After watching our years-long effort to bring historic Graves Light back to life, the Town of Hull looked on from across the Suffolk County line and decided it wanted a piece of the action.
The Boston Globe, ever watchful, picked up on local reports that elusive Hull Town Manager Philip Lemnios decided he wanted to annex Graves Light after all the work was done, tax it, impose regulations on it, and then fine us $25,000 a day until we submitted.
We’ve covered the report that broke in the Hull Times in October about the illegal “land grab,” which got picked up by WBZ News Radio as the Hull “shakedown” story. Then Boston 25 added perspective to the controversy.
And then, on November 18, the Boston Globe ran a prominent feature.
Summary of the story
The Boston Globe has picked up on the Town of Hull’s attempt to annex, fine, tax, and regulate us without rule of law.
The Globe‘s Emily Sweeney wrote the news item, published on November 18, with a lavish photo display by the paper’s legendary photographer David L. Ryan.
“Graves Light sits on a rocky ledge in the middle of Boston Harbor, surrounded by water,” the article began.
“Since purchasing the lighthouse at a government auction seven years ago, Dave Waller has poured time and money into restoring it. The only way to get out there is by boat; the nearest shoreline is miles away, and when he bought it, the Coast Guard said the lighthouse did not belong to any city or town,” Sweeney reported.
“That’s why Waller was shocked when, out of the blue, he received a property tax bill from the town of Hull last year,” she said. (Read the full article here.)
Hull’s town manager is still in hiding
The article was a straight news piece that told both sides of the story. Keeper Dave Waller and one of his attorneys, Peter A. Biagetti, spoke on behalf of the lighthouse. James B. Lampke, who has been Hull Town Counsel for 42 years, spoke for the Town of Hull. Town Manager Philip Lemnios, who as usual was nowhere to be found.
The Hull Times broke the shakedown story on October 26. Seasoned journalists believe that Lampke leaked it to influence pending litigation.
Dave and Lynn Waller bought Graves Light in 2013 from the federal government for $933,888 after the surplus property was offered to the surrounding towns, including Hull, for free.
Along with the other towns, Hull declined the offer. The money generated from the sale went directly to fund the restoration of Boston Light.
The Graves deed says that the lighthouse and Graves Ledge are unincorporated territory, outside the boundaries or jurisdiction of any town.
Happy to pay taxes, but not shakedowns
“If we were legally within the boundaries, then of course we’d pay taxes” to Hull, Dave told the Globe. “The tax part is secondary to the annexation issue.”
“They claim that it’s not in any jurisdiction,” says Lampke. “We claim that it is.”
But then Lampke didn’t sound so sure. “If it’s not located in Hull, where is it?” he said. “We say that it’s located in Hull, and if it’s not in Hull, it has to be located in some jurisdiction.”
No record of Hull claiming Graves in 376 years
Even though he has been Town Counsel since 1978, Lampke has been unable to produce any official documents to the Wallers to prove that Graves is within Hull’s boundaries.
“The law requires that assessors assess all property within their boundaries, and that’s what the assessors have done here,” Lampke told the Globe. “The fact that it wasn’t done for a couple of years isn’t pertinent.”
A couple of years? Hull hasn’t assessed Graves Ledge since the town was founded 376 years ago.