The Town of Hull has asked a state court to force Graves Light to cease its restoration operations or pay a $25,000-a-day fine until it does, the Hull Times reports.
“In a counterclaim filed with the court in September, [Hull Town Counsel James B.] Lampke asked Judge Rubin to issue a temporary restraining order on further renovations,” according to the Hull Times, until owner Dave Waller “obtains building permits from Hull, and ‘assess a civil penalty of up to $25,000 per day.'”
But Graves isn’t located in the town of Hull.
Designed to compel Graves to accept annexation
The shakedown is intended to force Graves Light to recognize Hull’s newly redrawn border from Plymouth County into Suffolk County to annex Graves. Word is that Hull Town Manager Philip Lemnios is behind the land grab.
The town has been unable to produce records to prove its claim to Graves.
Lampke told the Hull Times that he still can’t find the documents, using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse.
Hull has no say whatsoever in how Graves Light is restored or operated, because the property is not within the jurisdiction of the town and never has been, as Graves explained to the Massachusetts Land Court.
“The Graves,” as the rock ledge is known, is located in Suffolk County and is the last unincorporated territory in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Hull officials showed no interest in Graves Light during six years of demolition, restoration, and reconstruction.
Then last year, with work almost finished, Hull officials presented Graves Light with a tax bill of $3,552.42 for fiscal year 2020.
It was the first time since Hull was founded 346 years ago that the town formally claimed or tried to tax the property.
That shakedown was the first time The Graves ever appeared in the Hull tax assessor’s database.
Hull wants to force compliance where it has no jurisdiction
“Lampke, in an interview and in court filings, framed the issue as ensuring compliance with the law,” according to the Hull Times.
“‘This dispute has nothing to do with wanting to stop someone from saving the lighthouse or improving the lighthouse,” Lampke told the Times, which described the lawyer as “an avid lighthouse historian and memorabilia collector,” among other things.
Lampke has been Town Counsel for 42 years.
It’s all about safety, Hull claims …
It isn’t about the money, Lampke says. “The Town does not object to these efforts and wants to do nothing that would impede them, provided they are done safely and legally, the same as any person or entity who wants to improve property must do,” the Times quoted him as saying.
… and about a Land Grab. And money.
“The Town does also assert that it is within the jurisdiction of Hull and thus subject to local taxation and regulatory and permitting requirements,” Lampke wrote, as quoted in the Hull Times.
Graves Light “essentially asserts that the property is not subject to real estate taxes or regulatory compliance with building codes, public safety requirements and the like. It is instead an ‘island entire to itself’ (with apologies to John Donne),” Lampke claims.
Some Hull residents tell Keeper that certain town officials can’t stand the idea that Graves Ledge is the last unincorporated piece of land in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They think it must be annexed so that it can be regulated, taxed, and fined.
The Hull Times article, published October 22, is not yet available online. We will link to it when it’s posted at www.hulltimes.com.