, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 4, 2013

'Stigma' gives Plum Island homeowners a tax break


Though the state board noted that “the assessors have already adjusted the value of the subject properties to account for stigma, the board orders appropriate abatements.”

The following abatements were approved: Paul Buzzotta, 4 5th St., $2,408; Daniel Tolpin, 32 Fordham Way, $1,947; Kathleen Connors, 39 Annapolis Way, $1,851; Steve Badoian, 41 Annapolis Way, $1,869; and David Williamson, 1 Southern Blvd, $1,325; Joseph DiNapoli, 46 Northern Blvd, $1,821.

The abatements are the latest in a roller coaster effect of property values on the island, particularly on the ocean beachfront. For decades, the island was seen as a low-cost housing market, dotted with small vacation homes.

That changed about 15 years ago when property values began to soar, driven in part by national media stories that portrayed the island as a good deal for those seeking waterfront properties. The size of homes began to grow as waterfront shacks were torn down and replaced with large, year-round houses. In 2003 the island saw a milestone -- it’s first $1 million home sale. Several more were recorded in subsequent years. At its peak, the two dozen or so homes along oceanfront Fordham Way had a combined assessed value of nearly $25 million, rivaling the value of the mansions along “The Ridge” on High Street in Newburyport, the city’s highest-value neighborhood.

Around 2008, significant erosion problems were noticed in the Beach Center area. Within two years, the problem was serious enough to require a $5 million project to replenish the a half mile of eroding dunes that the Army Corp of Engineers said was in danger of being breached, exposing sections of Northern Boulevard and underground water and sewer lines to destruction.

Property values had begun to tumble, and continued to do so as the nation’s real estate bubble burst and erosion problems on the island began to slip southward, toward the Annapolis Way and Fordham Way neighborhoods. In 2011, some residents in the Northern Boulevard area successfully convinced the state tax board that the “stigma” attached to the erosion in their neighborhood justified reducing their property values, thus granting them a tax break.

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