The Town of Hull has sent notice of a “date of taking” Graves Light away from its owners as it proceeds with its land grab across the county line.
“Dave Waller was shocked when he received a property tax bill from the town of Hull last year seeking to collect taxes on Graves Light, a lighthouse that he bought at federal auction in 2013. He got another surprise in the mail more recently, when the town tax collector sent him a letter saying that a ‘date of taking’ would be announced soon,” the Boston Globe reported.
The Globe‘s local news reporter Emily Sweeney broke the story on May 6. She has followed the Hull annexation attempt since last November.
The Town of Hull watched the Wallers’ seven-year restoration and renovation of Graves Light and waited until the work was almost done before it presented the family with a tax bill to lay claim to the project. Hull attempted to fine the Graves owners $25,000 a day until it stopped renovations and submitted to town authority.
‘Date of Taking’to be followed by ‘Instrument of Taking’
“Since Hull sent that first tax bill last year, Waller has been locked in a legal battle with the town to prove that the lighthouse is not part of Hull. The matter is currently in Land Court,” the Globe reported. “But that didn’t stop the tax collector from sending out the notice about the ‘date of taking.'”
“A ‘Date of Taking’ will be announced, followed by the recording of an ‘Instrument of Taking’ at the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds,” the town of Hull told the Wallers in a letter.
Hull town counsel James B. Lampke, a driving force behind the effort to annex Graves, “said there are no plans for a tax taking, despite what the letter says,” according to the Globe.
“There’s no tax taking at this time,” Lampke said in the Globe. “There is no tax taking and I do not anticipate a tax taking.”
“It’s weird, because [the town is] filing an ‘Instrument of Taking’ in Plymouth County Registry of Deeds,” Dave Waller told the Globe, “but Graves Ledge is in Suffolk County, so I’m not sure how that will work out for them.”
They’re purely the opinions of the people whose usernames are in parentheses, but they show the general flavor of public sentiment:
“Once again my hometown has done an excellent job of shooting itself in the foot. When will the town ever learn?…” (Hull67)
“As a proud resident of Hull, I suggest the town focus limited town recourses on many of our more pressing needs. The MBTA is threatening to cut the ferry service. The tower at Fort Revere is crumbling. Numerous seawalls are in a state of disrepair…. The electricity goes out with startling frequency…. to the average citizen the attempt to claim Graves appears to be frivolous.” (William fly)
“Seems like a pretty blatant cash grab by the town of Hull.” (McCloskey)
“All it takes is one look at the map to know this is nonsense. Shame on Hull, especially going after someone who is helping preserve a piece of the nautical history of our area.” (BostonYurMyHome)
“This is why tax collectors in the days of old would sometimes be tarred and feathered.” (Berkshire Man)
“… if this island is in Hull why isn’t it included in any of the town’s zoning plans, town’s voting districts, or town’s fire or police plans?” (user_1126029)
“Hull doesn’t do most of that [provide public services] with the onshore residents. He is not part of Hull, but if he were he won’t be treated any worse than all the other people of Hull.” (bakeraintgr8…)
“Statehood for Graves Light, it’s only a smidgen smaller than Li’l Rhody.” (Opportunity)
“Next time you’re wondering why some people grow to resent government…” (krstn)
“Huge overreach by Hull. Waller put his time and money into making this something unique, AND he isn’t using any town services.” (Bakes33)
“Sounds like taxation without representation.” (EastCoastLA)
“… Mr. Waller took Graves Light when the U.S. Government didn’t want it any more, renovated it, and assured it will always be a Boston-area landmark. . . . Just plain gross behavior by the Town of Hull, but hardly unexpected.” (user_3961644)
“If Howie Winter had tried this extortion, he would have died behind bars.” (sailrfl)
“My guess is that it’s not the money Hull wants, they’re just mad they don’t have the power to stop the work. Not so much a money grab as a power grab. For little people, the power to say no is very important.” (NCARalph)
“No; it’s the money… It’s Lampke personally that’s on the power trip…” (BalancedChat)
“Foolishness! This man saved a landmark that no one wanted to deal with and now is being punished.” (user_2041298)
“No good deed goes unpunished, especially by a government.” (Obftklkdvsm)
“Waller is no anti-government guy. He did his due diligence prior to the sale and has accepted regulatory oversight throughout the renovation. A clear judgement is needed here, not compromise. Shameless money grab by Hull.” (theimr)
“I live in Hull and this smells rotten! … Hull is attempting to strong arm this gentleman. Anyone agree with the town on this? I’ll wait.” (57anymore)
“He should issue his own cryptocurrency and offer to pay a settlement in Gravescoin so the town would go away.” (aidandad)
“There’s a crater on the moon that looks like it might belong to Hull too.” (user_4350232)
“Why don’t they claim Greenland while they’re at it.” (adriannel)
“The Town of Hull should be publicly shamed by the rest of the Commonwealth for its conduct in this matter.” (rpg-boston)
“Probably the first time I can remember seeing three pages of BG comments in complete agreement. Kudos, Hull, everyone is against you!” (Padraig02169)
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.
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.
Graves Light is a historic landmark. At the outermost entrance to Boston Harbor and the tallest lighthouse in the Boston area, Graves Light is privately owned but continues to serve as a navigation aid run by the US Coast Guard.
The new owners welcome the adventurous public to enjoy the sights of Graves Light, but warn that there are no electrical, water, sanitary, first aid, or other facilities of any kind available to the public at the lighthouse or on Graves Ledge.
Graves Ledge is dangerous. Submerged rocks present a navigation hazard. We insist that visitors enjoy the ledge and lighthouse from the safety of their boat or kayak.
Meanwhile, follow us through this website, Facebook, and on Twitter @GravesLight.