Property Heir and Proprietor of Illegal Hotel and Events Center Seeks To Eviscerate Duxbury Zoning Bylaw at Feb. 28th Special Town Meeting
Hollis, NH Resident Charles Husk in Transparent Attempt to Evade Duxbury Bylaw; Rejection By Town Boards; History of Violations; History of the Property; Campaign of Vituperation by Proponents
[Readers, this is extremely long — but Pitt the Younger said that it is the duty of every member of a government to make the people aware of dangers to the public safety and the general welfare, and in the Open Town Meeting system, all registered voters are members of the legislative branch of government. We certainly face a grave danger, in my view, in Duxbury, ahead of the attempt to eviscerate our Zoning Bylaw by quite literally a few individuals with a financial interest in doing so at the Special Town Meeting on Feb. 28th. Consider this a brief/paper against the Article being proposed at the Duxbury Special Town Meeting. It is imperative for your own and the Town’s interests to vote against this Article. – Ben Cronin.]
When, O Catiline, do you mean to cease abusing our patience?
– Cicero, “The First Oration Against Catiline” (In Catalinam I)
(DUXBURY) — The normally placid politics of the Town of Duxbury have been roiled in recent weeks by a citizens’ petition Article which seeks to eviscerate the Zoning Bylaw with respect to short term rentals such as AirBnBs.
In a transparent attempt to evade the bylaw, the petitioner, Charles J. Husk, a long-time resident of Hollis, New Hampshire, and a waterfront Duxbury property heir who runs an illegal hotel and event center on Eagle’s Nest Point, at 160 Marshall Street, in violation of the Town's Zoning Bylaw, called the Special Town Meeting for Tuesday, Feb. 28th, at 7 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center on Alden Street in Duxbury.
The Duxbury Planning Board, the Finance Committee, and the Select Board have all voted unanimously against recommending the Article to the Special Town Meeting.
( Jennifer Bylo, of 160 Marshall LLC, seated, second from left, alongside her business partner and petitioner Charles J. Husk, seated, third from left, appear before the Duxbury Finance Committee, Feb. 23rd, 2023; photo credit — J. Benjamin Cronin.)
Throughout this entire process, the proponents have behaved scurrilously, accusing opponents — despite the petitioner’s generational wealth — of being “elitists,” racists (Mrs. Portilho Husk is a Brazilian migrant), and various species of Communists.
Cleonice Portilho Husk, in particular, has become locally infamous for her lengthy, profane, and bizarre diatribes, often in entirely capital letters, replete with threats of groundless lawsuits when citizens of the Town have the temerity to dare question her husband’s incredibly flawed, utterly irresponsible, and brazenly self-interested Article.
[ I have in general reproduced quotations as directly stated by their speaker; — Ed. ]
Mr. Husk is the petitioner, according to the Duxbury Town Clerk, and a voter in the Town of Duxbury. He obtained the requisite signatures for a citizens petition, in part through the misleading and emotive claims made by Ms. Portilho Husk on social media over the summer.1
However, legal documents, as well as Mr. Husk’s long standing service in the Town Government of Hollis, New Hampshire, raise serious questions about where the Husks actually live, voter registration notwithstanding.
The Special Town Meeting will be held tomorrow evening, Feb. 28th, 2023, just 12 days prior to the statutorily scheduled Annual Town Meeting on March 11th, 2023, raising procedural questions among critics regarding the necessity of calling a Special Town Meeting, at real expense in money and time for the Town, less than two weeks prior to the Annual Town Meeting.
While the petitioners have provided no convincing answers regarding why they called this particular Town Meeting at this particular time, seasoned observers of Town Meeting have surmised that it is yet another attempt on their part to “game the system,” by avoiding the larger crowds at the Annual Town Meeting; after all, the more people learn about this supremely reckless and self-interested proposal, the less they like it.
The Article And Its Consequences
The warrant for the Special Town Meeting is here:
The Article would amend the Zoning Bylaw to make a bed and breakfast a by-right use in all residential compatibility districts in Duxbury; it would also change the definition of “Bed and Breakfast” in the bylaw to include accessory buildings, such as sheds, garages, and pool houses.
While the article may appear benign to some, the reality is that it is gravely dangerous for the Town, and for every renter, homeowner, and person who uses and treasures the Commons of Duxbury. It is such a grave threat because it removes the most significant forum to adjudicate these matters, and the chief source of appeal under the law, the Zoning Board of Appeals, from the regulatory process. It removes any real say for the neighbors and the community. It makes running a small, commercial hotel a by right activity in the vast majority of residential districts of the Town.
In other words, the petitioners are asking the people of the Town to throw away our legal rights so that they might continue to evade the bylaw in pursuit of private profit. They are asking us to place their personal, private, financial interests above our own legal rights and interests, and the legal rights and interests of the Town.
The changes in definition are likewise significant. This latter aspect of the Article is clearly tailored to Mr. Husk’s situation at 160 Marshall Street in Duxbury, where he — alongside his wife, Cleonice Portilho Husk, also of Hollis, and Jennifer Bylo, of Duxbury — are quite obviously interested in renting out not just the main house, but the various outbuildings; if they were not, there would be no reason to place trailers on the property, nor any reason to write the Article to include accessory buildings.
(The Town of Duxbury; photo credit — Google Earth. )
The website of Hollis, New Hampshire, lists Mr. Husk as a member of that Town’s Agricultural Commission; however after inquiries were made to her office, the Town Clerk of Hollis, Lisa Claire, informed the Plymouth County Observer that Mr. Husk has evidently resigned his position on that board, though without a date effective; this is only proper, since under “one person, one vote,” Mr. Husk is not entitled to vote in more than one place.
However, the fact that Mr. Husk was so recently a member of the Town Government in Hollis that he is still listed on the website as of 8 a.m. on Monday the 27th, namely an Alternate on the Agricultural Commission. (https://www.hollisnh.org/agricultural-commission), I think raises new and distinctly uncomfortable questions for the petitioner.
( Screenshots showing that Mr. Husk, who brought a citizens’ petition in Duxbury, served in the government of a different Town so recently that he is still listed on their website; photo credit — Town of Hollis, New Hampshire. )
The Hollis Zoning Ordinance has none of the features Mr. Husk wishes to impose upon Duxbury.
Accessory units are not defined as bed and breakfasts in the Hollis Zoning Ordinance. Nor are Bed and Breakfasts by right (see Hollis Zoning Ordinance, Section VIII for the definition; see Sec. X (G)(3)(m) for the stipulation that Bed and Breakfasts require permission "As granted by the Board of Adjustment," i.e., the Zoning authority in the Town of Hollis.)
Cursory examination of the Town Meeting warrants for Hollis indicates there have been no articles considering these changes either this year or the last. Why does Mr. Husk seek to bring these changes in this Town, but not in Hollis, the Town where he resides and was a member of the Government?
A Persistent History of Violations
The petitioner’s actions in longstanding violation of the bylaw support that thesis of commercial intent. Air BnB reviews indicate that the property was being rented for short term rentals, outside the bylaw, as early as 2019, according to Vote No February 28th, a website run by opponents of the Article, including those with direct experience of the petitioners as their neighbors (https://www.votenofeb28.org).
As I count them, the Husks have seven violations before the Duxbury Zoning Board of Appeals, two before the Duxbury Conservation Commission, including a violation of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, and, most recently, a Title V (septic systems) violation that was handed down at a Feb. 16th, 2022, hearing of the Duxbury Board of Health.
The Husks, according to the attorney for their neighbors, Mr. Uitti, engaged in openly commercial activity even after their Special Permit application was withdrawn at the Sept. 8th, 2022, ZBA Meeting (the ZBA allows applicants who are about to lose to withdraw an application).
When the Husks’ neighbors began to voice reasonable objections, several years ago, to activity that was occurring outside the bylaw, they were met with extremely disturbing, threatening, and profane letters taped to their doors.
In October 2020, Mrs. Husk taped a letter on the door of one of her neighbors, Karl Kunz, President of the Duxbury Rotary Club and a member of the Steering Committee of Duxbury For All, a community group devoted to combating the Town’s real and lasting problems with prejudice, after Mr. Kunz contacted the Town’s Building Inspector, James Wasielewski, inquiring about the legality of using trailers for rental units under the existing bylaw.
( A neighborly note from Mrs. Husk; photo credit — VoteNoFeb28.org. )
Here, in part, is what Mrs. Husk said (the full letters are available here: https://sites.google.com/view/bnb-information/home)
“We never EVER HAD ANYONE TRY OR SNITCH ON US... LIKE A RAT SNEAKING” around her property, said Mrs. Husk.
She addressed William Rice, Mr. Kunz’s son in law.
“WHY BILL YOU ARE TRYING TO BRING TRUBLE [sic] UP ON US? ARE YOU THAT UNHAPPY? YOU HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO DO IN YOUR OBVIOUSLY MISSABLE [sic] LIFE? OTHER THAN TRY TO CAUSE US TROUBLE? WE NEVER DONE ANYTHING TO YOU, WE NEVER CAUSE ANYONE TROUBLE. IM HERE TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHY IN HELL A PERSON WHO IS NOOOOT OUR ABUTTERS IS "TRYING" to snitch on us !!! TELL ME CARL SNITCHING ON US ON THE DOCK WASNT SATISFYING ENOUGH FOR YOU?? YOU SNITCH RAT…,” wrote Mrs. Husk.
The neighbors aver that they have not trespassed on the property, and that fishing, fowling, and navigation along the shores of the sea are protected under the laws of the Commonwealth.
Mrs. Husk continued her screed.
“BUT YOU CAME FROM YOUR FAR AWAY TINY HOUSE TO COMPLAIN. TODAY I ASK MY CLOSEST NEIGHBOR IF THEY EVER TALK TO YOU AND THEY SAID NO. AND THEY ARE IN AWE OF WHY YOU, WHO ISN'T AN ABUTTER IS SNITCHING ON US, No one knows why !!!. KARL STAY AWAY FROM MY PROPERTY, STAY AWAY FROM MY BUSSINESS, STOP SNIFFING YOUR NOSE WHERE YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS OR BUSSINESS OR REASON TO BE RAISING HELL ON US. BE MORE EFFICIENT SNITCHING RAT,” said Mrs. Husk.
She continued her harangue against her neighbor.
“NOW FUCK OFF, You UN AMERICAN PISS [sic] OF SHIT ..YOURS FAR really FAR WAY NEIGHBORS. THE HUSKS ps: piss me off enough and I will transform this land in a Pig farm we will see than how you deal with pig shit,” wrote Mrs. Husk.
It was in this context that Mrs. Husk accused her neighbors of racism, when she had guests in her unpermitted lodging and event center who happened to be Muslim. These guests, unaware of where the property lines were on the very small right of way off Marshall Street, inadvertently trespassed on property that did not belong to the Husks.
Because the response of the Husks had been as above, the neighbors in question, who were out of Town at the time, called the Duxbury Police Department, not wanting to deal with more hostility from the Husks. It was not a matter of racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice, but reasonable desire not to deal with the Husks after the above communications (this was all described at the ZBA hearing this summer; precisely the kind of hearing the Husks wish to avoid and excise from our Town’s legal system).
Here, as elsewhere, the proponents use specious and frankly false claims to advance their interests.
Mrs. Husk likewise began to write hostile letters to inhabitants of Duxbury who had merely written to the ZBA opposing her continued violation of the bylaws of the Town. Here is what Mrs. Husk wrote to one in an undated letter that appears to be from around February, 2022:
“I pay HIGH Taxes more than you and use ZERO town resources,” Mrs. Husk claimed, in her communications with one person who wrote to the ZBA.
This is, of course, incorrect; not only does Mrs. Husk use Town resources, especially in terms of our communal ecological carrying capacity; she also is insisting on a Special Town Meeting less than two weeks prior to a statutorily scheduled one. That is certainly a use of the Town’s resources.
Mrs. Husk did admit, however, that she does not actually live in Duxbury as a year-round resident, contrary to Mr. Husk’s public claims to have lived in this Town for 42 years.
“I ONLY use my home in July , August and September. All the other 9 MONTHS OF THE YEAR NOBODY SEE US, we don’t use the house, school, we don’t drive in the neighborhood,” said Mrs. Husk.
With remarkable lack of self-awareness, Mrs. Husk closed by adverting to passages from Scripture on the necessity of avoiding discord.
“So my advice to you is re read Exodus 20:16-17 and Proverbs 6:16-19, this behavior is immoral and is sowing discord among brothers .. redact your letter because your use of my name to spread lies and misinformation is DEFAMATION. I will bring a lawsuit against your for using my name to spread lies,” said Mrs. Husk.2
Indeed, within the last several weeks alone, Mrs. Husk has threatened multiple individuals, including your correspondent, with groundless defamation suits for having the temerity to oppose her unbelievably ill-considered Article, brought in furtherance of the petitioners’ interests and in manifest detriment to the Town’s. Contrary to Mrs. Husk’s bald and risible assertions, discussing the matters of public meetings in public fora ahead of a public vote is protected speech under the Constitution of the United States.
One of the things that has most exercised opponents of the Article is the flagrant quality of the violations. Likewise, it is fairly galling to note the exclusive character — contrary to the proponents’ claims about snobbery — of the commercial events that are hosted at 160 Marshall Street.
Here, for instance, is one of the events advertised for the property this summer, a “pop up” dinner that charged $385 per plate:
( The Husks’ vaunted, $385/plate egalitarianism — photo credit, J. Benjamin Cronin.)
This is a prima facie commercial activity for the wealthiest people in this society. It is not Woody Guthrie strumming his guitar around a family campfire.
Meanwhile, perhaps most troubling of all are the recent Title V (septic system) violations for which the petitioners were cited at the Feb. 16, 2023, meeting of the Duxbury Board of Health.
On Feb. 17th, following that meeting, the Board wrote to the Husks:
"The Board of Health at their meeting on February 16, 2023 voted unanimously to order you to upgrade your failed septic system in a shorter period of time set forth by the Local Approving Authority,” wrote Health Agent Tracy Mayo.
”You are hereby ordered to submit a Disposal System Construction permit and engineer stamped plan to our department within 30 days. The Board also voted to have the approved septic system installed by June 1, 2023. The bungalows on the property which have an unpermitted perforated drainage system placed just below grade shall be capped,” wrote Ms. Mayo.
“Further, the Board voted that the property shall not be used for commercial use at this time and that all existing septic systems on the property shall be abandoned once the upgraded Title 5 compliant system is installed,” wrote Ms. Mayo.
Planning Board Recommends Against Article
The Planning Board held a public hearing on the Article on Monday, Feb. 13th, where it voted 4-0 not to recommend the Article to the Special Town Meeting.
Planning Board Member David Uitti, a land attorney, recused himself on the matter because he is representing the neighbors of the Husks (this fact, of course, did nothing to spare Mr. Uitti from a lasting and shameful public smear campaign by Mrs. Husk).
Attorney Christopher Davidson, who has represented the Husks in this matter, began the presentation, but considerably confused the matter by continually referring to “Air BnBs.” His client’s article uses the language “Bed and Breakfasts.”
Mr. Husk’s presentation was amiably made, but answered no substantive questions regarding the implications of the Article for the Planning Process.
Mrs. Portilho Husk then spoke, giving a meandering and circular discourse on what she views as her ill treatment by neighbors, i.e., her neighbors, and the Town, wishing to enforce their legal rights under the extant bylaw, and Mrs. Husk’s desire to circumvent that law. Indeed, Mrs. Husk spoke so much longer than the other speakers, for and against, that it required the Chair of the Planning Board, Scott Casagrande, to interject to the effect that Mrs. Husk’s time was not unlimited.
Then, as part of the public hearing on the Article, came those speaking against the Article, including your correspondent.
I spoke about the fact that the Article is entirely inconsistent with the five goals of the well-considered and extremely detailed 2019 Master Plan, Envision Duxbury, into which the Town has put quite literally years of effort.
“Rather than protect the natural and historic assets of the Town, [the Article] would seek to commercialize them; indeed, these contemplated zoning changes would essentially make a mockery of residential zoning as it currently exists. The resources, including the natural resources, of this Town, are not unlimited; we must carefully steward them, and this Article does not,” I argued.
Likewise, the Article poses a grave threat to the affordability of housing in a Town where that issue has already reached a point of crisis.
“At the broader level, this Article cuts badly against the Town’s goals in terms of getting to 10% stock of affordable housing. Making this Town a regulatory playground for short term rentals like Air BnB or VRBO threaten to exacerbate the Town’s already serious problems surrounding inequality and economic stratification,” I told the Board.
“Air BnBs are a leading driver of gentrification nationally and around the world; a study by economists Barron, Kung, and Proserpio, using AirBnB data from across the United States, demonstrated a 0.018% rise in rents, and a 0.026% increase in housing prices, for every 1% increase in AirBnb listing in a given US Zip Code,” I stated.
As of Sunday, Feb. 26th, the Commonwealth listed 48 short term rental properties in Duxbury at https://licensing.reg.state.ma.us/StrRegistry/. Given that AirBnB, for instance, only was founded in 2008, I believe it fair to say that in the last fifteen years, therefore, there has been an approximately 4,800% increase in short term rentals, which must exert significant upward pressure on housing prices.
Neighbors, including direct abutters, spoke about the incredibly deleterious effect the scofflaw behavior of the petitioners with regards to Town bylaws has had on their quality of life and their just rights under the law.
Throughout these speeches, despite the ample time given to her for her meandering discourse, Mrs. Husk continued to attempt to interrupt and take time from other speakers, something the Chair, Mr. Casagrande, had to stop her from doing.
Mrs. Antonia Shoham, who noted that she is 88 years old, expressed deep concerns with the article itself, but even more so, with the public behavior of the petitioners. The petitioners, she noted, were “chortling” in the back at speakers they disagreed with; Mrs. Shoham noted that when she was young, she was taught to treat people who disagreed with her with respect. She suggested the motion be tabled until the petitioners learned some basic manners (unfortunately, my understanding is that an Article cannot be tabled once it appears in the Warrant).
The Planning Board was unanimous in its rejection of the petitioners article and some of their specious claims.
Planning Board Member Kristin Rappe, who has a background in the Planning profession, objected to the dramatic departure from the Town’s long standing planning goals, and voiced her strong opposition to the Article.
Planning Board Chair Scott Casagrande likewise refuted the threadbare and specious redefinition of “selling” as “sharing” that has been proffered by Ms. Bylo in particular. Exchanging money for goods and services is “selling,” full stop, noted Mr. Casagrande, and is on the face of it a commercial activity.
Mr. Uitti, as the attorney for the neighbors, recused himself. The Board voted 4-0 not to recommend the Article.
Evidently, the petitioners did not heed Mrs. Shoham’s warning or take her advice. After the defeat, in what has become a recurring pattern, Mrs. Husk complained on Facebook, posting on Duxbury Helping Duxbury that she was insufficiently aware of the process around the citizens' petition. But it is not the Planning Board’s fault that the petitioners failed to do their homework.
It should also be noted that Mrs. Husk — again, as part of a continued pattern of what could charitably be called “spin” — omitted in a subsequent Facebook post describing the meeting the extremely germane fact that the Planning Board voted unanimously not to recommend the Article of which she is a proponent.
