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Billerica farm may close after nearly 80 years because owner refuses to pay $300,000 in taxes

Billerica farmer refuses to pay $300,000 in taxes
Billerica farmer refuses to pay $300,000 in taxes 02:17

By Mike Sullivan, WBZ-TV

BILLERICA - A Billerica farm may have to close after nearly 80 years in business. The town says the operation owes $300,000 in back taxes.

"What they want is just unsustainable," William Griggs, owner of Griggs Farm, told WBZ-TV. "I do not have a breakdown. I just have a grand total. I'd like to see the breakdown of what they are actually charging on the business land."

Griggs Farm has been a staple in Billerica since the 1940's. Griggs says the farm is under Agricultural Preservation Rights (APR). The town says the land is worth $1.2 million, but Griggs claims that number is inflated.

"You can't sell it for that with the APR rights," adds Griggs. "It's only a few hundred dollars an acre on agricultural assessment. We have filed that every year."

Currently the town taxes more than 16.35 acres of his land as agricultural, with the remaining acreage taxed as commercial. The commercial land is the parking lot and retail spaces on the property.

Griggs hasn't paid any taxes since 2017. He says the town's payment plan is not sustainable for the farm, especially with the summer drought diminishing sales. The town also believes that Griggs Farm is operating more like a retail space than a farm. They claim that Griggs is selling imported vegetables and flowers to make up for his lost crops. Griggs denies the allegations, saying town officials don't understand the process of farming.

"What you see in containers here are basically rooted cuttings or seeds started on premise," answers Griggs.

Town officials say Griggs is paying taxes on $696,000 of that $1.2 million assessment. They have delayed action on the property for a year. The two sides will continue to battle in the coming weeks with state legislators now stepping in to help.

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