Property Values, Schmalues; Homeowners suck it up!

Do not despair, Flannagan Pond will look like this again.

As of the end of June, Massachusetts home sales had dropped for four consecutive months, in spite of the lowest interest rates in decades. In a difficult market one needs every advantage possible. Typically a sign that says “waterfront property for sale” warrants a premium over a comparable home away from the water.  In fact many people along Calvin Street and other streets surrounding Flannagan Pond paid such a premium when they purchased their pond side property.

Flannagan Pond July 2011

Today that same pond is a liability in selling your home, because it has degraded to swamp due to years of continued neglect.  I know of neighbors who had deals fall through as the pond regressed through the season.

Over the past year we have made tremendous strides in making people in and out of Town Hall aware of the profound negative impact these years of neglect have had on this valuable recreation resource, as well as on the value of homes that surround the pond.

When I hear Selectman Maxant (who once again publicly defamed me, labeling me deceitful and manipulative at Wednesday evenings CPC meeting) suggest that pond clean-up is a “betterment” to our property I am rather amazed at his twisted logic. Collectively the Town’s neglect has caused harm to the residents and his idea of an equitable solution is to somehow levy a surcharge on homeowners to have the Town cleanup a mess that they exacerbated through deferred maintenance.

Maxant’s suggestion that the Town can abdicate responsibility for the impact that they have caused on local properties seems somewhat contradictory of a Town’s responsibility of encouraging a vibrant economy in all sectors, whether they be commercial, industrial or residential property.  In fact, that is one of the key reasons for having Zoning Bylaws. Typically zoning proponents defend restrictions as promoting greater economic efficiency by protecting the property values of a given area, as well as limiting subsequent nuisance claims when landowners have already made large investments in their land. So on one hand, the Town assumes its charge is to collectively protect and even increase the value of its land through regulation; and perhaps encourage investment in property improvements through TIFs and Community Preservation grants and yet ignore the fact that their laxness in other areas is negating gains made by the aforementioned programs.

Under the common law, persons in possession of real property are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of their lands. If a neighbor interferes with that quiet enjoyment, either by creating smells, sounds, pollution or any other hazard that extends past the boundaries of the property, the affected party may make a claim in nuisance.  For the landowners surrounding Flannagan Pond, the bad neighbor is actually the Town, who neglected their responsibility as managers of dams and waterways.

It is my desire to work with the Town to keep this issue in the forefront so that it gets the attention it deserves. In doing so, I do not expect to be insulted and defamed by elected officials, nor do I expect to be threatened with surcharges to clean up a mess I did not create.  I applaud various members of boards and committees who are sympathetic to our cause and who are working with us to find a resolution.  Then there are others, who seem to place more value on being right, than on doing right.

Note:  The top photo was shot in 2007, the bottom one is the same view shot last week, four years later.

Chuck

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About saveourpond

I am a lifelong resident of Ayer who lives on Flanagan's Pond.
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8 Responses to Property Values, Schmalues; Homeowners suck it up!

  1. A Sportsman says:

    For more than a year the battle to save Flannagans Pond has been actively waged. I think the expectation by the BOS and ConsCom was that this would just go away because nobody has the stamina to see this through. However, I sense that Chuck is being energized not necessarily by the issue at hand (fixing Flannagans Pond), but by the utter disrespect shown by our politicians for recreation resources used by us common folk. Just tell me that since 2005 when the town violated the Wetlands Protection Act that the BOS have taken these issues seriously and things have gotten better? Oh, any chance that Mr. Maxant was on the BOS at that time? Because if he was I am shocked, just shocked that it is private citizens that are stepping up and trying to fix this mess. When there is no accountability what we see now is the expected result. In 2005 I had a discussion with MassDEP about accountability on environmental issues and asked why towns such as Ayer are given a slap on the wrist when if a private entity had been found to break environmental laws the result would have been so much different. They basically said that town BOS and ConsComs are made of of volunteers and thus just don’t have the knowledge and skill sets and also they are not out to punish, just fix the problem. As the BOS flames those who are trying to get actually fix problems maybe the silver lining is that some day we will have true leadership. I don’t remember what it was like when Chuck was a Selectman but I do know him now and except for maybe one ex-president, there is nobody in the public arena that I have more respect for. Unfortunately Chuck is no longer in an elected position but I also feel he is where he should be and at the time and place. My only regret is that we don’t have enough additional people to help him. Anyone out there?

