially minimizes or eliminates the need for financial contribution from the CPA funds.”
Antrim said the donors have requested to remain anonymous. The money will be presented in a formal ceremony at Nahant Town Hall this Tuesday at 10 a.m.
Board of Selectmen member Mark Cullinan called the news “amazing.”
“Under the Community Preservation funding, all the town is doing is authorizing the Board of Selectmen to use that (CPA) bond, and if we don’t need to do it, all the better,” he said.
Elyse Carmosino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.