At the Finance Committee, An Embarrassing Night For The Petitioners
On Thursday, Feb. 23rd, the Duxbury Finance Committee voted unanimously (0 in favor, 8 opposed, and 0 abstaining) not to recommend the Article to the Special Town Meeting.
The meeting did not go very well for the petitioner and his business partners, Mrs. Husk and Ms. Bylo.
( Ms. Bylo and Mr. Husk before the Finance Committee, Feb. 23rd, 2023; photo credit — J. Benjamin Cronin).
Finance Committee Chair and former Selectwoman Betsy Sullivan noted that at the public hearing on the 13th before the Planning Board, the petitioners’ Attorney, Christopher Davidson, who was not present at the Finance Committee meeting, had considerably confused the matter by continually referring to “Air BnBs,” despite the changes in the bylaw proposed by Mr. Husk referring only to “Bed and Breakfasts.”
Mr. Husk began to laugh, saying that he had asked his lawyer not to do that.
“It’s not funny,” said Chairwoman Sullivan.
She noted that this discrepancy between Attorney Davidson’s presentation and the plain language of the bylaw is real and cannot be simply dismissed or wished away.
Finance Committee Vice Chair Friend Weiler, a former Moderator of Duxbury, told Mr. Husk frankly that he had “put the cart before the horse,” especially by proposing amendments after the fact that likely exceed the warrant. These, suggested Mr. Weiler, should have been made prior to putting the Article on the warrant.
Of course, what explains these actions on the part of the petitioners is that this is not in fact a good faith effort to write a bylaw around short term rentals that works well and fairly for the entire Town, but rather a transparent attempt to legalize the petitioners’ own flagrant and continued pattern of violations of the bylaws at 160 Marshall Street.
When members of the Finance Committee noted that Mr. Husk’s Article removes the chief source of appeal, the Zoning Board of Appeals, for neighbors and the Town with relation to Bed and Breakfasts, Mr. Husk was unperturbed. The Duxbury Police Department could enforce any bylaws that were broken, such as a noise “ordinance,” he claimed (Duxbury, and Massachusetts Towns, have bylaws, not ordinances; perhaps Mr. Husk is thinking of the Town where he is resident, Hollis, New Hampshire, which does have ordinances).
It could be a similar situation as to when the police break up underage drinking parties, suggested Mr. Husk.
But Duxbury does not have a noise bylaw, noted Mrs. Sullivan. Nor are the police empowered to enforce the Zoning Bylaw.
Mr. Husk seemed at a loss, and was unaware that the Town lacked a noise statute, despite the fact that he was seeking to have the Duxbury Police Dept. enforce this non-existent law. Mr. Husk again adverted to the example of the police breaking up underage parties.
Mrs. Sullivan replied that the Duxbury Police Department could point to laws against underage drinking that were being violated. They were not equipped to enforce zoning violations.
At this point, Chairman of the Duxbury Select Board Fernando Guitart interjected. He noted that because what Mr. Husk was asking of the Town — a vast increase in costs for policing zoning violations — was an extremely significant expense and change in the duties of the Duxbury Police Department, Selectman Guitart had asked the Chief of Police Michael A. Carbone or a representative of the DPD to be present at the Select Board meeting on Monday, Feb. 27th to discuss this matter.
Selectwoman Amy MacNab was also present. A former longtime Chair of the Planning Board, Mrs. MacNab informed the petitioner that his article was completely contrary to the longstanding planning goals of the Town.
In general, the members of the Finance Committee expressed the view that the proposed Article was unenforceable and should be rejected. They voted unanimously to do just that, voting (8 opposed, 0 in favor) not to recommend the Article to the Special Town Meeting.
History of the Property; Discussion of Financial Instrument
160 Marshall Street is located at the tip of Eagle’s Nest Point, where it juts out into the productive waters of Duxbury Bay.
( Eagle’s Nest Point as it extends into Duxbury Bay; 160 Marshall Street is located at the tip of the point; photo credit — Google Earth. )
The Husks frequently seem to take the view that the fact that Mr. Husk’s grandfather, prominent Boston-area banker and philanthropist Hollis P. Nichols, purchased the property in the 1940s gives them rights that others do not possess in that neighborhood.
Hollis P. Nichols founded Northeast Investors Trust, a Boston-based mutual fund that, as of Sept. 30, 2022, holds assets totalling $134.8 million. The fund’s top five sectors of investment are, in order of percentage of net assets: tobacco (10%); metals and mining (8%); pipelines (7%); chemicals (6%); and building products (6%).
Mr. Nichols was a prominent philanthropist and a dedicated outdoorsman, with property not only in metropolitan Boston, but in Duxbury and Hollis, New Hampshire. He conveyed the property at 160 Marshall Street in Duxbury to his descendants, including the brothers Charles and Benjamin Husk, via a trust in August, 1987, according to documents available at the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds.
In recent years, the two brothers became the sole owners of the property, each with a 50% share in it. Disputes between the two brothers led to a suit, filed by Charles against Benjamin.
