Town Land Abutting I-93 Undervalued by State DOT

Conservation Commission member Roger Fillio summed up the group’s reaction to the state’s offer of $600 for a 1.08 acre parcel of town land: “I’ve got a wheelbarrow full of dirt I’ll sell them for that price.”

Fillio and the Commission, led by Chair Marge Badois, heard an update from Town Manager Kevin Smith on the state’s offer to buy the parcel abutting I-93. The group thought the land was worth more, and directed Smith by consensus to go back to the Department of Transportation with a counter-offer.

Smith reminded the group that the parcel is part of an 11-acre tract abutting I-93. Its official address is 51-R Trolley Car Lane and it is accessible through the rear of Trolley Car Lane. While there is no official easement on the property, Smith said it has been considered “de facto” conservation land for years.

The state is offering to purchase the land as part of a utility easement and drainage easement needed for the widening of the Interstate.

The state’s attitude, according to Smith, is, “We’re going to take it anyway, so we might as well figure out the easiest way.”

The state’s appraiser came back with a price tag of $600, according to Smith. “They said there’s no frontage, it’s all wetlands and it abuts I-93,” he said, explaining why the state thinks the land is undevelopable.

Smith said his reaction was, “Really?”

He had a town appraiser look at the land, and the town appraiser came back with an assessed value of the whole parcel at $24,205, with the 1.08 acres clocking in at $2,600. “That is at a 99.9 percent assessment ratio,” Smith told the board.

He has spoken to the town attorney, who told him the town could walk away from the deal, but that the state would take Londonderry to court and end up getting the land anyway.

“We could ask the state to accept a counter-offer,” Smith said, and suggested $2,000.

Under the statutory process, any sale would have to go through

Conservation, the Planning Board and two public hearings, according to Smith.

The drainage easement is an additional 775 square feet and the utility easement, 19,650 square feet.

Members asked Smith to clarify whether the State’s offer was an outright purchase or purchase of the easement, and Smith said it was an outright purchase.

“If we don’t accept their offer within 30 days, they will issue a

Declaration of Taking,” he said. The state would take the 1.08 acres plus the square footage designated for the two easements, he said.

Member Mike Speltz said he knew of a similar appraisal done recently and that was $2,000 for a parcel that was “wet and unbuildable.” The town appraiser’s figure was not, he said, “far off the mark.”

“If it’s going to happen anyway, it would be nice to get $2,000 out of it,” Speltz observed.

Smith said the DOT wanted to have the deal secured by Christmas, to which member Deborah Lievens said, “Some of the work on 93 is five years out. I don’t see what the rush is.”

“Are they going to get all their stuff in for the Planning Board?” member Gene Harrington asked.

Smith said it was possible that the state could submit its materials in time for a December meeting.

Speltz said, “I would approve of the sale if we can renegotiate the price.” He also called for an assurance that the land would not be developed, and that the impact of I-93 would be minimal.

The Commission approved the sale by a hand vote, on the condition that a better price be negotiated, DOT pick up all the costs of the subdivision and recording of plans, and that development be limited to the detention pond and maintenance.

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter