Court’s Naumkeag ruling was on basis of new law

STOCKBRIDGE — The Supreme Judicial Court, in ruling that the taking of 20.26 acres of the Naumkeag estate for a school site is valid, used a new law introduced by proponents of the taking as basis of its decision.

A newly obtained copy of last month’s decision shows that the court considered two objections to the taking by the plaintiff, the Trustees of Reservations. One objection is that the new law, passed Nov. 15, 1963, by the legislature, does not authorize the taking of the land by eminent domain by the Selectmen. The other is that the town meeting vote authorizing the taking was ineffective because it contained “an improper delegation of discretion to the School Building Committee.”

The court answers both objections in the negative and cites the new law in both cases as providing the necessary powers.

The written decision does not deal with the objections raised by opponents of the taking to the circumstances under which the new law was passed. Proponents of the Naumkeag school site had the bill introduced as a safeguard in case the Selectmen’s normal power of eminent domain was insufficient to take the land. The trustees had refused to sell the land, which made up about half of the Naumkeag Reservation.

Opponents of the taking charged that they had had no opportunity to object to the bill in a public hearing. They also said the law was worded in such a way that legislators voting for it did not realize the full significance of what they were doing. After the bill’s passage in November 1963, the Selectmen voted to take the land by eminent domain the following February.

The site was to be used for a new town high school. But since that time, state authorities have interrupted plans for a local high school so that Stockbridge can study the possibility of a regional school with surrounding communities.

The Naumkeag issue has thus been in abeyance in recent months but



could come alive again if the regional school project falls through.

Selected by Jeannie Maschino

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