ESSEX — A handful of Conomo Point residents are suing the Town of Essex for ownership of the homes they have known as their own for decades.
Six residents and the estate of a deceased resident, in a formal complaint filed with the Massachusetts Superior Court, are requesting a formal judgment stating that the residents are the owners of the houses on the town-owned properties.
According to the Conomo Point residents, the town acknowledged the residents as owners of the homes for decades, regardless of the homes' locations on leased property.
But, in 2010, the town reversed its position after the Boston-based law firm Kopelman and Paige, the town's counsel, gave an opinion that the houses belong to the town.
In the formal court complaint, the residents, represented by attorney Christopher Weld Jr. of Todd and Weld LLP., said the town's change and the Kopelman and Paige opinion is simply wrong.
"The town's position is without evidentiary support and contradicts tens of years of explicit acknowledgement of the ownership rights of the residents to the residential structures," the plaintiffs wrote.
The plaintiffs are identified as Judson, Barbara, Perry and Donna Pratt, the David R. Wendell 1993 Revocable Trust, Clinton B. Smith and Paul Touher. The suit was filed by their attorney, Christopher Weld Jr., of Todd & Weld LLP of State Street, Boston.
The town of Essex has not replied to the suit, according to the plaintiffs. The Town's Board of Selectmen chairman, Jeffrey Jones, did not return calls for comment for this story. And the Kopelman and Paige attorney handling the case for Essex, Gregg J. Corbo, is out of reach until Tuesday, an office spokeswoman said Friday.
The plaintiffs, in the complaint, wrote that most lots have been leased continuously to the residents and their families for years, and many lots contain structures that were constructed or bought by individual residents.
One plaintiff, Clinton Smith, references a bill of sale for a house he bought from the Town of Essex on Conomo Point's Middle Road in 1979, according to the formal complaint.
The plaintiffs also noted that a 1991 court notice, signed by a Justice of the Massachusetts Land Court, addresses the residents of Conomo Point as "persons owning dwellings on property leased from the Town of Essex," according to the formal complaint.
In December 1999, the chairman of the Essex Board of Health also referred to the Conomo Point residents as "homeowners," according to the complaint, and the town has addressed the Conomo leaseholders as "homeowners" on multiple occasions.
In the complaint, Weld wrote:
"Decades of evidence, including stipulations filed in Courts of the Commonwealth and entry of final judgment by Courts of the Commonwealth finding that ownership rests with the residents of Conomo Point, clearly establishes that plaintiffs own the building structures at issue."
The plaintiffs are willing to dismiss their suit — if the town's counsel revises its opinion and names the residents as homeowners.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.