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Ipswich voters oppose Little Neck sale

IPSWICH — Ipswich voters don’t want to give up the fight to save Little Neck, a summer cottage colony, from being sold for $32.5 million to homeowners who have waged a long legal battle over control of the 27-acre peninsula.

Voters at the annual Town Meeting last Tuesday voted overwhelmingly, 500 to 89, to oppose the controversial agreement approved last year by a Probate Court judge.

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About 700 residents packed the high school auditorium, one of the largest crowds to attend Town Meeting in recent memory. “If it wasn’t the largest crowd, it has to be the second largest,” Town Clerk Pam Carakatsane said.

Debate over Little Neck dominated the proceedings, with the debate lasting nearly two hours.

Opponents argued the sale violates a Colonial-era land trust set up to benefit the Ipswich Public Schools. A group of residents has filed an appeal in state Appeals Court to stop the sale of the land.

Doug D’Angelis, a plaintiff in the appeal, urged residents to “stand on the right side of history,” by opposing the sale.

In 1660, William Paine, an early settler, left Little Neck to the town, with instructions that it never be sold, and that rent collected from its use benefit Ipswich school children.

“The intention in his last will and testament is crystal-clear,” said Clark Ziegler, a resident who sponsored the article, asking voters to oppose the sale. “It states that Little Neck should never be sold.”

In February, the residents appealed the Probate Court’s decision to allow the sale to the state Appeals Court. A single justice denied the residents’ request for an injunction to halt the sale immediately, and to allow residents to intervene in the case. Still, the appeal continues, but no court date has been set, a lawyer for the group said.

William Sheehan, an attorney for the Little Neck trust called the Town Meeting vote “predictable ... They roused 500 citizens.”

Little Neck has 167 cottages, whose owners own their homes but rent their land. A group called the Feoffees of the Ipswich Grammar School manages the land for the trust. Tenants and the feoffees have been at odds over rent charged. A separate lawsuit, seeking to resolve that, has resulted in no payments to the Ipswich schools since 2006.

The sale agreement would resolve that and other disputes swirling around Little Neck. Homeowners collectively would pay $32.5 million for the land. The proceeds would be put into an investment trust to benefit Ipswich schools, and a new board of feoffees would govern the trust.

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.
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