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ITR 11 11 09

  1. 1. Group: Firm violates zoning in the Westlands Group: Firm violates zoning By Rita Savard, 10/21/2009 CHELMSFORD -- From the outside, the white colonial at 12 Stedman St. blends in with the rest of neighborhood. Then, say neighbors, came the construction crew, marked lines in the driveway, and a couple of parking signs. Since March, O'Brien Compliance Management has been providing con- sulting services, offering on-site training and conducting tests on medical equipment inside its Stedman Street laboratory. The problem, said neighbors, is that it's operating a business in a neigh- borhood zoned only for residential use. "No one ever contacted the residents to see if it was OK to run a business out of that property," said Laurie Myers, who lives behind property Frank Obrien's business. After receiving calls from some concerned neighbors, the town Building Commissioner Scott Hammond conducted a site inspection of the property and confirmed that O'Brien was in fact operating a business in a residential zone. O'Brien was advised to cease and desist or obtain a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. O'Brien, whose company services medical companies throughout the country, including Zoll in Chelmsford, is seeking a variance. In the meantime, according to the neighborhood group the Westlands Watchdogs, Town Manager Paul Cohen said the the business can remain open. "The property owner has explained to the Building Commissioner there had been a business operation at the site prior to his purchase of the property," Cohen wrote in an e-mail to a member of the neighborhood property group. "Therefore, he was unaware of the zoning violation. It is reasonable in this instance to allow the use to continue for a brief period of time until the Board of Appeals can decide on this case. Apparently, this business has been in operation for quite some time without any complaints arising until last week. I am unaware of any serious public-health or public-safety issues that would justify more severe action." action. Cohen was unable to be reached for comment yesterday. But O'Brien told a reporter that he was aware of the zoning regulations when he purchased the property, and had intended to apply for the variance but was busy setting up his new office, previously located in Lowell until 2004. The parking signs, he adds, were temporary cardboard signs that were used for his open house to help guests locate and enter the driveway correctly. "We do electrical tests and document safety settings on medical devices," O'Brien said. "All we're doing devices is safety testing, making sure people aren't going to get hurt. We're in the business of saving lives." lives. The house, he adds, still blends into the neighborhood, without disrupting abutters. Other members of the Westlands Watchdogs are concerned about changes that might have been made inside the house, which was formerly the Golden Cove School and is listed on the state register for historical homes. "The town has to enforce zoning laws," Myers said. "You can't send a message that anyone can totally laws overlook what the zoning laws are, and then once you're in there you can do whatever you want." want Under the law, abutters will be notified of a public hearing on the matter when it is scheduled to come before the ZBA.
  2. 2. "Speaking to some of the comments coming from some of the residents, I am quite confident that I would help in any way to stop activities not legally allowed in any area! Ignorance is no excuse for continuing something not permitted, therefore after a thorough investigation, I would expect the powers to be to put an end to these activities. I will do anything within my jurisdiction to satisfy each situation according to our local bylaws!" - George Dixon: Board of Selectmen 10/21/09 C h e l m s fo rd s h u t s d o w n h o m e - b a s e d bu s i n e s s By Rita Savard, 10/27/2009 CHELMSFORD -- After a tip from a neighborhood-watch group, town officials yesterday shut down a busi- ness that ignored zoning laws. O'Brien Compliance Management was issued a written notice to cease operations at 12 Steadman St., about a week after neigh- bors raised concerns that property owner Frank O'Brien was running a business in the residential zoned neighborhood. While the bylaw allows a resident to operate a small office out of his or her home, O'Brien's operation was larger than what the regulations allow, said Town Manager Paul Cohen. "The property owner was put on a more stringent notice than what went out a week ago," Cohen said. "If he fails to ago comply with those standards, enforcement action will be taken.” taken. "That action could include criminal charges," Cohen said. charges, O'Brien, who has been operating a medical-equipment testing lab out of 12 Steadman St., for about eight months, failed to obtain the necessary permits from the town to operate a business, said Cohen, and also exceeded the area allowed for a home business -- not more than 25 percent of the combined floor area of the residence. O'Brien told town officials he was using 35 to 40 percent of his resi- dence for his business. Also under the local law, no person that isn't a member of the household can be employed in the home business. O'Brien has two paid employees who do not live at the property, Cohen said. O'Brien did not attend last night's meeting and was unable to be reached for comment. In a previous interview with a Sun reporter, O'Brien said he was aware of the town's zoning regulations when he purchased the property. Several neighbors, including members of the Westlands Watchdogs who tipped off the town, said O'Brien shouldn't be able to skirt the law.
  3. 3. "I'm fine with Frank O'Brien being my neighbor," said neighbor, Ken Skelley of 14 Steadman St. "I'm not fine with his busi - ness being my neighbor. ...This is a business-based home, not a home-based business." business. Deirdre Connolly of Sunset Avenue is concerned whether O'Brien had upgraded the electrical system in the historic house to test medical equipment. And if he had, O'Connolly wondered if he pulled a permit to do so. Norm Aubert, a firefighter who lives behind O'Brien at 14 Hidden Way, also said town officials should be asking questions about the safety of lab tests. O'Brien Management conducts safety tests on medical devices including blood-pressure monitors, defibril- lators and X-ray equipment, according to the company's Web site. "Mr. O'Brien said he wants to live in harmony with his neighbors," Aubert said. "He expressed this after he neighbors, was notified that he was in violation of the zoning laws." laws. Cohen said O'Brien would be allowed to operate his business if he adhered to the rules of the bylaw, which would mean he'd have to reduce the size of his operation and cut at least two employees. The building inspector will return to the property before the end of the week to make sure O'Brien is following the law, Cohen said. "He may choose to operate his home occupation but he cannot continue to operate it in the manner that exists today, Cohen said. today Residents and abutters speak during Open Session at the Board of Selectmen meeting 10-26-09 CLICK HERE for VIDEO From their website: OBCM Moves Into New Office and Laboratory OBCM has moved into its new facility at 12 Stedman St, Chelmsford, just north of exit 34 of Interstate 495, and south of exit 31 of Route 3. The test laboratory is powered by a 100 A subpanel. For additional information about our medical product safety test laboratory, see About Us page. "We're very proud our growth has warranted this new facility," exclaims Frank O'Brien, President of OBCM. OBCM to Host Open House, 9 Oct All customers, present and prospective, are cordially invited to our Open House on 9 October 2009, from 3p to 7p. This is our 5th year of operations. We will be showing off our new offices and laboratory space, including many new equipment acquisitions. We will be serving hors d'oeuvres and refresh- ments. "With our recent equipment acquisitions, we're now one of the premier med- ical device test laboratories in the area," explains Chris Studley, Senior Engi- neer, OBCM. "We can't wait to show off off our new lab."
  4. 4. Business and town at odds over occupation By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Oct 28, 2009 Chelmsford — A Stedman Street resident plans to defend himself against allegations he is violating town bylaws by running a business from his home. Frank O’Brien said he will apply for a special zoning permit and request a special variance for his business when he re- turns from a business trip in early November. O’Brien’s response comes after a group of his Westland neighbors filed a complaint with town officials saying his home business is larger and has more employees than allowed. But O’Brien’s delayed remedial steps may not be enough to save his business, O’Brien Compliance Management, LLC. Chelmsford Building Inspector Scott Hammond sent a letter to O’Brien Monday, Oct. 26 demanding he comply with zoning bylaws until a special permit is obtained. In order to comply O’Brien must let go two employees and downsize his business, which calibrates and tests medical equipment. If O’Brien does not comply, Town Manager Paul Cohen said he could be fined or the town could take criminal action. “I was aware that I was in violation,” said O’Brien. “The fact is, that when I bought the place, I went to violation, Chelmsford Town Hall and asked for the laws and zoning map. I was quite aware of what I wanted to do and was quite aware of what the laws said. I’m very guilty of not getting a permit as quick as I should’ve.” O’Brien said in a phone interview this week that he acknowledges he is in violation of the zoning bylaw that allows 25 percent of the floor of the resi- Paul Cohen gives dence for business and one non-resident employee. He admitted that his his Town Manager company occupies a little less than half his floor space and he has three Report on 12 employees who don’t live at the Stedman Street address. Steadman Street But after a recent open house for clients and investors of his medical CLICK HERE equipment company with signs displayed outside the home and in- for VIDEO creased traffic, a group of residents decided enough is enough. Laurie Myers, a Pine Hill Avenue resident, and Roy Earley, a Chelmsford Street resident, informed Town Manager Paul Cohen on Oct. 15 about O’Brien’s business at 12 Stedman St. Cohen said at a Board of Selectmen meeting Oct. 26 he immediately forwarded the concern to the town’s building inspec- tor/zoning enforcement office. According to Cohen, the building inspector visited the Stedman Street property and found that the complaint correct. “The property owner has to comply with the existing bylaw immediately,” Cohen said. immediately, Earley and other Westland neighbors remain concerned with the activities at 12 Stedman St. “For eight months, he pulled the wool over our eyes,” said Earley at the Selectmen meeting. eyes “But the eyes are now open.” open. O’Brien believes he will obtain a variance from the bylaw and the ZBA will allow him to continue to operate his business. “I think I’ve got a good candidate for approval,” he said. “I don’t make any noise. I don’t make any pollu - approval, tion. I was hoping the one employee rule in my case could stretch to three. I know that I use up to a little less than half of my floor space. That’s an easy case where I can show a variance there is reasonable.” reasonable. But neighbors such as Kevin Skelley are strongly opposed to allowing O’Brien to continue operate his business in its cur- rent state. “I’m fine with Frank O’Brien being my neighbor,” he said. “But I’m not fine neighbor, with his business being my neighbor. That doesn’t feel like a residential Rita Savard home in the Westlands.” Westlands. gets clarification O’Brien said he understands that his neighbors are upset and he wants to make them on the cease and desist order given happy, but both he and the town have other things to worry about. to the owner by “I hope we can all see there’s a reasonable way for everyone to do what the town they want to do,” he said, adding that he had the same situation in Lowell and ob- do, CLICK HERE tained the needed permits. “I’m a property owner. I worry about property val - for VIDEO ues and quality of life as well. I think I share the same goals as my harshest critics.” critics.
