Mitch Speight and Joan Marie Jackson: City should follow constitutional ruling on property takings

Greenfield City Hall


Published: 04-18-2024 5:12 PM

On April 13, the Greenfield tax collector bought a full-page advertisement in this newspaper announcing the city’s intention to “take” 35 parcels of land on May 3 for “non-payment after demand, of the taxes due thereon.” The list of properties for “taking” totaled roughly 137 acres of land, and $97,221 in back taxes. The taxes owed ranged from $54.64 to $9,603.86. Last April, Greenfield listed 42 properties it intended to take.

Eleven months ago, the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that while local governments are within their right to seize and sell a taxpayer’s home “to recover … unpaid property taxes,” they cannot “use the toehold of the tax debt to confiscate more property than was due,” without violating the Taking Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In 2022, the Greenfield City Council and the mayor both wrote to state lawmakers urging them to stop taking home equity in excess of their debt. But the process of takings continues. Two Greenfield citizens who had their homes taken without “just compensation ” have filed a lawsuit in federal court to get their excess home equity returned.

The city has argued that it was forced by state law to bring foreclosure actions. But Chapter 60, § 53 states that “If a tax on land is not paid within fourteen days after demand … the collector may take such land for the town.” Greenfield could place liens on property instead of seizing them and forcing a sale. Greenfield has no right to avoid its obligations under the United States Constitution by relying upon an unconstitutional state statute.

Any citizen who is facing a foreclosure sale due to back property taxes, should contact us to discuss your legal rights to prevent excess home equity from being unconstitutionally stolen from you.

Mitch Speight and Joan Marie Jackson


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