According to a lawsuit filed in Plymouth Superior Court on Dec. 27, 2022, by Attorney Christopher Davidson on behalf of Charles Husk, the plaintiff, against Benjamin Husk, the defendant, Charles Husk is “an individual who resides at 16 Pepperell Road, Hollis, New Hampshire and holds title to the property located at 160 Marshall Street, Duxbury, Massachusetts.”
According to the suit, the Husk brothers expressly viewed the property on Eagle’s Nest Point as an investment opportunity: the siblings “entered into an agreement to maintain and improve 160 Marshall Street, Duxbury, Massachusetts (“the Property”), which is a property that they jointly hold title to. The Property had been in disrepair for years, but had the potential for significant return on investment, given its unique location on a peninsula in Duxbury Bay, and vast acreage, totaling 7 acres,” wrote Attorney Davidson for Charles Husk.
In documents publicly available at the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, Benjamin Husk’s 50% interest in the property was conveyed to 160 Marshall LLC, a limited liability corporation associated with Ms. Bylo. The sale was financed by a commercial mortgage promissory note granted to 160 Marshall LLC by Benjamin Husk with undisclosed terms. Then, in a separate document, all proceeds of future leases operated by 160 Marshall LLC were assigned to be paid to Benjamin Husk until the promissory note was paid off.
It is unclear who owns 160 Marshall LLC, if they control the other 50% of the 160 Marshall Street property, or if they control any other properties or have any other revenue streams.
Bill McBain, a Duxbury High School graduate and experienced financial professional living in New York City, noted to Ms. Bylo that this must give any observer pause:
“You say this isn't a commercial activity,” said Mr. McBain in the last week on Facebook, addressing Ms. Bylo. “You literally formed an LLC with the purpose of conducting this specific commercial activity. It's insulting to people when you make deliberately misleading statements about your actions and intentions. It's fine to run a business or be an employee of a business, but hiding this fact makes folks distrustful of what you're trying to accomplish.”
( The Certificate of Organization for 160 Marshall LLC; photo credit — William McBain. )
Ms. Bylo responded that she had formed the LLC to avoid a suit from neighbors. Mr. McBain went on.
“Jennifer Bylo, I’m not a neighbor. I just have been watching this play out and it appears you’re directly connected to several legal entities connected to this particular property. You’re portraying this as a folksy “let’s all jump on the sharing bandwagon”. I feel like it’s relevant to know your connection as you drum up support,” said Mr. McBain.
“Also important for folks making decisions about this matter is to know that the property in question was wholly acquired by a legal entity that you are the only listed contact for. Then, that same legal entity assigned proceeds from all future leases to the third party that you bought the stake from That feels like a tax shelter to create a business expense which reduces taxable income generated by a business,” explained Mr. McBain.
“Yeah, it’s legal, but this isn’t the mom & pop operation you’re posturing it to be. In your post you ask what people are afraid of. They are afraid of people using complex financial instruments to acquire multimillion-dollar properties, using those assets to generate large sums of money for the owners, and structuring it in a way that destroys the quality of life for neighbors why simultaneously not even contributing tax revenues to the community. So yeah… it looks like you’re checking all the … boxes,” said Mr. McBain.
He went on:
“For folks that want to play along at home check out the documents filed by 160 Marshall LLC on https://www.plymouthdeeds.org/ where Jennifer is the authorized employee of the property, she executed buying the property out for a commercial mortgage of $2.25MM promissory note, and then the third doc assigns the proceeds of future leases to the same party she bought from a few days before,” noted Mr. McBain.
A Campaign, Public and Private, of Vituperation and Abuse
Throughout this process, the proponents have engaged in a bitter public campaign of vituperation and calumny directed at anyone who has the temerity to argue against their Article, and to point out the grave danger it poses to the entire Town — indeed, the Article demands that we, as individuals and as a community, sacrifice our interests for the sake of those of the petitioners.
Paranoid red-baiting has been a consistent theme of the proponents, going back to some of their very first public statements on the subject in public fora in the Town of Duxbury.
On July 27th, 2022, in response to objections at her expansive and self-interested Article, Mrs. Husk had this to say to a Mr. John Sullivan on Duxbury Helping Duxbury:
”…the town job is to notify the neighbors so they know my internet of BNB ON MY HOUSE ON MY PROPERTY.. that’s it !!! this is private property not the ocean reef club of Florida or condominium association.. I have property right .. or you along with the neighbors would like to strip that from us .. I’m sure you and the neighbors would love to put on center town and strip me of my clothing and give 100 slashes for Airbnb my house in the past .. I must be horrible human being for share my beautiful property with families from people from this town . You sound like Communist,” said Mrs. Husk.
Mr. Husk publicly suggested the existence of the Town’s bylaw and the legitimate desire to have that bylaw enforced was somehow “Maoist” in a Feb. 20th Facebook post on Duxbury Helping Duxbury; he describes “the town’s current Maoist tactic of using the special permit process to get neighbors’ to gang up on applicants to deny applications.”