  5. 5. 12 Stedman Street in compliance or out of compliance??? ITR 10/31/09 The interior sign has one arrow pointing to "General Offices" and another pointing to "Engineering and Lab." So this would seem to point to two violations of the zoning bylaws (195-7 Home Occupation) that O’Brien Compliance Management is NOT in compliance with: - There shall be no sign or ex- terior display... - The home occupation shall not serve clients, customers, pupils, salespersons or the like on the premises (If they were not serving clients at the site, they would not need these signs.) B e g i n f o r w a r d e d m e s s a ge : F r om : " C oh e n, P au l" < P C oh en @T o wn of ch el ms - f o r d . u s> 10/31/09 Dat e: No vemb er 2 , 20 0 9 1 1: 55 : 52 A M EST T o: R oy E ar le y R E: Su b s eq ue nt Z on i ng En fo rc emen t A ct i on a t 1 2 St eadm an S tre et Roy , T h e B ui l d i ng I ns p e c t o r vi s i t e d t h e s i t e a g ai n t h i s m or n i ng . T h e s ig n ne ar t h e e n t r a nc e h as b e e n r e - m o ve d . O n l y on e c ar w as fo un d i n t h e d r i ve wa y. T h e r e d i d no t ap p e a r t o b e a ny z on i ng v io l at i on s . P au l B U S I N E S S A S U S UA L ? ? ?
  6. 6. PoliticalIy Incorrect talks about the Zon i ng d isp u te c on tin u e s zoning laws at 12 Stedman Street B y C h lo e G o t s is / st af f w r i t e r G ate Hou s e New s S erv i c e Nov 05 , 2 00 9 Chelmsford — Town officials and Westlands residents are await - ing the special permit application from the owner CLICK HERE of a controversial home business on Stedman for video segment Street, which neighbors and officials say violates the town's regulations for in-home businesses. Town Manager Paul Cohen said he anticipates Frank O’Brien, owner of O’Brien Compliance Management LLC file his application for a special permit with the Zoning Board of Appeals for his home occupation later this week. “It’ll probably be in front of the ZBA by December,” said Cohen. O’Brien was due to return from a business trip on Nov. 5. In an e-mail, O’Brien said he will file the application in about a week. O’Brien, who moved to Chelmsford in February, owns a four-employee medical equipment testing business out of his residence at 12 Stedman St. in violation of the town’s zoning bylaws. According to Section 195-7 of the town’s zoning bylaw, residents must obtain a special permit in order to operate a business out of their homes. However, Cohen said a special permit does not allow the resident to dedicate more than 25 percent of the residential floor to the business. O’Brien said he believes his business occupies a little less than half of his floor space. Cohen said O’Brien is also violating the bylaw by employing two nonresident employees. The zoning bylaw allows one nonresident employee. Cohen said a special permit won’t remedy this violation either. Via e-mail, O’Brien has expressed regrets about the situation “I sincerely apologize to both my neighbors and town officials for my bad planning,” said O’Brien in the e-mail. “I intend to try to go the extra yard in satisfying my neighbors and town that my business can easily coexist with a residential setting.” O’Brien said that in his application will indicate that he has three employees, one of whom is a resident and his total business-occupied floor space is 25 percent. However, in a phone interview last week, O’Brien told the Independent his business occupied just under 50 percent of his floor space. According to the e-mail from O’Brien, his employees will be working from home until the application is approved. O’Brien said he intended to apply for the special permit within six months of moving into his Stedman Street residence. O’Brien told the Independent last week that he was fully aware that he was in violation of town zoning bylaws when he moved in. But a recent open house for the business held at the residence with a number of signs and cars caused O’Brien’s neighbors to say enough is enough and notify the town. Building Inspector Scott Hammond sent O’Brien a letter on Oct. 26 informing him that he must be in compliance with the zoning bylaw or he will be forced to cease and desist. Cohen said Hammond visited the property on Monday, Nov. 2 and there was no change. However, a sign advertising the business was discovered near the entrance to the property and was removed, according to Cohen.
  7. 7. --------- Forwarded message ---------- From: Frank O'Brien Date: Fri, Nov 6, 2009 at 11:56 AM Subject: Re: For Frank O'Brien - Q & A for Chelmsford's In-Town Report To: In-Town Report Roy & Tom, I very much want to thank you for reaching out and asking for my side of my zoning problem. I wish we could have done this before you contacted the town, as then you could have made a more informed compliant to the town. But it's certainly within your rights to go directly to the town, any time you want. As a fellow property owner in the area I'm quite glad to see your group's type of involvement. On my zoning issue I think some of your group members might be asking for a disproportionate response than my transgressions would deserve, but overall I'm sure we share many of the same concerns. All of us want a nice quiet neighborhood and to see our property values remain protected. In fact please add me to your mailing list. I'm happy to provide any support you might need for other issues. I'm happy with all my Frank O’Brien neighbors and am willing to do my part to protect our neighborhood. Resident at 12 Stedman Street & Owner of I've provided my response to your questions below. O’Brien Compliance MEET THE NEIGHBOR rgds, Frank O'Brien Management *********************************************************************************************************** In-Town Report: In the local newspapers there are conflicting reports. In an article in the Lowell Sun it has the town manager stating that you were unaware of any zoning violation and yet in the Chelmsford Independent newspaper you stated “ I was aware that I was in violation,” said O’Brien. “The fact is, that when I bought the place, I went to Chelmsford Town Hall and asked for the laws and zoning map. I was quite aware of what I wanted to do and was quite aware of what the laws said. I’m very guilty of not getting a permit as quick as I should’ve . ” You have been in operation since February with out the proper permits or variances. What were you thinking? Frank O’Brien: Both the town officials and I are accurate. It's important to understand the timeline as to when I knew what. In late February, when I bought the house, I was only aware that there was a business there already. The prior owner operated a Motorola licensed dealership business and a painting contractor business. I wasn't aware of zoning details, other than I knew my business was legal in Lowell, and I assumed the same would be true in Chelmsford. I mentioned this fact to town of- ficials on the19th of October. It was not in response to a direct question about what I knew about zoning rules, but was men- tioned as background. I did not intend to mislead town officials, but based on their quote, it would seem I did. In early March, after I bought the house, I went to the town hall to obtain the zoning details. I then discovered that my busi- ness was in line with all home based business requirements in 195-7(A), except I had non-household employees. I knew for this reason I would need a permit in accordance with 195-7(B). I mentioned this fact to the Lowell Sun in response to a direct question about what I knew about zoning. Pleading ignorance would not have been accurate, and in any case would not have been an excuse. Since March, I continued to operate my business as, it seemed to me, I was more or less in line with town zoning. I had a party when I moved in in March. Most of my neighbors attended. I gave all a tour of my garage with electrical lab and over- head office. No one expressed any reservations about my business. All seemed happy to have a new owner for a house that had been foreclosed and vacant for 2 years. For the prior 4 years while operating the same business in my home in Lowell, I had the proper permits, and had never received any complaints from neighbors. I assumed it would be a similar process in Chelmsford. Filing an application for the Permit was on my agenda, but other tasks seemed to always take priority. This was bad planning and bad judgement on my part. I feel terrible about my lack of a timely filing for a permit, 8 months after moving in, and recently hosting a business open- house has understandable invoked some fear in my neighbors. It has also caused our town officials to be subject to a some- what disproportionate response from my neighbors, rather than the reasoned and open application process that's intended by the town. The business open-house was held on October 9th, from 3 to 5pm. We had 10 customers attending for a short talk and tour. I had done some door and painting related renovations before the open-house. I put lines on the driveway to help with parking. I placed temporary enter and exit business signs by my u-shaped driveway. This understandably invoked some concerns from some of my neighbors. I sincerely apologize to both my neighbors and town officials for my bad planning and bad judgement. I intend to try to go the extra yard in satisfying my neighbors and town that my business can easily coexist with a residential setting. I welcome further feedback from my neighbors and intend to make all reasonable accommodations. I ask my neigh- bors to reserve judgement until I've made my application, a copy of which all abutters are provided. In-Town Report: When you first went to Town Hall in February did you talk with any officials about the business you intended to run?
  8. 8. Frank O’Brien: It was in early March, and no, it was only a visit to pick up the zoning rules. In-Town Report: What kind of variance from the town are you looking for? Frank O’Brien: I'm applying for a 195-7(B) Permit, which would allow 1 non-household employee. I currently have 2 non-household employ- ees. I'm hoping the town will grant the Permit and allow this additional employee. Both of my non-household employees are engineering professionals living in the area. With the overhead associated with a commercial site, it's not clear I could afford to keep 2 engineers. Until I've filed a 195-7(B) Permit application, the town has required that I operate within 195-7(A) zoning rules. I am doing this. My 2 non-household employees are working from their homes. In-Town Report: What is the nature of your business and why should the town grant you the necessary variances? Frank O’Brien: In 2004, my wife and I started the home-based business in Lowell. I did the engineering, and she did the office administra- tion. In August of 2007 we hired an engineer. After my wife unexpectedly passed away in September 2007, I needed to re- place her with an employee. I hired a 2nd engineer in September 2008, and it became necessary to find a bigger office. I looked at commercial options, and a larger home office option. The larger home office was the most cost effective option. It's very important to keep overhead low when operating a small business, especially during these slow economic times. My business is an engineering consulting business, with an electrical test laboratory. We assist medical device manufacturers with the regulatory safety testing and documentation needed for device approvals, from FDA, and other similar international regulatory authorities. Our customers include local startups like Breakaway Imaging in Littleton (now Medtronic) and Novelis in Methuen (now Volcano in Billerica). Our customers also include larger medical device firms like Zoll in Chelmsford, Draeger in Andover, and Depuy J&J in Raynham. Rationale for why the town should grant me a Special Permit to operate a home based business in accordance with 195-7(B) includes: A. My neighbors need a residential quality of life. My business can easily operate within a residential setting. I can do this, as I don't pollute. I don't make noise. I only have 2 non-household employees. Myself and my nephew, who live on the prem- ises, work for the business. My car is parked in the garage, the other 3 cars easily fit on my driveway. This is not more cars than some residences with 2 kids over 16 years of age might have. During the day, while most residences are empty, my resi- dence is occupied providing some indirect security for the neighborhood. I have a customer visitor about once or twice per month, in line with family visits. I also have UPS-type deliveries about once to twice per month, again in line with family gift or shopping deliveries. All employee and visitor cars fit easily in my driveway, with never parking on the street. No more than 25% of my total floor space is business related. I had indicated to town officials and neighbors that my business might use up to 40% of my home floor space. This was a conservative estimate. I've since done a careful analysis with measure- ments, and prepared a scaled floor plan. The electrical test laboratory is in the garage, supplied from the 100A sub-panel that was there when I purchased the house. The house has a 200A main service panel. I have offices over the garage. All other rooms are residential. The outside of the house remains untouched from it's residential look. B. My neighbors need their property value to be protected. My residence was foreclosed and empty for 2 years before I bought it. It's a 4 bedroom on a busy feeder road between a 495 exit and Lowell. The reason it was empty for 2 years is probably because no 2 to 3 child family is going to want this 4 bedroom house due to the proximity of the highway exit, and the volume of traffic. The prior owner of the house operated at least 2 businesses from the house. My residence was built in 1896 by the town of Chelmsford and up until 1976 was a school. The large house 2 lots up from me remains unsold and has been on the market for, I believe, a similar 2-year period. It would seem having an owner with a small business that blends into the residential setting, is a blessing for this neighborhood, as it's better than an abandoned house. C. Chelmsford strikes me as a bedroom community, but a bedroom community of professional doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers. If Chelmsford is proud of this image, then you should be glad to welcome another professional engineer. It's my impression that many of the professional doctors, lawyers, and accountants in Chelmsford got their start thanks to the ability to start their business in their homes. I hope that I'll be afforded the same opportunity. Basically, in a time when the economic health and vitality of our local area is foremost on our minds, I'm trying to operate a business that employs 3 local people, and supports local medical device firms trying to sell in the US as well as globally. D. I don't want my business to remain in my home indefinitely, and my goal is to move to a professional setting. It's some- thing that my business would benefit from if I could do it sooner rather than later. I estimate that if my business can stay on it's current growth, that this will be in about 3 years. Once I move my business, my home will be fully residential use. How- ever, this year is an excellent illustration of why you can't do this too early. The first half of this year, my business was very slow, and had my overhead included commercial rent and it's associated costs, my business could well have failed. Hosting my business in my home has provided my business with the flexibility of low overhead -- something that's critical for a small business starting out. E. If we neglect the October 9th open-house event, which was less disruptive than most birthday parties, my neighbors have had no complaints about my business. This was a one-time event to show off the new office. I have no plans for any similar event.
  9. 9. Group to advise Town Meeting of zoning changes By Marie Donovan , Sun Correspondent 11/02/2009 CHELMSFORD -- The Master Plan Committee begins this week to craft recommendations on municipal-regulation changes to be enacted at the annual Town Meeting in April. The group recently completed six public-input sessions on topics like preserving open space and the town's many cultural, historic and natural resources. "We heard a desire to maintain the open space the town has acquired and also to utilize the town halls," Vice Chairman Philip Eliopolous said. The public input will aid members in crafting the plan for the future of the two old town halls, in the center and in the north sections of the town, said Eliopolous, a former selectman. The committee has a goal of completing an initial draft of proposed changes by January. Those may include recommended zoning changes along Route 129 to allow for services like restaurants and banks to support workers at the office parks there. "I support that," Community Development Director Evan Belansky said. "The Master Plan Committee has identified a lack of business services out in the area." Belansky said he heard from both real-estate brokers and businesses located there that the lack of serv- ices is an issue; he said making some limited zoning changes, with square-footage restrictions, would help keep office parks filled; the commercial and industrial sector makes up 18 percent of the town tax base. "You could do an overlay district or you could change the zoning in that area," Eliopolous said. Other issues the new Master Plan shall cover: What types of economic development the town should at- tempt to attract, what types of housing it should be able to provide and in which locations, Eliopolous said. It should include legislation to protect the quiet character of The Westlands, for example, and other neighborhoods in town, in part by preventing so-called "creep" zoning. "We don't want to have things too dense," Eliopoulos said. This is the first time changes to the Master Plan have been proposed since spring 1996. "It's done usually about every 10 to 12 years," Eliopolous said. While the public-input sessions are over, residents are welcome to attend committee meetings, he said. Eliopolous said it's likely the committee will recommend the creation of a new Affordable Housing Master Plan. The committee may recommend efforts to work with developers to use the Local Initiative Process, or L.I.P., to create affordable housing in a way that is amenable to town goals for its future, he said. "We may take the position that we don't want to do anything other than oppose 40Bs," Eliopolous added. The new Master Plan also shall likely include recommendations to promote some residential units in the two villages, so residents who can't afford to have a car can live somewhere they can walk to services such as convenience stores, he said. Town Meeting is scheduled for April 26.
