ESSEX —The town of Essex has offered purchase and sale agreements for homes and land to almost all of the Southern Conomo Point residents, but is excluding one resident from the offer unless the resident agrees to drop a lawsuit against the town.
Purchase and sale agreements were available for 38 of the 43 Southern Conomo Point properties as of July 25, according to Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki. Of the five properties not offered an agreement, two had been reserved for future town use, two were abandoned properties after homeowners walked away, and the last, Paul Touher, resides at 31 Cogswell Road, according to Zubricki.
Touher is one of a handful of plaintiffs in a June 25 lawsuit, suing the town for home ownership rights. The land had been leased by residents for 100 years, but the contention most recently centers around who owns the houses on the land; a controversy heightened by the 100-year leases’ expiration at the end of 2011. Touher is the only plaintiff in the group who resides on the portion of Conomo Point where the agreements have been offered.
The town sent a letter to 38 of the 39 people who reside on Southern Conomo Point on July 25, offering the purchase and sale agreement. The letter was addressed to “Southern Conomo Point Leaseholders,” and signed by selectmen Jeffrey D Jones, Lisa J. O’Donnell and Susan Gould-Coviello, acting as the “Conomo Point commissioners.”
In the letter, the commissioners stood behind the town’s claim to land and building ownership on Conomo Point.
“Although the commissioners stand behind their claim that the town is the owner of such buildings and structures, the Commissioners wish to extend you an offer that resolves this dispute without the need for costly litigation ... without waiving any rights that the town may have to claim ownership of the building and/or structures should you decline this offer,” the commissioners wrote.
The town is offering to sell the land with the houses for the price of just the land, according to commissioners.
“The commissioners are offering you an opportunity to obtain title to both the land and the improvements at a purchase price equal to the appraised value of the land only,” the commissioners wrote.
Still, residents suggested the prices for land seem too high.
Zubricki said the commissioners voted unanimously to decide that Touher too would be offered a purchase and sale agreement if Touher would agreed to take the course of “stipulation of dismissal with prejudice” on the lawsuit, effectively dismissing his involvement.
“The individual in that property is involved in a lawsuit and the selectmen did not offer that tenant a purchase and sale agreement,” Zubricki said. “If that individual chooses to take that course of action, then the selectmen will offer them a purchase and sale agreement,” Zubricki said.
Touher, represented by Christopher Weld Jr. of Todd & Weld LLP out of Boston, said he is seeking further legal guidance from Weld to address his exclusion from the purchase and sale agreements.
“I have reported this to our lawyer, and he is taking it up. He’s devising a strategy,” Touher said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Weld, in a telephone interview Tuesday, said he has attempted to contact the town to discuss the situation, but his attempts at contact have not been returned, he said.
“I am in the process of trying to reach out to the town to discuss that and see if we can proceed on treating Mr. Touher the same as everybody else so that he’ll have the same opportunities as everybody else if he decides to exercise them,” Weld said. “It’s only fair.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.