Waltham, MA council votes to seize Church property by eminent domain

From HERE:

Waltham City Council Votes To Take Stigmatine Property For HS
It was a 10 to 4 vote after more than three hours in a closed-door session.

WALTHAM, MA — Waltham City Council voted to take the Stigmatine property by eminent domain to use for the new High School.

The vote on Monday night to take the 46 acres of land owned by the religious order came after the years of controversy surrounding the property’s future. City Council members went into a closed-door session, the last such session scheduled before the summer, to discuss strategy related to the high school. They were supposed to come out by 7:30 p.m. to hold an open session. Instead, after three hours in executive session they came out with an announcement. There would be a vote in open session.

The final vote was 10 to 4. And the room went wild. Many of the people who had packed the room three hours earlier to show they were eager for an outcome, mostly in favor of the Stigmatine Property on Lincoln Street, cheered, giving the news a standing ovation.

The four councilors who voted against the proposal were Councilors Diane LeBlanc and Bob Logan along Dan Romard and Carlos Vidal.  [They published the names only of those who said NO.  I wonder why?]

This comes after years of back and forth on just where to place the new high school and multiple clear statements from the Stigmatines saying they did not wish to sell.

[…]

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19 Responses to Waltham, MA council votes to seize Church property by eminent domain

  1. Mario Bird says:

    The Visitation itself, Cromwell had told him almost explicitly, was in pursuance of the King’s policy to get the Religious Houses, which were considered to be the strongholds of the papal power in England, under the authority of the Crown; and also to obtain from them reinforcements of the royal funds which were running sorely low. The crops were most disappointing this year, and the King’s tenants were wholly unable to pay their rents; and it had been thought wiser to make up the deficit from ecclesiastical wealth rather than to exasperate the Commons by a direct call upon their resources.

    Robert Hugh Benson, The King’s Achievement

  2. PostCatholic says:

    Is there more to this story? Of course there is. It’s a 50 acre undeveloped portion of a site double that size; the Stigmatines have plans for a high density 40B (ie, low income) housing project on the same parcel; the only alternative site has an unmarked cemetery, historic buildings, and potential industrial waste disposal to clean up; the Stigmatines have been poor neighbors to the city through its attempts to negotiate the purchase; the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston is deservedly unpopular in Waltham particularly where many, many of it’s crimes were perpetrated; the city’s families badly need a new public high school and are exerting their democratic will. As a wise man once said, as ye sow, so shall ye reap.

  3. NBW says:

    Time for a lawsuit.

  4. sekcatholic says:

    So let me get this straight, PostCatholic:
    1. “It’s a 50 acre undeveloped portion of a site double that size; the Stigmatines have plans for a high density 40B (ie, low income) housing project on the same parcel”
    So the desire of one group of citizens for the development of the property trumps that of the rightful owners?

    2. “the Stigmatines have been poor neighbors to the city through its attempts to negotiate the purchase”
    A subjective argument to be certain? How have the Stigmatines been poor neighbors? By proposing a housing development for the poor and disadvantaged? Doesn’t that fit the concept of Pope Francis’s “poor church for the poor”?

    3. “the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston is deservedly unpopular in Waltham particularly where many, many of it’s crimes were perpetrated”
    Now here we go with the real reason why you’re opposed to the Stigmatines! Let’s stick it to the big bad Catholic Church because of the “crimes” it “perpetrated.” And, presumably, we do that by seizing the church’s property. That’s not justice; it’s retribution by mobocracy.

    4. “the city’s families badly need a new public high school and are exerting their democratic will.”
    Public seizure of property is not democracy; it borders on fascism.

    5. “As a wise man once said, as ye sow, so shall ye reap.”
    Finally we agree. Someday it may be your property that the mob wants to expropriate…

  5. Archlaic says:

    I hate to say it but PostCatholic hits a number of bullseyes… (I grew up 3m from the locus and I still have friends and family I’m and around Waltham) Nonetheless there would seem to be some grounds for fruitful litigation in the post-Kelo legal atmosphere, if not in Ma. then at the federal level. The taking by eminent domain needs to be properly justified and the city will need better arguments than “we don’t want to build it at site X, Y, or Z”… but the general orientation of the Ma. judiciary, the increasing cultural ignorance of successive unchurched generations, and the aforementioned animus against the Church and the Archdiocese of Braintree will indeed be the most difficult challenges. And – I hate to say it – the Cardinal Archbishop is not the type to be outspoken in public or persuasive in private, if he is even aware of it (not kidding). If firm holds, he’ll issue a statement after all is said and done lamenting the whole thing and calling for greater respect for each other…

  6. JesusFreak84 says:

    Bet if a Muslim group owned this land, they’d find somewhere else to put the school.

  7. Ages says:

    The doctrine of Eminent Domain was a mistake.

  8. Charivari Rob says:

    Yes, that animus crops up in all sorts of interesting places around Massachusetts. Amazing as it may seem, people will take a principled stand on some issue when the taking of that stand involves some opportunity to stick it to the Church. The same issue comes up in the same neighborhood with some other party, those principled people are replaced with a chorus of crickets.

