BY JENNIFER SOLIS
---- — NEWBURY — Selectmen proceeded with the sale of the largest town-owned beachfront parcel on Plum Island this week.
On Wednesday, Ralph and Elizabeth Cox purchased 5.4 acres at 3 Temple Blvd., land the town had deemed as surplus three years ago. Proceeds from the $550,000 sale will go into the Sale of Land account for use on future capital purchases and improvements, reported Town Administrator Tracy Blais. It’s now one of the largest privately held pieces of land on the island.
The protracted sale was not without controversy. Voters authorized selectmen to sell the land, which abuts the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and includes a primary dune, at an annual meeting in May 2010. But some residents balked when the Coxes successfully negotiated a bid for the land and set about planning construction of a single-family home.
They were concerned that construction on the lot would violate the terms of a no-interest loan that funded the recent water and sewer betterment project on Plum Island. One condition of the agreement for the no-interest loan from the state was a moratorium on new building on Plum Island. Exceptions were made for some privately owned lots, but 3 Temple Blvd. East was not included in the list of exceptions.
But Blais explained that town leaders had worked with the City of Newburyport to exchange the building rights on a town-owned parcel and instead grant those rights to the Temple Boulevard property. There are roughly 1,200 homes on Plum Island.
They also feared the potential owners’ plan could cause further deterioration to the already battered barrier island and impact wildlife living there.
According to the Essex South Registry of Deeds, the Freemen of Parker River originally conveyed 3 Temple Blvd. to the town on May 29, 1953. The only restriction on the deed, which was accepted by unanimous vote at Town Meeting on March 17, 1953, stipulated that the parcel could not be sold or leased without a two-thirds majority vote at Town Meeting.
Attempts to reach the Coxes for comment about the recent sale were unsuccessful.