While asking his neighbors and the people of this Town to behave in what he understands as a “rational” manner — namely, the surrender of their rights under the law so that he may continue to evade the statute, had this to say:
“Forced dysfunctional policies imposed on the masses is what Maos [sic] Great Leap Forward was based on and it used neighbors fighting neighbors as it’s [sic] enforcement tactics. You and other [sic] are falling into this trap,” claimed Mr. Husk, on Duxbury Helping Duxbury, the de facto Town Facebook page.
( The Little Red book, by Mao Tse-tung. Rarely do we hear Mao and the Duxbury Zoning Bylaw referenced in the same argument; photo credit — Wikipedia. )
Mrs. Husk has even referred to some of her opponents on this question thusly in public: “lil slave to Rices [Mrs. Husk’s neighbors] show up,” on or about Feb. 23rd.
Mrs. Husk, on the Facebook page the proponents of the Article run, made some bizarre but in my view revealing comments in response to yet another objection to her ill-conceived proposal.
“Critical consciousness and cultural Marxism is scary. It is ravagin [sic] our community more than you know,” wrote Mrs. Husk, on or about Feb. 21st.
What these comments reveal is the bubbling current of far right paranoia that exists just below the surface, at the level of premises, in the petitioners’ — I was going to call them arguments, but that would grant them too much; let us say — bald assertions, contradicted by the facts and the law, supported only by non sequiturs and an endless appetite for special pleading.
Unintentionally evincing the mercenary impulses that undergird the proponents’ words and deeds, Mrs. Portilho Husk, on Facebook, even asked one prominent opponent of the Article, Janet Strecker, “how much Jennifer is paying to assumption/ lies on her behalf?”
Meanwhile, basic and essential factual errors mar the entirety of the proponents’ assertions (again, they are not arguments as such).
In the full page ad Mrs. Husk took out in the Duxbury Clipper’s Feb. 22nd edition, she continued one of the breathtaking and elementary errors that demonstrate with just what little care the petitioners have engaged in the exceptionally serious process of Town Government and the amending of Town statutes. Mrs. Husk, for whatever reason, continually refers to the Duxbury Planning Board as the Duxbury ZBA in the ad.
“The Zoning board missed the opportunity to work with citizens with citizens on creating rules that people wanted,” Mrs. Husk claimed in The Duxbury Clipper.
However, the Zoning Board of Appeals is an adjudicatory body; it does not propose zoning laws. That is the duty of the duly elected Planning Board, who do so through the mechanism of the planning process as laid out in the Town’s Comprehensive Master Plan. When the proponents brought their Article before the Planning Board, they were not aware of the existence of the 2019 Comprehensive Master Plan, as later public statements on Facebook by Mrs. Husk confirmed.
Yet it is the proponents who publicly castigate the Boards of this Town, full of hard-working and public-spirited people (even when I disagree with them) without even knowing the elementary differences between them.
Likewise, when I pointed out to Ms. Bylo that the Title V septic violations of her and the Husks’ property pose a grave threat to the entire Bay, including the oysters the proponents claim to hold so dear, she said the following:
“Maybe the yummy Oysters are a product of our property, since most of them grow right here in the front yard !!! I am sure they are not contaminated , or there would be many sick people … where is your science now.. common sense prevails !” asserted Ms. Bylo.
Facebook Meltdowns From the Proponents
Mrs. Husk in particular is prone to severe and troubling meltdowns on Facebook when challenged, even in the most courteous manner possible. I believe visual evidence of these will be helpful for readers; note that while I am the hate-object for Mrs. Husk here, this is essentially the treatment anyone gets who dares challenge the proponents of the Article. Note that I refuse to meet with Mrs. Husk because she continually makes false statements about me (e.g., I “work” with her neighbor’s attorney, Mr. Uitti; but I am not an attorney, and despite being notified of the inaccuracy of her statement, Mrs. Husk has not, to my knowledge, corrected it) and is on the face of it a bad faith interlocutor:
( Imaginem ipsae loquuntur — the images speak for themselves; photo credit — J. Benjamin Cronin. )
Voices of the Public
There were a few voices that spoke in favor of the Article who weren’t directly financially involved.
Among the most reasonable was Duxbury resident and the owner and operator of 2 Rock Oyster Farm Gregg Morris has spoken in support of the Article.
“I feel we should come up with a ‘workable plan’ to find some common ground and have it work for folks, especially with the financial challenges many will be in encountering for many (especially the older folks) so they can afford to stay in town and not … tax our school systems as one example. And the town to get some financial benefit as well. But we need a deadline on the plan otherwise it will continue to be pushed aside,” Mr. Morris told The Plymouth County Observer on Feb. 24th.
He noted that the Duxbury Comprehensive Master Plan talked about the need for regulatory coherence in this matter.
“Airbnb needs to do something to help its owners deal with this and a well managed PR campaign would help this from being a problem,” said Carrie Sylvester on Duxbury Helping Duxbury on Sunday, Feb. 26th.
