Page 10        Thursday, July 14, 1988         CONCORD (MASS) JOURNAL

Top park official calls willing buyer, willing seller method of buying land "meaningless"

By John Macone staff writer

The "willing buyer, willing seller" procedure of acquiring land, touted by park officials, is "meaningless" and a more proactive method is generally used, a top National Park Service official said.

"The term willing buyer, willing seller is meaningless. Everyone is willing to sell at some price," said William Kriz, chief of the National Park Service's Land Resources Division in Washington, D. C.

He said, "willing buyer, willing seller makes it almost impossible for the park to expand. It's a very time consuming process."

According to the park service's draft general management plan for the minute Man National Historical Park, about 32 homes in Concord, Lexington and Lincoln are being considered for acquisition, either by means of a willing buyer, willing seller arrangement or by eminent domain.

The mechanism through which 85 percent of all park lands are acquired is negotiated purchase, Kriz said, with the remainder acquired through condemnation.

Negotiated purchase, Kriz said, is a proactive way of acquiring land. Congress sets aside acquisition money, and park service representatives are sent out to negotiate a price with the owners. The park service contracts an appraiser to determine the full market value of the land, which by law is the minimum amount it can pay for it, he said.

If the homeowner asks for a slightly higher price that the park service thinks is reasonable, Congressional approval is needed to get the extra funds necessary, he said.

If no negotiation is made, he said the park service uses condemnation to get the land. "We always try to buy the property first, and always use condemnation as a last resort, but not unless we have to," Kriz said.

However, he noted condemnation cannot be used if the enabling legislation specifically prohibits it.

In public meetings, Park Superintendent Bob Nash has stated several times he would "strongly recommend" condemnation not be used in the legislation, unless the land were needed for a roadway.  However, the wording of the legislation is "in the hands of Congress," he said.

Nash said the park's land acquisition once would handle the actual purchases, and he would have little direct involvement in it.

Kriz said the park service also has an "emergency hardship fund" of about $1 to $2 million annually, which is used to buy land earmarked for acquisition if the park service's interest in it impedes on the owner's attempts to sell, or if the land is about to be developed contrary to the park's interests. Kriz could not say how many landowners ask for hardship funds.

A total of $330 million worth of land is slated for acquisition with no funding available now to buy it, Kriz said. Predicting when Congress would make the funds available would be tantamount to looking into a crystal ball and asking the same question, he said.

When Congress passes legislation allowing the park service to expand or create parks, rarely does it allocate enough to cover all the costs, he said.

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