At the links below you will find the interveners formal request to the Supreme Judicial Court to hear all the appeals that had been consolidated earlier. We expect to hear the court’s decision on whether they will take the case in a matter of weeks. Also included are two supportive letters from prominent individuals in the field of charitable trust law and donor intent.
Salem News article.
There are a couple of questionable statements in the very first paragraph. First is the notion that the selling price was $31.4M. Actually, $2.4M of that was back rent which was not compensation for the land and which is not required to be considered part of the corpus of the Trust. Second is this persistent notion in the media that the controversy has “divided the town”. A Town Meeting vote of 500-89 to oppose the sale is not exactly indicative of a wide gulf in public opinion.
It is also not true that $40.6M is the assessed value. $40.5M is the value of the land if kept as a rentable asset according to an average of the four appraisals that were done. The Trust also had about $6M in debt, leaving it with net assets of about $34.5M on August 8th. So given that the value of the corpus of the Trust is now about $22.5M, that means that the Trust assets took a $12M haircut on August 9th, or a little more than 1/3 of its value.
So if anyone doubts whether the effort and expense we are putting in is “worth it”, we would say that recovering that $12M, not to mention recovering the landowner’s legal right to control seasonal use, should be understood to be very good incentives.
Up to this point, there was an appeal of two decisions of the Probate Court and the decision of the Single Justice. With this motion, we ask the appeals court to consolidate all our appeals into a single proceeding. This motion has since been allowed.
On this day, an astounding 686 deeds (master deed, unit deeds, mortgages, etc.) were recorded at the Southern Essex Registry of Deeds (although there do appear to be a lot of duplicate records). Shame to waste all that paper and money on a transaction that will have to be undone. If you want to have a look at the full list, go here and search for “Feoffees” in the Last Name field. You might want to increase the number of records per page to make it easier to scan through. The most interesting single deed is likely the Master Deed, so I include that below for easier reference.
Ipswich Chronicle article.
Although the Ipswich Chronicle seems to have lost interest in the story, there has been a lot of action on the sale of Little Neck over the last few weeks. The new Feoffees, having been stripped by the Probate Court of the powers granted to them under the settlement agreement, have still been working tirelessly to be ready for the “post-sale” transition. Their meetings have made it abundantly clear how – contrary to the opinion of many past and present School Committee members – the quality of the governance of the Trust matters. Had these individuals (or others like them) been installed as Feoffees years ago, our community would not be on the brink of breaking the oldest charitable trust in the United States.
But that is hindsight. The current reality is that condominium unit closings are happening in escrow on a daily basis, apparently at the rate of about 10 per day. It is expected that on or about August 10th, the old Feoffees will be in position to record the master deed and then immediately thereafter record the unit deeds that are currently in escrow. At that point, Little Neck will be legally “sold” and the new Feoffees will take over governance of the Trust.
Although the closing has been slightly delayed, the fact of it happening has been anticipated since March. We have consistently said since then that in order to be successful, we are going to have to convince the Supreme Judicial Court to rescind title and unwind the transaction. It was never going to be easy, but the “fact” of the sale will not make it any harder than we knew it would be before the historic Town Meeting vote. We are convinced that the law is on our side. We are committed to seeing it through until there is a ruling not simply on our “standing”, but on the law by which this Trust is being defaced.
With this notice, the Probate Court action is over and the clock (finally) starts ticking on our appeal.
This is a response from the Feoffees to our most recent status report asking for a stay until August 24th to allow time for the Probate Court record to be assembled. The stay was granted. The Court’s response to the Feoffees was a rather terse “To the extent that appellees disagree with any statements made by appellants in a status report, they may address those in their brief.”
There will be a joint meeting of the would-be New Feoffees and the School Committee on Junly 17th at 7:30PM in Conference Room A in the Town Hall.