  10. 10. POLITICALLY INCORRECT ON THE AIR with TOM CHRISTIANO 11/3/09 Selectman Clare Jeannotte Selectman Candidate Jon Kurland Master Plan Committee Chairman Jim Lane & Town Meeting Representative George Ripson Topics The October 6th townwide vote The Selectmen race The Master Plan Billboards 12 stedman street zoning violations Local option taxes Trash collection Click Here for Video 10/20/09 Selectmen Eric Dahlberg & Pat Wojtas TM Rep Kirk Marshall & new Editor of the Chelmsford Topics Independent Jesse Floyd Reflections on the October 6th townwide vote Pat announcing if she's running again for selectman Eric - talking about his run for State Senate Kirk - the NOV 5th spelling bee CLICK HERE The Fall Town Meeting review The 40B Law for Video Casinos in MASS Health Insurance in MASS Taxes in MASS....are they too high, or too low? Texting while driving
  11. 11. ERIC DAHLBERG HOLDS CAMPAIGN EVENT by Tom Christiano Chelmsford Selectman & current State Senate candidate, Eric Dahlberg, held one of his first Senate campaign events at the Java Room in Chelmsford on October 24th. Mr. Dahlberg was introduced by a former Chelmsford Selectman, Dr. Stuart Weisfeldt. Many local residents stopped by to wish Eric well and to talk about politics. Former State Representative Carol Cleven and her husband Walter were there, along with many members of Eric's family, and many townwide office holders & Town Meeting Representatives. Photos by Tom Christiano
  12. 12. Paradise lost in center? Building plan draws fire in Chelmsford By Michael Wurm, Sun Correspondent 10/29/2009 CHELMSFORD -- The proposal to build a barn-style of- fice building with paved parking on the open space be- hind the historic Emerson House in town center ran into major opposition last night at a public hearing held by the Planning Board. The board decided to ask town counsel to evaluate the legality of the project in light of a 1978 preservation re- striction on the property. The hearing was continued to Nov. 18. The project was presented by Epsilon Group Inc., owned by Michael Eliopoulos, who is being represented by his son, attorney Philip Eliopoulos, a former Chelmsford se- lectman. Joseph Shanahan, who was a selectman in 1978, when the town decided to sell the property to Dr. L. Rodger Currie, said the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board first approved the sale for $120,000 along with a preservation restriction on the deed that guaranteed the land behind the house would be open space for the town, including the restoration of a pond and the creation of "Central Park." Town Meeting approved the transaction, including the preservation restriction. Shanahan, who is also a former Planning Board member and is an adviser to Michael and Joanne Sargent, who own an abutting property, said the restriction allowed the rebuilding of a barn and silo on the property. It also allowed the rebuilding of other minor outbuildings that had been on the land historically, specifically two small barns and two chicken coops. Shanahan said the proposal to build a large office building disguised as a barn, no matter how well-designed, violates the spirit and intent of the restriction. "I ask you to review the preservation restriction in historical perspective," he told the board. "This proposal is what the preservation restriction was specifically intended to prevent." Peter Lawlor, representing the Evergreen Condominium Association of Village Square, said he polled residents and found that 17 oppose the project and one favors it. Lawlor said the view abutters enjoy of the land is almost paradise-like. "My grave concern is, as Joni Mitchell sang, we're going to pave paradise and put up a parking lot," he said. The Public comments on the proposed project CLICK HERE for Video Joe Shanahan Peter Lawlor of Shanahan and Lawyer Associates. & & Former Selectman For Former Selectman
  13. 13. O ve r s e e r s : D i s b a r r e d l aw y e r s t i l l p r a c t i c i n g By Lisa Redmond, 11/07/2009 BOSTON -- A disbarred Chelmsford lawyer is facing contempt charges, based on allegations he has been acting as an attorney at Chelmsford board meetings. Joseph B. Shanahan Jr. was once the premier development lawyer in Greater Lowell. Attorneys for the Board of Bar Overseers will argue before the state Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday that Shanahan's conduct "constitutes unauthorized practice of law." But Shanahan, of Chelmsford, told The Sun he no longer practices law. Shanahan, who runs the Chelmsford-based Shanahan & Associates, refers to his occupation as a "property development adviser." "I do not hold myself out as an attorney; my clients know that I am not an attorney; and the local officials before whom I appear know that I am not an attorney," Shanahan wrote in a prepared statement. "I only provide services that any number of non-lawyers provide every day in every city and town in Massachusetts. That group of advisers includes engineers, surveyors, landscape architects, wetlands consultants, real estate bro- kers and contractors." Shanahan added, "I am fairly confident about and look forward to the outcome of these proceedings on Tuesday. I am also pleased that those from Chelmsford who have initiated this complaint feel that I am representing a client so effectively that they need to go to these lengths to prevent me from standing in front of the local boards and decision-makers." Shanahan was disbarred in January 2002 and will be eligible to apply for reinstatement next year. If the SJC finds Shanahan in con- tempt, the deadline could be extended. The Board of Bar Overseers said it has warned Shanahan twice that he cannot engage in legal or paralegal work. The warnings came after he appeared before Chelmsford boards at public meetings. The overseers have affidavits and minutes from a Feb. 5 Chelmsford Zoning Board of Appeals meeting and a video of Shanahan's appearances before selectmen on July 27 and Sept. 14, according to the court docket. At the September meeting, developer Glenn Kohl of Chelmsford wanted to construct two three-bedroom units on Arlington Street, but most of the 72,300-square-foot parcel is in wetlands, requiring special permits. Under state law, developers adding to the community's affordable housing stock have room for negotiations. Shanahan, acting as Kohl's adviser, spoke to selectmen on Kohl's behalf. At an October Planning Board public hearing, Shanahan also described himself as an adviser to Michael and Joanne Sargent, who owned property next to a proposed office building behind the historic Emerson House. Shanahan was convicted in 2001 in federal court of bankruptcy fraud and was sentenced to one year in federal prison. Shanahan failed to disclose his personal bankruptcy petition. In February 2003, Shanahan was sentenced to an additional 41 months in federal prison for stealing $803,836 from four clients. Shanahan used the stolen money to pay his mortgage on his Shedd Lane property; to pay his fees at Vesper Country Club in Tyngsboro; as alimony to his ex-wife; and to pay his son's tuition at Georgetown University, prosecutors said. He also withdrew substantial amounts for unknown purposes, effectively "cleaning out" his clients' bank accounts before surrendering to authorities on the bankruptcy charges, prosecutors said. The scheme unraveled when Shanahan was sent to prison and was no longer able to shuffle the money from account to account to avoid detection. Shanahan is being represented at the contempt hearing by attorney Charles Bookman. He was unavailable for comment. ********************************************************************************** State: Disbarred Chelmsford lawyer still practicing law By Lisa Redmond, 11/10/2009 BOSTON -- If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and acts like a duck -- then it must be a lawyer. That's what Assistant Bar Counsel Nancy Kaufman argued at a contempt hearing for disbarred Chelmsford attorney Joseph Shana- han Jr. before a single justice of the state's highest court Tuesday. Kaufman argued that Shanahan, who was once the premier development lawyer in Greater Lowell, should be found in contempt due to allegations that despite his 2002 disbarment he has been acting as an attorney at Chelmsford board meetings. If Supreme Judicial Court Judge Margot Botsford agrees, she could delay for up to 10 years Shanahan's ability to re-apply to get his license to practice law re-instated. If Shanahan avoids any sanctions, he can re-apply for his license in eight weeks. As a disbarred attorney, Shanahan is allowed to re-apply for his license after eight years, but there is no guarantee he will be re-instated. Botsford issued no decision on Tuesday, rather taking the matter under advisement.
