Update: Not so fast on purchase of Yellow House

Wilson ousted from planning board.

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The Yellow House is changing ownership after voters approved its purchase Thursday. -Stacey Rupolo

The Board of Selectmen is taking a deep breath and seeking a legal opinion after receiving a letter from an attorney about the taking of the Yellow House.

The town received a letter dated April 13 from attorney Alexander Cataldo, who represents Ben Hall Jr. in a bankruptcy proceeding. In the letter, Cataldo wrote that “automatic stay provisions… prohibit the town from taking any action that will affect my client’s rights with respect to the taking proper and the activities leading up to it.”

At a meeting Friday that was scheduled to start the purchase process, town counsel Ronald Rappaport advised the board to take a cautious approach and seek an opinion from Ropes & Gray, a Boston law firm that has helped the town navigate other court proceedings with the Hall family.

“Their advice and my advice is we should let them analyze the situation and take the steps necessary before we sign an order of taking,” Rappaport told selectmen Margaret Serpa and Arthur Smadbeck after having a phone conversation with members of the firm. Selectman Michael Donaroma was not present.

“It seems nonsensical that it would violate an automatic stay just because we would be paying $3 million,” Rappaport said.

Selectmen have put the Yellow House taking on their agenda for April 24.

The letter from Hall’s attorney comes after voters gave the board authority to purchase or take the property by eminent domain at town meeting Tuesday and through a $1.5 million Proposition 2½ debt exclusion at polls Thursday.

By a vote of 399-152, voters approved spending the for $1.5 million to purchase or take the building, a historic building at corner of Main and Summer streets that is in need of repair.

The issue has been a contentious one between the town and the Hall family, spanning more than a decade of court hearings and town board meetings. It appears as if both sides are headed back to the courtroom.

“We indicated this would not be a straight line and it won’t be, but I don’t expect much of a delay on this,” Rappaport said.

Voters on Tuesday approved an additional $1.5 million in community preservations to preserve the historic building, which brings the total to $3 million.

The Hall family could take the town to court on the purchase price, but that’s the only issue still in dispute, town leaders have said.

There were 568 votes cast in Thursday’s election, nearly 16 percent of the town’s 3,597 registered voters.

Voters also approved four other spending questions for a total of $1.7 million for a new pumper for the fire station, a new dredge, a patrol/collection vessel for the harbormaster, a dredge and a bike lane on Meshacket Road.

The fire pumper was approved 420-127, the boat won 407-142, the dredge was approved 401-149, and the bike lane won 433-144.

A non-binding question having to do with eliminating moped rentals also passed by a margin of 497-46.

In the only contested races on the ballot, Lucy Chedzoy Morrison defeated incumbent chairman Alan Wilson, 286-219 for a five-year term on the planning board.