Metro

Judge blocks sale of Boy Scout camp on Nantucket

Cub Scouts tried to navigate the obstacle course at Camp Richard on Nantucket.
Kit Noble/Nantucket Magazine
Cub Scouts tried to navigate the obstacle course at Camp Richard on Nantucket.

A Nantucket Superior Court judge ruled that a pristine part of Nantucket Island should remain a “campsite for scouts on Nantucket,’’ putting an end for now to efforts by an off-island Boy Scout troop to sell part of Camp Richard to be developed into housing.

In a 19-page ruling, Judge Gary A. Nickerson said that ownership of about 100 acres in one of the most expensive communities in Massachusetts must revert to the Nantucket Civic League, the nonprofit that gave the land to an island-based group of Boy Scouts in 1955, 1971, and 1972.

“The clear intent of the NCL’s conveyances was to establish a charitable trust held by the unincorporated local branch of the corporate Scouting organization, for the express purpose of requiring the reconveyance of the property unless it was being used ‘as a campsite for the Scouts on Nantucket,’ ” the judge wrote.

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Nickerson also ruled that the island-based Camp Richard Campers Association, to which the Nantucket-based Boy Scout group had transferred the property in 2013, is not legally authorized to own the property under Massachusetts law because it has no legal ties to the national Boy Scouts of America.

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Ownership, the judge ruled, belongs to the off-island Cape Cod & Islands Boy Scout Council — the group that proposed selling a parcel to a Hingham developer — because it does have legal connections to the national Scouts and was the original recipient of the property.

But Nickerson said that ownership by the Cape Cod & Islands Boy Scout Council has a huge caveat: If they try to sell any part of what is now known as Camp Richard, ownership shifts back to the nonprofit Nantucket Civic League.

“The Council would be violating the trust terms if it were to follow through on its planned sale of a portion of Camp Richard to Atlantic for use as a residential housing development,’’ Nickerson wrote. “The entirety of the 1955, 1971, and 1972 instruments is sufficient to impose a charitable trust that obligates the trustees to use Camp Richard as ‘a campsite for the Scouts on Nantucket,’ or reconvey Camp Richard to the NCL.’’

Nickerson’s ruling effectively bars — for now — what would have been one of the largest sales of virgin land on Nantucket in memory.

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Proponents of the sale had argued the land is needed for affordable housing for the island’s population of nearly 11,000 year-round residents.

A report this year by a local housing group found the median price of a home, $1.2 million, is too expensive for 90 percent of the island’s year-round population, which has increased 14 percent since 2000, a rate of growth greater than any other municipality in the state.

Donald J. MacKinnon, president of Atlantic Development in Hingham, offered to pay $5 million for the property for a housing development that would leave two-thirds of the land untouched and allow Camp Richard to continue operating.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.