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February 1, 2013

Judge opens door on Conomo ownership

ESSEX — A Superior Court judge has found that a 1991 settlement agreement cited by Conomo Point residents as evidence that they, not the town, own the homes that sit on the town-owned Point property was in fact not a contested issue in that case, and therefore cannot be viewed as “eternally binding.”

Judge Richard Welch, sitting in Newburyport Superior Court, rendered that verdict Monday while denying a motion for summary judgment made by residents in a case citing the 1991 Land Court case as definitive regarding house ownership.

Welch found that whether or not the residents own the houses, was not not crotical in the 1991 Land Court case, according to the case summary.

Court documents indicate both parties entered into a settlement where both sides assumed the plaintiffs owned the houses for the two 10-year leases, which expired in January 2011. The case summary also notes the 1991 settlement may be used as evidence for the plaintiffs about structure ownership, but that the 1991 case is not untrue or controlling.

At the same time, Welch recognized that the lawsuit — identified as Judson Pratt et al. v. the town of Essex, filed in the summer of 2012 when residents sought to clarify ownership of the houses on town land — will have a direct effect on another lawsuit filed against the town by Point resident Nina Walker, who, with other plaintiffs, allege that the second-year rates for the town’s current “bridge leases” and appraisal rates for northern Conomo Point are far too high.

In that vein, Monday’s court proceedings have rolled the two separate cases into one going forward at the request of the Boston-based law firm Kopleman and Paige, the town’s general counsel.

In addition, the denial of the motion for summary judgment, would have expedited the process and bypassed a trial.

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