GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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September 5, 2013

Judge: Judge gives Conomo a mixed verdict

ESSEX — An Essex County Superior Court judge has found that two of the four plaintiffs in a home ownership suit on Conomo Point own their cottages, but that those owned by the other two belong to the town of Essex.

The finding comes after weeks of testimony by Conomo Point tenants, town officials, an expert in house moving, and after court visits to Conomo Point.

The ruling by Essex County Superior Court Judge Richard Welch III was issued Tuesday; the four plaintiffs were Judson, Perry, Donna and Barbara Pratt of Robbins Island Road; the David R. Wendell 1993 Revocable Trust house on Conomo Point Road; Clinton B. Smith of Middle Road, and Paul Touher of Cogswell Road.

In his findings, Welch writes that the Pratt house and the Smith house belong to their respective tenants, as they are smaller than the other two houses involved and can be moved easily.

Welch, however, reached a different conclusion for the Wendell trust and Touher properties.

“In this case, neither the party leasing the land nor the town, came to any express or implied agreement regarding the fate of the structure at the end of the lease,” the court document reads.

The main aspects of the case involved whether or not the houses are considered “fixtures” on the town-owned land, and whether there was an agreement with the town that the builder could remove the cottages when the leases ended — something the plaintiffs thought would never happen.

In legal terms, a fixture is generally something that is attached to the land with anything more than the power of gravity. Houses are a common example of fixtures, but almost none of the issues surrounding Conomo Point land issues can be considered common.

Welch pointed out that, through various incarnations, the Conomo Point commissioners were aware that tenants would sell their structures, and the town has referred to the residents as “homeowners.”

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