  14. 14. TOM GOLDEN'S OKTOBERFEST by Tom Christiano State Representative Tom Golden held his second annual Oktoberfest party at the Brewery Exchange in Lowell on October 24th. There were hundreds of people there to help Tom raise funds for Thanksgiving Baskets for local families in need. Last year, about 150 Thanksgiving baskets were distributed by Mr. Golden and his helpers. This year 300 Thanksgiving baskets will be going out to those in need. Many of Tom's friends from Chelms- ford were there. I'm looking forward to next year's Oktoberfest, as it was a very enjoyable party for a very good cause. Photos by Tom Christiano
  15. 15. Local agents optimistic as housing market brightens By Rita Savard, 11/03/2009 The phones are ringing. People are yelling, running and grabbing their checkbooks. Realtors Dennis and Donna Ready haven't seen the likes of it in a couple of years -- a fever pitch from first-time homebuyers trying to outbid each other. After a recession-driven hibernation, competitive bidding is back, real-estate agents say, and it's inflating offers on homes in Greater Lowell. "We saw volume started to pick up a little bit last year," said Donna Ready, an agent for Cen- tury 21 Landmark Realty. "Then the government threw in the $8,000 tax credit and poof! The lower-priced properties took off to the point where there were bidding wars." Realtors Dennis and Donna Ready of Chelmsford and Century 21 Landmark Realty The homebuyer credit was a key element of President Barack Obama's $787 billion outside a house on Henry J. Drive in stimulus package enacted last February. Under the measure, low- and middle-income first-time Tewksbury that recently sold. homebuyers purchasing a home between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30 of this year can claim a credit of Sun/Bob Whitaker up to $8,000 on their 2008 or 2009 income-tax return. While median selling prices are still down 4.1 percent, from $318,000 in 2008 to $305,000 in 2009, according to the Massachusetts Associa- tion of Realtors, home sales have risen 5.6 percent. Experts take the news as a sign that the long-suffering real-estate market might have found some footing as bidding wars bring sellers closer to their price mark. When a gray split-entry at 15 Henry J. Drive in Tewksbury went on the market recently, the Readys knew it would generate interest. Located in a nice, quiet tree-lined section of town, the home features three bedrooms, one-and-a-half bathrooms, two fireplaces and a family room in the basement. The listing price was about $284,900. Eight bids flew in. The Readys can't disclose what the house actually sold for, but they said the tax credit has spurred a flurry of first-time buyers looking to lock in a deal before the Nov. 30 deadline. "We had one gentleman that put in five bids on different properties before he found one that worked in his favor," Dennis Ready said. Sales data from the Multiple Listing Service show that sellers of single-family homes throughout the Merrimack Valley received nearly 100 percent of the listing price for the month of October. In Chelmsford, for example, nine single-family homes sold at an average of 99 percent of the listing price, which was $394,617. In Tewksbury, 15 homes also sold at an average of 99 percent of the average $350,400 listing price. The increase in area home sales also reveals some troubling news, said Middlesex County Register of Deeds Richard Howe Jr. Data for Middlesex County shows an uptick in the number of Orders of Notice, the document that kicks off the foreclosure process. "That suggests a new wave of foreclosures is about to strike the area," Howe said. Earlier this year, analysts forecast another 7 million homes going into foreclosure throughout the country. The difference this time around, ac- cording to Donna Ready, is that foreclosed properties aren't just sitting around. "Buyers are taking advantage of record-low mortgage rates and the tax credit, and they're snapping up cheaper foreclosed properties," she said. "We've been getting offers from people before they've even set foot inside the property." More than 1.2 million borrowers have claimed $8.5 billion of the $13.6 billion set aside for the home-buyer tax credits this year, according to the Treasury Department. The National Association of Realtors estimates that 350,000 borrowers would not have purchased their homes without the credit. In an effort to help further the shaky housing market's recovery, members of Congress are looking to extend the homebuyer credit as early as next week, despite a probe sparked by an IRS watchdog group that found several fraudulent claims. At one end, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the program should be extended for a month while lawmakers take another look at how it's being run. On the other end, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., with the backing of banking committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D- Conn., wants to extend it through next June 30, and expand it to include all homebuyers at an estimated cost of $16.7 billion. The Readys said real-estate agents everywhere are keeping their fingers crossed for an expansion of the credit that would include a broader number of homeowners. "That could sustain the market well into next year," Donna Ready said. "More sales will also prevent more foreclosures from sitting on the market for too long." The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  16. 16. HALLOWEEN FESTIVITIES AT Alpha Tae Kwon Do Academy North Chelmsford The owners of Alpha Tae Kwon Do Academy Andy and Michelle Rollinson hosted a halloween party for the boys and gouls on October 31st. Fun was had by one and all! Pictures by The Rollinsons
  17. 17. Trailer park's lawyer: Assessor changed his story on tax hike By Rita Savard, 10/22/2009 CHELMSFORD -- In what may be a precedent-setting case for mobile-home parks across the state, an at- torney for the Chelmsford Mobile Home Park alleges the town's chief assessor flip-flopped in his testimony. Under state law, homes on wheels -- much like vehicles -- are generally exempt from real-estate property taxes. But more than a year ago, the Board of Assessors began taxing all 255 trailers in the Chelmsford Mo- bile Home Park like permanent homes. When speaking before the Board of Selectmen in March 2008, Chief Assessor Frank Reen told town offi- cials that the trailers added value to the land, and the new assessment was based on average sales of mo- bile homes in the area, as well as an inspection of homes inside the park. Many of the trailers, Reen added, seemed to have attached patios and decks, with some appearing to have foundations underneath them. "When mobile homes take on the characteristics of a permanent home, they become taxable property," Reen has said. On Monday, in a hearing before the state's Appellate Tax Board, Reen testified the town was never assess- ing the manufactured homes, according to Gregg Haladyna, the lawyer representing park owner Carl De- Cotis. Reen declined to comment on the issue while the court is still deliberating. Haladyna said a video recording of Reen speaking at the Board of Selectmen's meeting was played for the court and entered into evidence. In the video, Reen repeatedly informs selectmen that the dwellings them- selves were being taxed, Haladyna said. "He now claims they're taxing the underlying land," he said. "It's definitely a change in their story." Last year, assessors said they assessed each trailer in the 37.5-acre park at $30,000, raising DeCotis' property value from $3.8 million to $11.5 million. On Monday, Reen told the court the assessors looked at the income and expenses the land itself generates, and from that, calculated what the property would be worth, Haladyna said. DeCotis said the about $7 million spike in his property value, which increased his taxes by more than $100,000, forced him to increase rent to his tenants, many of whom are low-income. As rents escalate, Haladyna wrote in the lawsuit, "evictions for nonpayment of rent would likely follow, (forc- ing) many of the very class of persons, i.e. the elderly, disabled and or low-income earners that the compre- hensive Manufactured House Act was designed to serve and protect ... to leave the park." The Appellate Tax Board gave both parties until Dec. 31 to submit further legal documentation. A decision will most likely be rendered in 2010, Haladyna said. In the long run, if DeCotis wins, a Superior Court judge also could award fees and damages, something the tax board cannot.
  18. 18. Board considering Chelmsford tax assessment By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Oct 28, 2009 Chelmsford — The state Appellate Tax Board is weighing its decision on whether Chelmsford assessed the Chelms- ford Mobile Home Park at greater than market value when it raised the owner’s taxes by more than $103,000. Town Manager Paul Cohen said the board heard the mobile home park owner Carl DeCotis’s appeal on Oct. 19 and it could take several months before the board returns with a decision. “The town’s position is that we’ve assessed it at fair market value,” said Cohen on Wednesday after- noon. In fiscal 2008 the Chelmsford Board of Assessors increased the value of the mobile park, consisting of 2.75 acres of land with 254 mobile homes, from $3.87 million to $11.53 million boosting taxes by $103,000. In May 2009 Middlesex Superior Court Judge H.J. Smith Jr. dismissed Chelmsford Mobile Home Park’s lawsuit against Cohen and the town’s Board of Assessors. DeCotis alleged the town alleged town officials violated his civil rights when it “unlawfully assessed the property value of the park based on the land and on the value of the 254 homes located there,” according to the decision. DeCotis’s lawyer Gregg Haladyna also charged that the 2008 tax hike violated the terms of a con- sent judgment dating back to 1991 when the park’s previous owner threatened to shut it down for a more profitable investment. The judgment stated the park would remain open for at least 30 years and set a method by which monthly rents could be adjusted. Smith wrote in his May decision that the Chelmsford Mobile Home Park failed to show that his civil rights were violated.
