No Support for Pheeny's Island Article

Norton selectmen say town would be open to huge liability.


Selectmen unanimously refused to support a petition article within the Oct. 29 Norton Annual Town Meeting Thursday by a 5-0 vote, saying the request to raise and appropriate an unspecified amount of money to purchase Pheeny’s Island would result in a dangerous precedent for the town.

The article, submitted by A. Brandt Henderson et al, proposes the town authorize the board of selectmen to acquire the island, the land owned by August M. and Manuel M. Ribiero, by purchase, gift, eminent domain, or otherwise.

The 9.17-acre parcel has been the object of town-wide controversy since developer Kenneth Leavitt proposed creating an island ropes course and adventure camp on the island a year ago.

 The developer hired an engineering firm to lay out the course, but in short order found that unnamed residents had come ashore and .

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Residents of the picturesque Reservoir neighborhoods crowded public hearings on the project and claimed the camp would create environmental havoc on the uninhabited island. The sale of the property has yet to be finalized.

Thursday, selectmen said the proposal offers no details about how much the property would cost or how the town would foot the bill.

“Where does the money come from?” asked vice chairman Robert Kimball. “They want us to pay for it.”

Board member Mary Steele said the drafters of the article should come before selectmen and present some numbers.

“What is the benefit to the town?” she asked. “What are the taxes and the liability?”

Kimball said the proposal to take the property by eminent domain doesn't align with the common understanding of that process.

“We don’t have any reason to take someone’s personal property,” he said. “The island was up for sale for more than a year. There was no interest until the zipline project came along.”

“We would have to indicate why the property is unique, and why the municipal entity needed it. I don’t believe there is a case to be made that it is unique,” said member Brad Bramwell.

Kimball recalled that recently a water line had been put through his own property without his permission, and said he had later come to a settlement with the town. He added he was not in favor of seizing someone else’s personal property without a pressing reason.

He commented to take the island in the present situation would be exactly the same as seizing a line of house lots on the shore of the Norton Reservoir to create a parking lot and a boat ramp for the town.

“There is not a valid reason for the town No. 1, to take it, and No. 2, to buy it,” Kimball said.

He also noted the developer’s plan and the attention it has received has likely pushed the cost of the property “sky-high.”

Kimball said there are other beautiful islands in the reservoir the town already owns, and commented any resident with a boat can access them.

Board member Bob Salvo added the board would be opening the town to “huge liability” if it made a move to take a privately owned island.

Mark Sweeney October 12, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Lori, Most Land Presevations are gifts to the Town. Asking the Town to buy the island to keep things "quiet" is just not how it is done. There is new liability with the water (drow nings) etc that the Town is not liable for right now. The cost would be high as there may be a bidding war etc....You can bring your article to Town meeting but you need to do your homework. Where is the cost of the island mentioned anywhere....who owns the island now ? The article will easily be defeated unless you and have some basic support and some facts and figures for the public. Bald eagles, osprey and noise are not enough to raise my taxes.
Trot Nixon October 13, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Town has ZERO funds to make this purchase....spend money on police, fire, schools and roads first...we all know each of those departments desperately need to get some extra funds...
Mark McKay October 16, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Hi Trot. We get it. You've made your point in every Pheeny article. Thanks for sharing. I live a few streets down from the island and can tell you I do not support the thought of some ropes course there. I spend most days fishing on the lake after work and can't imagine the enviromental impact the added traffic would have on the ecosystem. I just don't feel like the people who live on the Norton have been given any consideration in this matter. Now if the town would get together and dredge the "swamp" as it's become known in the fishing circles, that would be an improvement. The place is so choked with weeds the boats will have issues getting to the island anyway. :)
Trot Nixon October 16, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Thanks, Mark...didn't realize you were the comment monitor on Patch but glad you get my point. Listen, I think the Resevoir is a beautiful scenic setting in Norton which should be preserved at all costs...it has come a long way thats for sure and it helps the property values in that area, I get it and completely understand that. The town should absolutely promote conservation and recreation in that area, no doubt about it. But it gets to a point when you say, we should spend limited town resources on a privately owned island to appease the 50 or so households and then the rest of the 19 thousand people in town have to foot the bill, that is unfair. Where you gonna get the money from, explain that to me? From the schools which has been level funded for 5 years now, the police who have to prioritize emergency calls bc a lack of staffing or the fire dept which doesn't have anyone under the age of 30 on its roster. Just take the time to explain where you get this money from at the expense of what other department...everything is running on bare minimum now!
Trot Nixon October 16, 2012 at 10:41 PM
For the record I am not in favor of the rope course but non the less we shouldnt spend tax dollars to stop it.


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