    • saveourpond says:

      Ed, thanks for the kind words. There are several ways people can help; 1) subscribe to the Blog and you will always get updates, 2) Comment on the Blog, whether or not you agree, just be respectful and refrain from profanity, 3) Show up a BOS, Fincom, ConsCom and Town Meetings when I put out the call for help.

      Don’t expect someone is going to do it for you. Make your voice heard.

      Chuck

  2. Lois Anne Proctor says:

    Chuck,

    My apologies to Gertrude Stein, there is a “there” there in Ayer; it is water.

    For me, a large part of our small town identity is the waterways and ponds. When you remove the water (or neglect to protect and maintain a natural asset Mr. M), you drastically change the character of a place? Look at the changes caused from only four years of neglect.

    I am reminded of Totten Pond in Waltham, where I skated and splashed around as a kid in the fifties. After the water supply was gradually cut off, it became a swamp and eventually, a meadow. I remember my parents and our neighbors going to meetings to protest the change in land usage.

    Today Totten Pond is a huge access road lined with houses, where we used to play – an apartment complex stretches to Lincoln/Winter Street, office buildings popped up everywhere, and the traffic is non-stop. The town built a skating rink, but it isn’t the same thing. Only senior citizens have ever seen Totten Pond.

    Do we really want Flanagan’s Pond Road in place of water, fish, and herons?

    Thank you for your tireless efforts on our Pond’s behalf

    –Lois Anne Proctor

    • saveourpond says:

      Lois;

      Gertrude Stein also said, “i like a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it.” She must have been in my back yard when she said it because thats the only way you can enjoy my view right now.

      Thank you for reminding us of a real-life scenario of what happens to a neighborhood when nobody speaks up and when nobody takes action. I am at an age where I was hoping to sit back and relax in my retirement home on the water. Instead I am fighting “City Hall” to protect all that I have worked for from their ambivalence and neglect.

      Thanks for chiming in with your comments.

      Chuck.

  3. Don Rzasa says:

    Funny. I recall being at a BOS meeting several months ago where the efforts of the Friends of Flannagans Pond were lauded by a few of the Selectman as a great example of residents coming together in the spirit of bettering situations in the town, and that this is how a town government works. There were smiles all around. How and when did it get ugly?
    In regards to some sort of surcharge for the betterment of the property, don’t the waterfront properties already have this in a fashion? In comparison to homes across the street, I’m sure I paid a premium for my pondfront home when I bought it four years ago. Higher sale price means higher value which means higher assessment which means higher taxes. Bingo. Besides, the pond is open to the public. I don’t fish or kayak, but perhaps the town should start charging people that do. Or maybe charging residents on a newly-paved street a surcharge. This would be just as absurd.
    I didn’t step forward to volunteer for the newly-formed Dam and Pond Management Committee because of decreasing property values – that ship sailed on the wave of the current economy. I volunteered because we’re watching a vibrant resource choke and die, and that this hopefully presents a way to help. And that goes for all the ponds, not just Flannagan. Who knows, even Sandy Pond (gasp!) may one day need more help. But the accusations and bickering that have been taking place are ridiculous and counterproductive.
    Thanks, Chuck, for getting this ball rolling. It’s a worthwhile effort even if there wasn’t a single house on the pond.

  4. saveourpond says:

    Thanks Don, I hope you won’t be cursing me for enlisting you into our cause.

    Stand firm; Stay the course. We will prevail, but we cannot rest.

    Chuck

  5. David Canney says:

    Hi Chuck: Once again Thank You for ALL of your time with Friends of Flannagan Pond. Before you let it bother you, of the comments made from a member of the BOS, just consider the source it is coming from. Frank Maxant is a rare breed! He is one in a million. He is not in the magority, he is in the minority. His decision today, will not be his decision tommorrow. He is a man that speaks from both sides of his mouth. It was a Big mistake to re-elect him. The problem we have in this country is we have to many politicians like him in the local, state and federal goverment. When will we have politicians in the goverment, that when they open there mouth today, that they will have the backbone to stand behind it tommorrow. Once again Thank You for all that you have done and continue to do. Sincerly David Canney

  6. saveourpond says:

    David;

    When an intelligent, cogent argument fails, some folks often resort to name-calling and character assassination.

    Generally I have a thick skin. My issue is less one of being offended personally, than it is one of disdain for hypocrisy in government. There are far too many people in politics who enjoy the sparring, the game of politics and in the process ignore that their comments, public opinions, policies, positions and votes affect the lives and fortunes of real people. The very people they were elected to “serve”.

    Thanks,
    Chuck

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