Boston Globe picks up on Hull’s land-grab shakedown

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.

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Hull’s attempt to annex Graves will cost the town 100 years’ worth of taxes

Hull Town Manager Philip Lemnios’ land grab to annex Graves Light will “probably cost a hundred years’ worth of taxes” that he’s seeking to take from the property.

Dave Waller, who purchased the ledge and lighthouse from the federal government in 2013 after the Town of Hull declined to accept it for free, did so knowing that the stone formation known as The Graves is the last unincorporated piece of property in Massachusetts.

Consequently, The Graves can’t be taxed or regulated by any town.

After receiving Hull’s $3,352.42 tax bill for fiscal year 2020, Dave tried to speak to the Town Manager, who refused to talk to him. So Dave ended up asking the Massachusetts Land Court to decide.

The case is so expensive, and the town’s case is so flimsy, Dave told the Hull Times, the Town Manager’s land grab will “probably cost a hundred years’ worth of taxes” that town is seeking in its annual tax bill.

With roughly 2,800 families in the town, that means that the attempted annexation is likely to cost each Hull family well over $100.

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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.


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

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Graves Light tells WBZ about the Hull Town Manager’s ‘shakedown’

The Hull Town Counsel’s leak to the Hull Times about the Hull Town Manager’s effort to surreptitiously annex the unincorporated area around Graves Light is now a WBZ news story.

“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 today.

“And I think its just a shakedown.”

Shakedown indeed. WBZ Radio News reporter Karyn Regal called Hull Town Manager Phil Lemnios the morning of October 27 for the town’s side of the story.

Lemnios hid.

“WBZ NewsRadio has reached out to the Hull Town Manager on Tuesday morning for comment,” Regal reported.

The whole day passed and the stay-at-home-in-Natick town manager of the quiet little town of Hull couldn’t return a call to Boston’s biggest news radio station.

“We are awaiting a response,” Regal posted at 4:39 PM, “and will update this article accordingly.”

Here’s the WBZ audio of Regal’s story and Dave’s comment.

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Thanks for all your support against the illegal land grab

All of us at the Graves Light family are overwhelmed by the wonderful outpouring of support after public reports that the Town of Hull is trying to annex Graves so that the lighthouse can be regulated, taxed, and fined.

More than 2,000 people an hour saw the story in the first 12 hours after the news appeared on our Facebook page,

Hundreds expressed their support for Graves Light and their criticism of Hull’s town leadership.

More than a hundred in the first afternoon and night offered their comments. Nobody supported Hull leaders. Anyone can read our Facebook page to see the names of the authors.

Hull residents are furious at town leaders

Several Hull residents expressed frustration at how the town is wasting taxpayer funds harassing Graves when the town can’t even provide reliable electricity through its energy monopoly. Here are some of the comments from the first 12 hours, some of which are edited for punctuation:

Frank S, Hull: “We can’t even get electricity during storms that blow at 6 miles an hour. What the hell are we gonna do with an island?”

Laura B, Hull: “I’m so sorry about this as I live in Hull. I have enjoyed seeing the fruits of your labor and marveled at how much you have accomplished against tremendous odds. I wish the power that be would put more time and energy into keeping our electricity up and running than spending money suing you!”

Ron P, Hull: “Please don’t lump all of the Hull residents in with this situation. I guarantee that the residents of Hull are on your side.”

Tim W, Hull: “That is such bull****, I live in Hull and they want their hands in everyone’s pocket …. you guys are doing an amazing job restoring the lighthouse.”

Karen C, Hull: “So sorry this is happening to you from my own town!”

Bill W, Hull: “More evidence of how inept our Town Manager & Board of Selectpeople are. The townspeople of Hull were never informed or given the chance for input on claiming Graves ledge for free, nor has there been any town meeting as to why Hull wants it now.”

Christine W, Hull: “Hull is terrible with money and running so many dirty schemes. They should tax [Town Manager] Phil [Lemnios] on his years living in Natick.”

‘Shame on you, Hull!’

Here are some of the early comments from around the area:

Jayne W, Tewksbury: “It’s just a grab for property taxes. And with all the improvements you’ve made, they’re imagining a wonderful assessment. Fight this.”

Katherine M, Nantucket: “This is ridiculous and I hope you guys have great lawyers, keep spreading the story. Where is the Boston Globe etc.”

Holly R, Weston: “A land grab is not a good look for you, Hull.”

Sean G: “What service is Hull planing on offering you? Public school? Fire station on island? Police patrol? Have they ever received tax revenue from any owner of graves island since the founding of the town in 1644?”

Ray H, ex-Medford: “Complete waste of time and tax money for the Town of Hull that is nowhere near The Graves.”

Wendy S, Boston: “After all of the beautiful work (and expense). That is outrageous. And you guys were so eager to help the Coast Guard with repairs on Little Brewster. You have been so generous with your time, equipment, expertise, and finances. . . . I don’t think Hull should get a cent . . . .”

Melinda G, Winthrop: “Shame on you, Hull!”

Cassandra C: “When you say, ‘Shame on you, Hull!!’, it seems as though you are addressing the taxpayers, and I doubt any of them are fans of this.”

Boston sought to tax Graves but found no basis

A researcher for the Boston Assessing Department said he tried to find a way to tax the owners of The Graves, but – apparently because Boston recognized that the property is indeed officially unincorporated – found that it wouldn’t be possible. Here’s what he said:

Jim L, Scituate: “In 2014, I researched the Graves Light property and its sale to the Wallers. I worked for the Boston Assessing Department and wanted to determine whether the city could tax it. Initially I thought since Graves Light is in Suffolk County, one of three municipalities in coastal Suffolk County — Winthrop, Revere and Boston — would be able to do so. Bottom line: We determined the city could not tax it. I can’t take issue with anything the Waller family has written in this post.”

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