  9. Well, by the time this goes to the Supreme Court, there will be two and maybe more justices nominated by President Trump.

  10. cwillia1 says:

    If in fact the school board wants the undeveloped half of the Stigmatine property and there are no feasible alternatives, taking the land for what is indisputably a public purpose for a just price is a legitimate use of the powers of eminent domain.

    An important side issue though is the lack of reasonably priced housing in eastern MA. And the cause is severe restrictions on residential construction throughout the area.

  11. PostCatholic says:

    To your enumerated questions, sekcatholic:

    1. Yes. Cf. #4 infra.

    2. Not subjective. The Stigmatines violated a contract with the city and shopped the proper to private developers, for instance. The sunlight laws in Massachusetts make it possible for you to review the saga on the city’s website and the council meetings are archived on Waltham’s community access channel page, if you feel like proving me wrong.

    3. The reason to support the Lincoln Street site is that all other options have been explored, and the families of Waltham need a school. That said, go drop “Waltham” into BishopAccontabilty’s search engine, or even “Stigmatine seminary” and see why it’s hard to muster sympathy for them. Waltham was ground zero for the Catholic Church’s child abuse rings.

    4. That’s ridiculous. You have a constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizures, but not from seizures themselves. Governments are given broad powers to provide for public requirements and in built-ot, older cities in New England, eminent domain taking are not uncommon. The city attorney in Waltham has advised the Council that the reasonableness standard is met, two municipal election cycles have been contested largely on the issue of the cycle, that’s democracy in action. Now it moves to the courts so the reasonableness of both the action and the fairness of the compensation may be tested.

    5. That’s already happened to my family, in the 1960s. There’s a highway exit we jokingly refer to as Uncle Kevin’s House in the nearby town of Woburn.

  12. PostCatholic says:

    To your enumerated questions, sekcatholic:

    1. Yes. Cf. #4 infra.

    2. Not subjective. The Stigmatines violated a contract with the city and shopped the proper to private developers, for instance. The sunlight laws in Massachusetts make it possible for you to review the saga on the city’s website and the council meetings are archived on Waltham’s community access channel page, if you feel like proving me wrong.

    3. The reason to support the Lincoln Street site is that all other options have been explored, and the families of Waltham need a school. That said, go drop “Waltham” into BishopAccontabilty’s search engine, or even “Stigmatine seminary” and see why it’s hard to muster sympathy for them. Waltham was ground zero for the Catholic Church’s child abuse rings.

    4. That’s ridiculous. You have a constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizures, but not from seizures themselves. Governments are given broad powers to provide for public requirements and in built-ot, older cities in New England, eminent domain taking are not uncommon. The city attorney in Waltham has advised the Council that the reasonableness standard is met, two municipal election cycles have been contested largely on the issue of the cycle, that’s democracy in action. Now it moves to the courts so the reasonableness of both the action and the fairness of the compensation may be tested.

    5. That’s already happened to my family, in the 1960s. There’s a highway exit we jokingly refer to as Uncle Kevin’s House in the nearby town of Woburn.

  13. iPadre says:

    I would love to see this go to the SCOTUS.

  14. Charivari Rob says:

    The linked article said using the vacant Fernald Hospital property was considered but dismissed, citing environmental concerns. Will those same environmental concerns keep that property from being used for a development of stately townhomes or the like?

  15. JustaSinner says:

    Of course not, Waltham is Massachusett-speak for hypocrisy.

  16. PostCatholic says:

    Charivari Rob: In a word, yes. The Fernald State School for the Feeble-Minded (one of a bunch of names for the site–if you ever want to know how ugly eugenicists got, a history of that hospital is your short course) is a National Historic District–buildings, fields, vistas, etc. all require preservation. And yes, the cost of cleanup exceeds the cost of purchasing the Stigmatine property (which again, the Stigmatines have offered for sale in violation of an agreement to offer it first to the City). It’s quite possible portions will be developed into housing but the campus geometry. would make the addition of a new school very, very difficult. Another difficult with the site is that it is at the northern edge of the city, which adds to operating cost, transportation, teacher commutes, neighborhood traffic, etc.

    These choices are not off-the-cuff. Well over half a million dollars has been spent assessing possible sites for a new high school and the Stigmatine property offers many advantages. It’s close to the Winter St. exit of I-95. It’s across the street from the existing high school. It is erstwhile for sale. It does not come with industrial waste to clean up, historic building restrictions, cemeteries to preserve, and so on. It’s the one logical, least expensive, most attractive place for the town to build its school. That it happens to be owned by Catholic priests who have acted in bad faith through negotiations, well, that is just a happy accident that makes it easier not to feel guilty about the eminent domain taking. In my view. Waltham is about 50% Catholic, you probably should know.

  17. michaelthoma says:

    PostCatholic,

    What was the contractual remedy for violating the agreement? Seizure of property or a monetary fine?

    That makes all the difference in the world, legally.

  18. PostCatholic says:

    You’re conflating two outcomes, michaelthima. Eminent domain repossession a consequence of more than one event in the chain that included collating the memorandum of understanding.

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