NEWPORT – The Newport Baseball Association owns a strip of land adjacent to land the town wants to build a new recreation center on. The problem is, the ball club no longer exists.
Town Manager Hunter Reiseberg visited the planning board meeting Jan. 9 to request the planning board help the town acquire the property.
“It came to light that the outer part of the baseball field is owned by another party,” said Reiseberg. “The organization that owns it, the Newport Baseball Association is now defunct. They obtained it in the 1940s and it appears that over time all their legal representatives died away.
“Knowing that, it was a flaw not only in the community center plans, but a flaw in the use of that property,” he continued. “People have been using it believing the town owns it.”
The select board asked the planning board's assistance to clear the title by going through a legal process. Reiseberg said the town's attorneys advised going through an eminent domain process; they are doing a title search. “Since it didn't have any owners, there's no one to buy it from.”
The lot (Map 114, lot 159) is assessed at $10,000. For the town to take possession, it must post a bond for the property's value. At the end of the process the state keeps the $10,000: “It's just going to disappear,” said Reiseberg. “The bond is to ensure we will pay the value of the property.”
The parcel has not paid taxes since the ‘40s because it was owned by a tax-exempt organization. To take possession for unpaid back taxes would take three years, said Reiseberg.
Bert Spaulding Sr. remembered that the property was originally owned by Kaplan Mills, and that section was where the railroad tracks brought material to and from the mill. He suggested contacting Irwin Kaplan's widow to see if she might know anything about the property, saying the Kaplans gave the property to the ball club. “Roz might be able to add something to the conversation.”
Spaulding continued that aside from trying to save the $10,000, “I see no reason for you not to take it; it continues the use.”
The planning board voted to recommend the board of selectmen take necessary steps to acquire the property.