Town of Hull seeks to force us to stop restoration work or pay $25,000 a day in fines

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.

Shakedown

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.

“Once they saw that it was a really nice taxable thing that we had built, they just came with a tin cup,” Graves Light’s Dave Waller told WBZ NewsRadio, “And I think it’s just a shakedown.” 

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.

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4 Comments

  1. What shame! Ridiculous. It must really suck that you have to go through this and probably spend money on lawyers

  2. Just doing this again because I didn’t get a conformation this sent.

    Hi Keeper I follow a page on Facebook that shared this article and I really wanted to make you aware of something.. as you probably know the document that establishes your title to the land wich I will link below is and act of the commonwealth of Massachusetts cedeing the land to the United States government. This is the impoertant part…. because they ceded the land and didn’t sell it like what happens here in Utah. The land and the jurisdiction over the land is exclusively that of the federal government and is no longer part of the state of Massachusetts nor its jurisdiction. Technically speaking the graves is not a part of the state of Massachusetts and a municipality of that state has no right or even ability to anex or lay claim to your property. I fact it is also established in the document from what I assume is the the coast guards attorneys office when listing facts about the property the first fact listed is “the United States has exclusive legislative jurisdiction over the property” this means that it is not a part of Massachusetts but a territory of the United States. I’m not a lawyer and do not intend this to be legal advice. But as someone in a western state where I constantly have to work with federal lands your situation is unique because it’s not if the feds own it and the state has jurisdiction. In your case the state doesn’t have jurisdiction at all. And I would bring this to the attention of your attorney. I know the city has said you can’t prove that you are not a part of hull but you easily can due to your title hull can not anex or tax you because you aren’t even in Massachusetts. If you don’t have an attorney to represent you I might recommend the institute for justice https://ij.org/ as they deal with a lot of emminint domain and annexation stuff. I really am mad about what this city is trying to do to you for taking on the task of trying to preserve this historical site the best you can.

    Here is the title/act of the commonwealth of Massachusetts i got this from…. found it on the auction listing. https://www.dropbox.com/s/zbdxy72lu7cqdzf/Graves%20title%20information.pdf?dl=0

  3. Pingback: Boston Globe picks up on Hull's annexation attempt - Graves Light Station

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