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Cohen to Aldermen: Take this!

Posted by Ralph Ranalli February 26, 2007 11:20 AM

cannonball.JPG
Maybe someday this will be the only kind of cannonball seen at Crystal Lake, instead of the ones the city and homeowner Patrick Hannon have been firing at each other.
(Globe staff photo by Suzanne Kreiter)

NEWTON

Mayor David B. Cohen as announced he wants to use the city's eminent domain powers to take possession of a controversial property on Crystal Lake, opening another front on in the long-running war between the city and the property owner.

The announcement came in a letter to aldermen saying that while "a taking by eminent domain is a very serious matter," he did not want to pass up a once-in-a-lifetime chance to create a park on the property, which abuts the popular public swimming hole on Crystal Lake.

Hannon, owner of the one-acre beachfront property at 20 Rogers St., said today that he has no problem with the city owning the property, but he wants a “fair” price.

“I’m not challenging the taking,” Hannon said in a telephone interview. “All I can challenge is the value they offer for it.”

Hannon had placed a $4.5 million price tag on the 1924 Colonial revival house and surrounding land, which he bought for $3 million in August 2002. He said the broker has now taken it off the market.

Hannon has battled with the city for more than a year over an order that he postpone demolishing his fire-damaged house because of its possible historic value. Now that the one-year order has expired, Hannon has threatened recently to knock down the house and develop the land as a 12-story condo project with affordable units.

Cohen said the city is prepared to offer $2.3 million, based on an independent appraisal. The property has a 200-foot beach, which has been shared with the city since a 1962 court settlement with the previous owners.

Cohen said in his letter that he would petition the local Community Preservation Committee for funds to pay for the Hannon property. The state Community Preservation Act allows funds collected from a 1 percent surcharge on property taxes to be used for open space and recreation, historical preservation, and affordable housing.
Aldermen would have to approve the deal.

The property eventually would be held by a private foundation, with custody and management by the city Parks and Recreation Commission, Cohen said.

-- Connie Paige

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