  19. 19. Byam’s Outdoor Learning Center by Tom Christiano Byam Elementary School has transformed the courtyard of the school into an Outdoor Learning Center, with birdhouses (one with a camera inside), birdfeeders, weather stations and a butter- fly garden. The grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony took place on October 29th, 2009. The Byam School principal, Dr. Jane Gilmore, spoke at the ceremony, along with Janet Askenburg, and Mrs. Hayes, of the Byam School PTO, and State Representative Jim Arciero. Photos by Tom Christiano
  20. 20. Committee explores how to expand Chelmsford's economic landscape Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter 29.OCT.09 Chelmsford’s newest board is charged with the recruitment, retention and expansion of business in town. At last week’s first session of the Economic Development Committee, six of the seven members discussed what they should do to promote commercial growth in Chelmsford. “Hopefully, we become the mouthpiece for the town,” said Michael Kowalyk. Kowalyk, along with members Joe Ready, Brad Marmo, David Morey, Janet Askenburg and Tony Delpapa tossed around ideas about Chelmsford’s business climate and where it can go. Committee member Laura Schweizer was not able to attend the meeting. The committee plans to use info gathered two years ago by the town’s economic development consultant. A consultant spent a year taking an inventory of all larger commercial and industry office space available for lease or sale in town, said Community Development Director Evan Belansky. Information was also obtained through a survey sent to 250 businesses in town. About 100 business own- ers responded to that survey, said Belansky. Funding for the consultant ran out before he was able to follow up with businesses to address concerns. Chelmsford has plenty going for it, said Belansky. “We have existing buildings of all sizes that can support all types of businesses,” said Belansky. “It’s pretty amazing how diverse Chelmsford is with the bricks and mortar.” Members agreed one of the first things the committee should work on is developing a brand for Chelms- ford. “We need to take a look at an identity for Chelmsford,” said Kowalyk. “What is Chelmsford? What does it stand for? Who are we?” One thing that may already be clear is what Chelmsford is not, said Belansky. “I’m not sure Chelmsford sees itself competing with Dracut and Pepperell, but that’s where the state sees us,” said Belansky. “We need to figure out what the target should be.” Belansky does not believe the town should try to attract businesses from Burlington or Bedford – those businesses think of themselves as part of the 128 corridor – but the town might pursue industries in South- ern New Hampshire. No matter what brand the committee develops, Ready wants to ensure the town does not experience dras- tic changes. “What makes Chelmsford cool is we are a small town,” said Ready. “It’s about balance. How do we get good companies to come in and still keep Chelmsford Chelmsford?”
  21. 21. Parkhurst Road/Smith Street reconstruction project hits roadblock Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter 28.OCT.09 Plans to redesign the Parkhurst Road/Smith Street intersection hit a detour this week after Gov. Deval Patrick failed to include the project on the fiscal 2010 state highway funding list. Although they know it won’t happen this year, town officials continue to push for the project. “We will look for other funding,” said Town Manager Paul Cohen. “Maybe we’ll do it in phases.” Two weeks ago, the Planning Board voted to spend up to $32,000 to finish the design phase of the project to try to receive $1.7 million in federal stimulus money. “We’re going to complete the design,” said Cohen. “It’s a worthwhile project.” As proposed, the project will alter Smith Street so it would now intersect with Parkhurst Road at a 90 de- gree angle. Parkhurst will be widened about 3 feet and raised while Smith will be lowered. A sidewalk along the Palm Manor side will be added creating a continuous walkway from North Road to the rear of Wal-Mart at the Drum Hill Shopping Center. Another sidewalk will be installed along Smith Street from Parkhurst to Pleasant Street. ***************************************************************************************** Chelmsford chief backs redlight camera bill By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Oct 27, 2009 Chelmsford — Chelmsford selectmen and law enforcement officials are backing legislation that would allow the installation of cameras at intersections across town, designed to catch drivers sneaking through red lights. Police Chief Jim Murphy told the Board of Selectmen at its meeting Monday, Oct. 26 that the traffic safety bill is gaining steam on Beacon Hill. According to Murphy, the bill would allow for cameras to snap a digital photo of the rear end of the vehicle, capturing its li- cense plate after it drove through a red light. Violators would then be mailed a time-stamped copy of the picture and a traf- fic ticket. The chief said the cameras could improve raffic in problem areas such as Drum Hill Road and Stedman Street. Murphy said he fully supports the bill that was filed in both the House and Senate levels. If passed in Boston, Chelmsford Town Meeting representatives would also have to adopt it. “The goal is to enhance traffic safety,” he said. “I certainly support it. I think it’s a great concept. I know safety there are 200 communities that have Violators caught blowing through red lights will not face any merit rating surcharges and it will not go against their driving record, said Murphy. Drivers wishing to appeal the civil citation will see the local record traffic officer. Selectmen Chairwoman Clare Jeanotte said when the bill first came before them she opposed it out of fear that it was an invasion of privacy, but now she and the four other members of the board signed a letter supporting the measure to the town’s legislators. “I was hoping there’d be some sort of shred of privacy left, but that’s obviously gone,” she said. gone, Murphy reminded the board and the public that cameras are in place at al- most every business and public location across the state including the Mas- sachusetts Turnpike. Murphy said studies have shown that at the initial installation of the cameras a number of drivers are caught violating the red light law. But eventually CLICK HERE for Video drivers catch on to the cameras and it creates a “halo effect all across of Chief Murphy and the WBZ report town,” he said. town,
  22. 22. VARNEY PARK IMPROVEMENT DAY By Tom Christiano A well attended Park Improvement Day was held at Varney Park in North Chelmsford on October 31st. Thanks go out to everyone who volunteered....especially to Tony Dowd and his Old School Roofing Company for donating the entire new roof for the Park "Field House" (valued at about $6,000.00) and also for installing the new windows on October 31st. In addition, the Open Space Stewards did another outstanding job repairing the playground's "Bouncey Bridge" and helping out throughout the Park, not just on this day, but for the many days they spent volunteering at Varney. Matt Sheehan & the Varney Park Restoration Committee (VPRC) Members, along with many other Chelmsford residents, also did a great job working very hard on this Park Improvement Day, and on many other days, fixing up the Park and making it one of Chelmsford's recreational jewels. Matt Sheehan & the VPRC organized and planned this event, beginning many months ago by: (1) obtaining the appropriate clearances from the Town Manager's Office; (2) requesting this very generous donation from the Old School Roofing Company; (3) soliciting help from the Open Space Stewards and from many other local residents; and (4) consulting with members of the Chelmsford Historic Commission about the appropriate materials to use for this "Field House" restoration project. Photos by Tom Christiano
  23. 23. 4 0 B eside myself Braintree developers must pay $2.275M settlement By Christine McConville Monday, October 26, 2009 Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has taken on two of the region’s most prominent housing developers and won. Today, Coakley reached a $2.275 million settlement with Edward A. Fish and Francis X. Messina, developers of Turtle Crossing, a Braintree condominium complex that was built under the state’s affordable housing law. After a multi-year probe, Fish of Weston and Messina of Braintree agreed to pay the $2.275 million “to set- tle any claims arising from this investigation and claims related to the Chapter 40B cost certification process,” Coakley’s office said. “This is a victory for Braintree,” Mayor Joseph C. Sullivan said in a statement. The settlement requires that Fish and Messina pay $1.8 million to the town of Braintree. Of that, $1 million will be used to create more lower-cost housing in Braintree, while $800,000 may be spent on other public uses. The remaining $475,000 will go into the state’s general fund. The settlement comes as part of a growing crackdown on illegal profits secured by 40B developers. In the early 2000s, almost one third of all new housing built in the state was built under 40B, housing advo- cates have said. The law allows developers to bypass local zoning codes as long as they set aside a portion of the units for lower-income people. But the law also requires that developers limit their profits to no more than 20 percent of total develop- ment cost. Any remaining profit is to be handed over to the community that houses the development. Massachusetts Inspector General Gregory Sullivan launched a probe into 40B developers’ profits a few years ago, after finding that hundreds of 40B developments had been built, but only a handful had been checked for excess profits. Sullivan found multiple examples of developers shielding excess profits, by increasing their project costs. In the Fish and Messina case, Sullivan and Coakley scrutinized several of the developers’ reported costs. The state officials looked at the land costs, because Messina had owned the land for years before selling it for a significant profit to an entity he formed with Fish. The state also looked at brokerage fees that the developers paid to Peabody Properties, which is owned by Fish. Sullivan has said that 40B developers may owe tens of millions of dollars to the state’s communities. FLASHBACK: Meanwhile, a group of Bay State citizens are hoping to strip the law from the books in an upcoming elec- tion. They are collecting signatures in an effort to put the request on the state ballot. **************************************************************** The BOS discuss the Town Manager’s and Housing Authority’s contract award to Connery Associates of Melrose to perform a fiscal impact study on three 40B projects ocated in Chelmsford. CLICK HERE for Video To read the fiscal impact study CLICK HERE
  24. 24. Rep. calls for halt to 40B By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Oct 26, 2009 Chelmsford — A Chelmsford lawmaker is pushing for a two-year moratorium on building housing units under Chapter 40B, the state law he argues costs too much and provides too little in the way of affordable housing. State Rep. Tom Golden, D-Lowell, whose district includes three Chelmsford precincts, charges the law gives more assistance to developers than underprivileged and offers little support for host communities. Instead of increasing meals, sales and gas taxes, Golden said the more effective way to reverse the faltering economy is to cut underperforming pro- grams and take a closer look at ineffective state laws such as 40B. Housing advocates counter by saying Chapter 40B is the most effective way to create new housing for lower income Bay Staters. “While there is much talk of the outright repeal of 40B, I do not believe that there is currently enough support for the action,” said Golden in a letter to Gov. Deval Patrick. In his letter, Golden points out Massachusetts is ranked 47th in providing affordable hous- State Rep. ing. Tom Golden “However, I do feel that 40B seriously needs to be revised to address the lack of oversight and problems it is creating in some communities,” Golden writes. Golden is proposing that during the moratorium, the state’s Secretary of Housing should meet with community leaders to develop a more cohesive affordable housing law. He said the moratorium will help save money spent on the law by redi- recting it towards funds for local banks to assist first-time homebuyers and nonprofit organizations seeking to rehabilitate rundown properties. He is also hoping to direct funding spent on 40B to the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program that pro- vides short-term assistance to low-income families at risk of homelessness. “I don’t think raising taxes is going to be the answer,” said Golden at a precinct meeting in Chelmsford last week. “I’d rather freeze a 40B project than cut our lottery aid. If we aren’t building affordable housing, which we aren’t, we should be freez- ing 40B.” Lawmakers passed 40B 1969 as a response to a study of unmet housing needs in the Bay State. Criticism of the law began in the 1990s as more and more projects were proposed under the law. To build a 40B project, a developer must agree to construct 25 percent of the units for residents earning up to 80 percent of the area median income — about $87,000 for a family of four in Chelmsford in 2007. Municipalities are required under state law to have 10 percent of their housing stock deemed affordable. Chelmsford cur- rently has 973 Chapter 40B units on inventory, part of an affordable housing stock that puts the town at 7.41 percent. Ap- proximately 336 additional units are needed to reach the 10 percent mark, according to Community Development Director Evan Belansky. Phil Hailer, spokesman for the Department of Housing and Community Development, the state agency in charge of 40B, said the law has been used to build 53,000 units statewide, with approximately 28,000 of those placed at affordable rates to families that do not make 80 percent of the median income. Critics of the law, including the Massachusetts Slow Growth Initiative, allege the law fills towns with high-density develop- ments. The average density per acre for the 40B developments in eight to nine units per acre, said Belansky. Craig Chemaly, director of operations for the Massachusetts Slow Growth Initiative, said he is a strong supporter of Golden’s moratorium, but is unsure it can pass. “The problem is that history has shown that the chairs of the Housing Committee don’t let bills like this out of their commit- tee,” said Chemaly. “It comes down to getting it out of the housing committee, which is a shame because I think this is one of the great bills out there.” Chemaly said there are presently 66 bills regarding the 40B law in front of the Legislature, but he doubts that any of them will pass.
