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October 27, 2009

Voters OK eminent domain

More than 400 attend, approve taking of PI beach easements

NEWBURY — Voters at last night's Special Town Meeting were in no mood to talk.

In less than 20 minutes and with little discussion, voters overwhelmingly approved two proposals to advance the Plum Island beach replenishment project by taking two property easements by eminent domain.

The two measures each required two-thirds majority votes to pass, but the show-of-hands on both was so clearly overwhelming that Town Moderator Joan Weyburn didn't even bother to count.

Voters added an amendment that withholds any compensation to the property owners for the easements. Town Counsel Anthony Penski said the rationale is that the value added to the two properties by the beach nourishment exceeds the value of the easements.

Voters also approved an article that would transfer $135,000 to pay Newbury's share of the project.

More than 400 registered voters packed the auditorium at Newbury Elementary School, delaying the start of the meeting by half an hour, as extra chairs were brought in to accommodate the crowd.

Selectmen are scheduled to meet this afternoon to issue the order of taking of the easements, at 58 and 60 Northern Blvd. Penski will file the easements tomorrow at the Essex South Registry of Deeds in Salem.

Weyburn called last night's session to order at about 7:30, and selectmen Chairman Joseph Story introduced the first warrant article: transferring money to pay Newbury's share of the project, which will bring up to 120,000 cubic yards of sand onto the island's badly eroded beach.

Selectman Vincent Russo, who has been working on the beach nourishment plan for a year, said the long-range solution to the "unnatural, accelerated erosion" is the reconstruction of the late 19th-, early 20th-century jetties at the northern tip of the island and southern end of Salisbury Beach. However, the destruction of a Northern Boulevard home undermined by ocean waves in November galvanized officials into action.

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