“People shouldn't be so closed minded, I thought Duxbury was such a great loving community? NOT IN MY BACK YARD RIGHT !” said Patty Meekin on Feb. 23rd.
Most public voices, however, in my estimation, have been staunchly opposed, and understandably resistant to surrendering their legal rights in order to allow the petitioner to continue to defy the bylaws in order to pursue even greater wealth.
Ms. Bylo (who has a financial interest in the passage of this Article) posted on Duxbury Helping Duxbury, on Feb. 22nd, asking opponents, “What is it that your [sic] fear the most from us?”
She received an answer from Matt Field on Feb. 23rd.
“What are people afraid of: YOU,” replied Mr. Field.
“Answer these questions honestly so people know what they're voting for,” said Mr. Field.
“- Are you an investor in this property whose sole purpose is to maximize rental income, including placing sheds around the property to capitalize on the number of guests per night?
- How many guests per night can stay on the property? My understanding it's a minimum of 12 but more like 20. Be honest including the garage and sheds.
- Did your group accuse neighbors who opposed this of racism?” asked Mr. Field.
He continued: “Duxbury, ask yourself this. You buy your dream home in a quiet neighborhood. You have wonderful neighbors including an older couple who have lived there for decades. They sadly pass and leave the home to their 2 grandchildren. The grandchildren could sell it for millions or move into the best property in Duxbury. No, one decides to monetize every inch of it including places sheds on the waterfront (they call them cabanas). You share a driveway with this property which now has several strangers per day driving through your shared driveway,” said Mr. Field.
“Would you want … what I would call a hotel established in your neighborhood? I wouldn't. If you don't get out and vote it could be your neighborhood. Jennifer, that's what people are afraid of,” said Mr. Field.
“I was at the finance committee meeting last night and they unanimously voted to reject the article,” said Shari Shane, on Feb. 24th.
“They suggested to the Husks to withdraw their petition and create a committee to research and come up with a plan that works for Duxbury. They said to look at Newton as they have a plan in place…. They also noted that Duxbury doesn't have an occupancy tax and wouldn't be able to tax the Air B and Bs. The town doesn't have the resources to manage what this article is proposing. This change will cost Duxbury money and resources. This will not benefit the town or the residents,” said Ms. Shane.
The approach of the proponents was the opposite of convincing for many residents.
“I was initially on the fence when I first learned about this and wanted to approach it with an open mind and listen to all arguments,” said Rebecca Richards-Kramer, on Feb. 23rd.
“I have been so perturbed by the conduct and unprofessionalism of the proponents that I am now a hard no. They aren't doing themselves any favors. They certainly do not have a knack for marketing or PR,” said Ms. Richards-Kramer.
“This petition benefits the few in our community who stand to make a substantial profit because of where they live,” said Helen Fowler, a long-time teacher in the Duxbury Public Schools, on Feb. 23rd.
”I am incredibly annoyed that I have to waste an hour out of my Tuesday evening going down to vote against this nonsense proposal. But I will vote against it with a smile on my face. There is nothing wrong with the current law as written requiring neighbors approval. In other MA towns, neighbors approval is required just to have backyard chickens,” said Joseph Jeno on Feb. 23rd.
“What an absolute waste of everyone's time and effort,” said Mr. Jeno.
Conclusion: Preserve Your Legal Rights And Vote No at the Special Town Meeting on Feb. 28th
When considered as a whole, this remarkable and frankly shocking tale compels several conclusions.
The first is that the petitioner and the proponents wish for the people of Duxbury, and the Town as a whole, to throw away our individual and collective legal rights, our source of appeal, and really, a say, under the bylaw, the Zoning Board of Appeals, so that they can get even wealthier. They wish to impose upon us a bylaw that is not found in the statutes of Hollis, New Hampshire, where the petitioner actually lives and until very recently served in the Government, and had every opportunity to make such changes. Ask yourselves: why is that?
The second is that the petitioner and the proponents are unused to being contradicted, and respond poorly to, indeed, are unable to tolerate, any argument with them on the merits.
The petitioner cannot obtain a Special Permit, for good reason, given the record. With multiple violations before Town Boards, including the ZBA, the Conservation Commission, and, most recently, the Board of Health for Title V violations, and with an incredible lack of respect for the normal processes of Town Government, the petitioner makes clear that he is attempting to transparently evade the bylaw; to take at the legislative level when he could not achieve at the regulatory and adjudicatory level.
This is manifestly contrary to the interests of the Town, and should be rejected by Voting No at the Special Town Meeting in Duxbury on Tues., Feb. 28th, at 7 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center.
The Plymouth County Observer is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Indeed, signatories have publicly stated, including at the Feb. 13th Planning Board meeting, that this was not something they now supported, especially given the vast legal and practical changes this would entail in the life of the Town.
I would refer Mrs. Husk to Luke 4:23 — “Physician, heal thyself.”