  25. 25. According to Chemaly, there are so many problems with 40B that legislative tinkering can’t fix it, so his group is advocating repeal. “The developers make too much money off of 40B to make any changes,” said Chemaly. “The law has been transformed from a law that promotes affordable housing into a law that promotes high-density residential nonaffordable development, that’s the main problem. It produces next to no real affordable housing.” Chemaly disputes arguments that his group is simply anti-affordable housing. “There are two types of people that oppose 40B,” he said. “There are people that are concerned about the environment be- cause they are commonly built on wetlands and there are the people that say we’ve had 40B for 40 years and we are ranked 47th in affordable housing. The reason why you see so many local groups supporting 40B is because they get money from DHCD.” But David Hedison, executive director of the Chelmsford Housing Authority said the law has numerous benefits such as keeping seniors out of nursing homes by providing them with affordable housing alternatives. The Chelmsford Housing Au- thority was recently awarded a $4.58 million grant to construct 37 housing units for seniors as part of the CHOICE Center in North Chelmsford. “You’ve now eliminated the mechanism which we use to build elderly housing,” said Hedison. “You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Every elderly housing development we’ve built is 40B. We are saving the state almost 85 percent of what it costs to keep seniors in a nursing home. We have to create more housing units.” Hedison said people want more local control, yet there are vacant seats on Chelmsford’s affordable housing committee. “These people are saying they want more local control and it should be stopped, but where are they?” he said. “What more local control do you want? I don’t believe it’s an issue of local control, I believe they just don’t want affordable housing, pe- riod.” Golden said since sending the letter to the governor’s office he has received calls from the office of secretary of the Hous- ing and Urban Development to arrange a meeting to discuss Golden’s concerns with the law. *************************************************** Chelmsford appeals 40B decision By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Nov 04, 2009 Chelmsford — Chelmsford officials have appealed a Middlesex Land Court jury’s decision that ruled a developer did not collect excessive profits for a Turnpike Road affordable housing development. Town Manager Paul Cohen said town counsel filed an appeal in October with the state Appellate Board on the Mid- dlesex Land Court’s denial of the town’s claim that Orchard Woods LLC and ALTID Enterprises and developer Ray- mond Carye collected excessive profits for the Orchard Woods development. “We imagine it’ll be taken up,” said Cohen. “[But] we haven’t received any dates yet.” The jury ruled in September profit’s earned by Carye’s companies, Orchard Woods LLC and ALTID Enterprises, were within legal limits for the nine-building affordable housing complex. Cohen previously said that the state’s affordable housing law, Chapter 40B, limits the profit a developer can gain from a 40B project to 20 percent. The Chelmsford Housing Authority, the designated monitor of Orchard Woods, al- leged that a $1.4 million profit received by Carye exceeded his allowed limit by about $300,000. The housing au- thority argued that Carye overstate land acquisition costs for the project and they conflicted with the regulatory agreement he entered with the town. The one week-long land court trial came after almost three years of attempted negotiations between the town and Carye, where the town expended approximately $100,000 to pursue the claim against Orchard Woods and ALTID. Carye filed a comprehensive permit in May 2003 to build 30 units on a 2.33-acre site on Turnpike Road with 25 percent of the lots rented or sold at affordable rates based on income guidelines. The town’s Zoning Board of Ap- peals granted the permit in December 2003 for 24 units, with six designated at an affordable rate.
  26. 26. Affordable housing meeting generates sparks By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Nov 06, 2009 Chelmsford — The second generation of the town’s Affordable Housing Committee is working on developing a five year blueprint for af- fordable housing. But the committee’s first meeting Nov. 4 showed it will be a long road for the committee over the next six to eight months met with sharp contention from the Massachusetts Slow Growth Initiative, a statewide nonprofit group leading the charge against repealing the state affordable housing law, Chapter, 40B. The results of a recently completed independent study on four Chelmsford 40B developments was met with harsh criticism from two Slow Growth Initiative group members at the meeting. The Board of Selectmen commissioned the studying May 2009 to examine the actual cost of four diverse 40B projects to the town after the Slow Growth began disseminating facts around that town officials said they could not prove. “The ‘Affordable Housing Developments Fiscal Impact Study’ is a flawed document with replete misrepresentation and oversights,” said Austin Simko, policy researcher for the Slow Growth Initiative and Chelmsford resident. “Though this report provides useful information in some places, it does a great disservice to the town by studiously crafting a rosy portrayal of what 40B developments cost the community.” Of the four projects studied, Robin Hills Meadows was found to have the highest municipal service cost per year, per unit of $12,038, compared to about $3,000 for the other three projects. Consultants determined Robin Hills Meadow requires $1.99 in service costs for every dollar received as revenue, indicating there is a net fiscal loss to the town. The remaining three projects require less than $1 in municipal costs per dollar generated in revenue and therefore show a neutral or positive fiscal impact. Simko and Assistant Director of the Slow Growth Initiative charged that the study neglected to incorporate other important costs such as lighting, water treatment, road maintenance and storm drainage management. They argued that further de- veloping the town by 40B projects will impinge on Chelmsford resident’s quality of life by resulting in congested roads, neg- lected infrastructure, increased noise pollution and crowded classrooms. But Connery challenged that new growth does not always bring negative effects to the environment and diminish the qual- ity of life to residents in town. “I think it’s really important to understand if you don’t grow and change your level same and your quality of life will go down,” he said. “It’s a balancing game. It’s not just all no growth and we’re all hunky dory.” Connery urged the committee to take a broader look at growth and development for the town. Community Development Director Evan Belansky asked Simko to conduct an independent study and compile data before they continue to make such claims about the cost of development to the community. “My advice to you is that you define what you mean,” said Belansky. “The fact of the matter is that you still have not pro- vided the data. If you are going into these concepts we need the data. This study was done because we did not have the data and now we have the data.” The Affordable Housing Committee will next meet on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. The REPEAL 40B Coalition has reported that after 8 weeks The WESTLANDS PLACE the movement has collected 40B proposal before the 75,000 signatures so far to get the Board of Selectmen question on the 2010 November has been postponed and State wide election ballot. Continued to December 7 This time around their goal is 100,000 signatures,with a few short weeks left until the deadline
  27. 27. The Fourth Annual SPELLING BEE November 5th 2009 at the Radisson Hotel Photos by Colleen Stansfield
