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Adventures in the surreal estate trade

In the wake of the controversial Kelo Supreme Court decision, which enabled communities to use Eminent Domain to confiscate private land for whatever purpose the community likes, there has been a lot of public hue and cry. So while the land-grabbers might have the law on their side, they still have a sense of public relations, and are looking for less confrontational ways to do as they wish.

On Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, they might have stumbled on a rather unique solution: announce that the town took the land 60 years ago, but didn't bother to tell anyone.

It seems that when the town took a bunch of land for an airport, they didn't bother to publicly spell out just what land they were taking. Over the following 66 years, they quietly sat back and let various properties be bought and sold, continued to collect taxes, until they decided they really wanted it. So now they're telling the family that currently occupies the spot that they're free to keep living in their house, but it's gotta be moved off the airport's property.

The airport's director comes across as a rather arrogant sort.

Vaughan, the airport commissioner, said the town kept the best records it could. "Could they have done a better job? Maybe," he said. "But that's why you have title insurance, to compensate you in case a mistake is made."

Mr. Vaughan seems not to notice -- or care -- that his side of the dispute made the mistake, and hasn't bothered to fix it in over six decades. I'd argue that by tolerating the continued occupancy and sales of the land over that time, the town forfeited its claim to the land. His idea that the title insurance company should eat the losses for the screwup -- when there was literally not a damned thing anyone outside of the town government could have done to discover, let alone fix the problem -- is patently absurd.

But this is Massachusetts we're talking about here. The town will get the land, the family will get a token payment (most likely not even what they've paid in property taxes on the town's land), and the title insurance company will take it in the shorts.

Because when the government makes a mistake, it's never their fault.

Comments (10)

I sell real estate. As I un... (Below threshold)

I sell real estate. As I understand the law in Texas, there are squatter's rights. Suppose you own a tract of land, say 10 acres, and someone cuts off 1 acre, builds a house and lives in it, without your knowledge. If you don't do anything about it, in 10 years that one acre becomes the legal property of the squatter. Then there's nothing you can do about it.

I don't know the law in Massachusetts, but this sounds like a real estate lawyer's dream case.

Unfortunately, adverse poss... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Unfortunately, adverse possession (a.k.a. "squatters rights") is not permitted against government or quasi-government entities. The logic being that government properties are too vast to have a reasonable expectation for them to defend against claims.

I do not know what the recourse the people have. We have sat idly by while our property rights have been trampled by the courts for decades - now we are seeing the fruits of our apathy.

Blah blah blah Massachusett... (Below threshold)

Blah blah blah Massachusetts, blah blah blah blah Massachusetts, blah blah blah Massachusetts.

-- Pretty clever, right? The fun thing is, I have just typed wizbangblog in the address bar of my browser and I haven't seen the blog yet. And I haven't looked at it much lately; your needle is stuck, dear.

And now I'll push the "go" button...

Am I ever wrong? No.

Asti,Is your comment... (Below threshold)

Is your comment apropos of ANYTHING? You will never exorcize your low self-esteem on your own like this. Please do yourself a favor and seek the help of a sympathetic professional. And quickly!

Oddly, in Massachusetts one... (Below threshold)

Oddly, in Massachusetts one can acquire adverse possession of municipally-owned land, under certain circumstances. But this case doesn't even get that far. They don't have to adversely possess land that they have clear record title to (in fact, you literally can't adversely possess land you own!). If the town messed up their recording in 1941 and did not create clear record title to the land, they do not own the land.

Title insurance (if indeed they even obtained it in 1941) would only compensate the town fo the loss of value -- it will not entitle the town to recover the property itself.

These folks are "bona fide purchasers for value without notice." That is as high on the food chain as ownership can get.

Now the town will have to take the land a second time and pay them fair market value.

Hard to believe a 15,000 square foot lot can be worth $1.5 million.

Come on, the 'people' are i... (Below threshold)

Come on, the 'people' are in such good hands with our local governments using eminent domain. Really, I am sure that none of the local governments friends are in the construction business and all of this is on the up and up. We just need to think more passively.
Don't worry according, to half the country global warming is real and so the country is halfway there.

The more the politicians sc... (Below threshold)

The more the politicians screw with the American taxpayer, and it just isn't in Mass. it's almost in every state, the sooner the "Boston Tea Party" will come again.

People are getting pissed off about the crap that all the elected employees are doing. Both parties are doing it, not just one party. They way cities, towns, etc, including the states & Fed govt have done away with the open meetings, securing documents under some security BS that doesn't pertain to our National Security is a crime within its self.

We are becoming a police state all across the US, and it doesn't matter who/what party is in power. Hopefully the majority of American taxpayers will wake up in time, otherwise bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

Diane Feinstein seems to be... (Below threshold)

Diane Feinstein seems to be a master of corruption.

Now that she resigned a position of power because the 'culture of corruption' infected her, she might have the time to help Mr. Vaughan steal the land in question. Dems always want to steal, err, take from the rich right?

The anti private ownership ... (Below threshold)

The anti private ownership group have the ultimate
weapon of taking what is not theirs. The arrogance
of cities, municipalities, towns, counties and states
is growing. Kind of reminds one of the railroad
barron robbers era.
Stealing is stealing no matter how the procedure
is labeled.

Wouldn't the city charging ... (Below threshold)

Wouldn't the city charging them taxes on land the city owned constitute fraud?






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