, Newburyport, MA

August 19, 2013

Inclusionary covenant scuttles family plan

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Just a few words on Salisbury’s inclusionary covenant, as I have experienced it. This fee is levied on each subdivision of three lots or greater. This allows Salisbury to build affordable housing.

My plan was to split approximately 10 acres of family land into three lots, one to each of my children and one to myself. My family has been good stewards of the land for generations. My hope was to be equally careful in doing the same for this new generation’s needs. The Planning Board gave my preliminary plan a verbal OK and wished me good luck. Several months later, my definitive plans were approved. The board then informed me that an inclusionary bylaw had been voted in. Mine was the first project to come under this new law. I was confused and found the board to be just as confused as I.

I went to pick up my signed plans but was told I would have to sign the inclusionary agreement first. However, a legal document was not available to sign. I waited nearly six months. Then, what I believed to be a fee on just one house lot became a 99-year lien on my property and an inclusionary fee of up to $21,000 for each lot. I wanted my signed plans, so I signed the document.

Unfortunately, the inclusionary covenant is so expensive and so distasteful, my children moved on to better housing opportunities. Since then, I have tried to sell the project, but all potential buyers have been told by lawyers they would be making a big mistake to buy with such a covenant lien on the land.

I try to think of where to turn next. My ancestor, John Eaton, one of the first to obtain a King’s Grant, worked hard to clear and occupy land on the wilderness edge. My great-grandfather, Jacob F. Spaulding, a minister and doctor, had a school dedicated in his honor, a great gesture to a great man. My grandfather, Roy Eaton, original owner of my land, his woodlot, liked to warm himself by the wood stove in his shack he built on the property not far from where my house sits now.

My grandfathers, given what they have done, it seems families are no longer able to live on their land with respect for it. Projects must be nearly total destruction of the land or nothing. Truth is what they can make others believe. Respect for another’s property is no more. And the business of redistribution of large sums of money taken from some citizens is only to gift others in the form of subsidized housing.

Grandfathers, I have decided to end this project. New engineered drawings are being made and lawyer contacted. Some of you may not understand this. In your time a tax was levied that got you nothing and did not represent you. Your choice was to fight your own country, England, eventually giving birth to a new country, the United States of America.

I thank you for the strength you have given me.

Jim Crooks