  28. 28. Breast cancer awareness: Songs to soothe the afflicted By Staff reports GateHouse News Service Oct 31, 2009 Chelmsford — When Pam Espinosa thought she was having a relapse of her breast can- cer three years ago, she made a pledge: If she was O.K. again, she would become involved with a special choir that sings at the bedsides of the sick and dying. Espinosa made good on her promise. Inspired by an article on the Califor- nia-based Threshold Choir and its founder Kate Munger, Espinosa ap- proached her bosses at Indian Hill Music in Littleton and, with their blessing, started her own branch of the choir. The group travels to local nursing homes and hospitals hoping lift the spir- its of patients with a song. The Independent recently talked with Espinosa. Courtesy photo Co-directors of the Threshold Choir at Indian Hill Q Does your experience as a cancer survivor provide you with any differ- Charlotte Russel, left, and Pam Espinosa flank Threshold Choir founder Kate Munger of California ent outlook on this project? at the recent Threshold Choir hospice singing workshops hosted by Indian Hill Music in October. A It definitely provides me with a unique outlook. I think anyone who does this work has to have faced their own mortality and come to terms with that on an emotional basis. You have to remember that it’s not about me, it’s about us. You don’t want to be weeping and sobbing at someone’s bedside. Sometimes there’s a husband who is los- ing his wife and it’s very sad. But I’m not afraid of death. My parents are in their 80s and they don’t want to talk about it at all. But if you face it, we’re all dying, it’s just a matter of when or how. I’m not afraid, but I’m not ready to go. Not to say I don’t get afraid. I have situations where I think it’s coming back. I do get terrified. I don’t think I’m done with my work here yet. I do think being a survivor gives me a different perspective on this. We’ve all come to terms with our mortality. Q What do you think helped you face your own mortality? A When you get a cancer diagnosis and having to deal with that at a young age I did, I realized, ‘my goodness, I might die.’ We talk about death in our family. I’ve not had an immediate family member pass away. With my daughter even when she was little we would talk about death. It’s a possibility especially with the diagnosis [ I had]. I can remember when she was little, maybe about 3-years-old, we’d say, ‘If I die first I’ll be your guardian angel and if you die first you’ll be mine.’ Everyday is a gift. Every year is a celebration. I do believe I’ve survived as long as I have because of my love of music and the power of prayer and my family’s prayers. I think having a 3-month-old when I was diagnosed you can’t sit and wal- low. I’m thankful for that too. She’s a freshman at Chelmsford High School now. Every year I get to see her grow. My goal is to see her grow. Someday I really do want to be a grandmother. Q What is the experience like for you to be singing at someone’s bedside? A It’s hard to describe because every situation is different. I definitely feel like we are sharing this really intimate moment with a family and yet I’ve never had a bad experience. It doesn’t bring you down. It’s hard to describe. I don’t have words for it. I know, I can see in many instances that we have brought peace to a person. Sometimes we enter a room where the person has been audibly agitated and we’ve calmed them down. Their breathing just really calms down. Sometimes it is a sad moment and there are tears. Sometimes it does help the family members work through their grief and we are there for the person and the client. Q What kinds of songs do you sing at the bedsides? How do you decide what to sing? A We kind of sing anything from lullabies to rounds. We aren’t a performance group. We offer 20 to 30 minutes. It’s almost like a mother singing to a child. We don’t charge anyone. It doesn’t have to be this sad and heavy song. We customize it based on talking to the family and finding a little bit out about the person. It’s chosen based on the person’s taste, their spiritual direction. Depending upon someone’s pace, we try to keep it simple. Sometimes we don’t even use words. We just hum. Sometimes it’s a simple song. A lot of it is original songs that the founder has passed on to us. I’ve had requests for Patsy Cline before. We try to tailor it for them. Some people aren’t responsive or verbal at all and in that case we try to go by the family. In one case we sang a Polish carol by the bedside of a Polish woman. For more information on the Threshold Choir at Indian Hill Music or to arrange a bedside visit call 978-486-9524. To speak to Pam Espinosa, the Threshold Choir director directly dial extension (317).
  29. 29. On the Border closer look at emissions data Westford board plans to take Panel has 'broad discretion' in ruling if asphalt plant meets zoning By Prudence Brighton, Sun Correspondent 11/03/2009 WESTFORD -- The Planning Board last night took a new look at the process used to obtain emissions data for the proposed asphalt plant at 540 Groton Road. "We want to regroup and reacquaint ourselves with the air-quality study, so we can then look more deeply at the data," Planning Board Chairman Mike Green said. Green also disclosed the response of town counsel for a ruling on whether the proposed plant meets the criteria for light industrial zoning, as set in Westford's bylaws. The Planning Board has "broad discretion to make that determination," Green reported. He said data submitted is viewed in that context. Douglas Deschenes, attorney for applicant Newport Materials, said he intends to refocus "on the underlying data and the process for the air-quality study and a health-risk assessment study." He described the process that was used to obtain an air-quality permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection. He added that the DEP said the "analysis is far beyond anything ever done in Massachusetts." For some board members and opponents of the plant, however, at least one aspect of the process was flawed. Air-quality samples were taken from the nearest monitoring locations. Those locations include Lowell, the Drum Hill rotary in Chelms - ford and Haverhill. Each monitor tests for a specific pollutant. The Lowell monitor, for example, tests for carbon dioxide. Board member Andrea Peraner-Sweet questioned the locations, as did Patrick Costello, attorney for the Route 40 Clean Air Coalition. "How fairly or accurately can this depict the situation?" Costello asked. Lloyd Schulman of TRC, a Lowell-based environmental engineering firm, explained that not every town has a monitor and that moni - tors chosen for the study were the ones closest to Westford. Deschenes added that although those sites have high concentrations of pollutants, the study was not skewed. The project emissions from the Groton Road plant were added to the measured pollutants from the monitoring devices. The results showed that emissions of each of the pollutants would be "well below the DEP limits," Deschenes said. The only issue was with 2.5-micron particulate matter samples taken at the Drum Hill site, which were over the limits, according to Schulman. The health-risk assessment study, initiated by the Board of Health, was described as an expanded version of the air-quality study. It is still a draft document, but the final version will have only minor modifications, Deschenes said. Green said it would be important to have the Board of Health present at subsequent discussions of air quality, and said he is looking into that possibility. In other business, the Planning Board closed the public hearing for a request to install a wireless communications facility on the Hunt Road water tower. The board will make a decision on the application at its next meeting. The water tower is located near the Chelmsford town line and has drawn opposition from residents of both towns who live in the area. The application was submitted by Omnipoint Communications, a subsidiary of T-Mobile. One of the primary points of concern has been the possibility that other carriers might want to install equipment there as well.
  30. 30. CHELMSFORD CENTER FOR THE ARTS GRAND OPENING by Tom Christiano The Chelmsford Center for the Arts (CCA) held its Grand Opening Celebration on Saturday, November 7, 2009 in the historic building in the center of town formerly known as the Old Town Hall. Our Town Manager, Paul Cohen, had the honor of cutting the opening ribbon. Many Chelmsford residents came by to join in the celebration, along with two of our State Representatives, Tom Golden & Jim Arciero (Jim also presented and read a citation from the State to commemo- rate this important day for Chelmsford). The afternoon celebration included many activities & displays related to the arts. There are four resident artists with studios in the new CCA, with three of these art studios open for tours by anyone who wanted to stop by and view their artwork. The evening celebration started with a reception downstairs, followed by musical concerts upstairs in the Grand Ballroom. The first musicians to play were the Professional Guitar Duo of Mike Loce & Jimmy Gaudette. They were extraordi- nary in their versatility and ability. The second set was by a wonderful pianist, Brian Friedland. He was very creative and original, playing his own composi- tions with a flawless & masterful technique. This Grand Opening Celebration was only the beginning....the ARTS are alive and well in Chelmsford. Let's show our support by visiting the CCA often, and by attending the Old Town Halls fundraising concert at the Performing Arts Cen- ter at the High School on Saturday, November 21st. Photos by Tom Christiano
  32. 32. E X T R A EXTRAS: CHELMSFORD COMMUNITY BLOOD DRIVE Wednesday, November 18th 1:30 PM - 7:30 PM Chelmsford Senior Center 75 Groton Road For more information, please call Leonard Doolan at 978-256-3604 **************************************** Submitted by: Laura Lee TM REP Precinct 2