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Ownership, cleanup and development of Crow Hill property still uncertain: Part II

In a recent blog post, we began discussing the long-standing legal dispute between the city of Worcester and Green Landscapes, LLC over a 15-acre Crow Hill parcel of land. While the two sides have been litigating in court for years over the cleanup, development and ownership of a 4.3-acre portion of the undeveloped property; this past summer, in a behind-closed-doors deal, city council members voted to claim the land under eminent domain laws.

The city's actions were decried by Green Landscapes, LLC, the long-time owner of the property, as "an ambush tactic which was conspired in bad faith and " which serves to "undermine the (court) orders." Green Landscapes filed a motion to have the city's eminent domain claim deemed invalid.

 

While, at this point, both sides have likely invested more time, energy and money than the property as a whole is even worth; it appears as though the city's actions to invoke eminent domain laws and assume ownership rights of the property may ultimately backfire.

When assuming ownership of the property, the city asserted that its plans to keep the property as undeveloped open space reduced the requirements with regard to the removal of hazardous materials. As such, the city argued the costs to clean up the property should, at between $1.1 and $1.3 million, be much lower than the previously ordered $25 million. However, just last month, the state's Supreme Court ruled that, regardless of plans for the land's use, the city must move forward with the original $25 million cleanup plan.

The dispute over this plot of undeveloped land is likely still far from over as the courts must now rule on the issue of whether or not the city's claim to the property, via eminent domain, is valid.

This case provides an example of just how complex and contentious matters related to land development can become and highlights the importance of following proper legal procedures and having a strong legal professional who is well-versed in commercial real estate and development matters advocating on one's behalf.

Source: Worcester Telegram, "Worcester ordered to begin $25M Crow Hill cleanup project," Cyrus Moulton, Oct. 31, 2015

Worcester Telegram, "Crow Hill: Former Worcester dump site snarled in legal fight over cleanup," Cyrus Moulton, Sept. 28, 2015

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