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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Do Framingham Government Departments operate like a hot dog stand?

by Judith Grove
TMM, Chair Precinct 15
Member of STOP (Stop Toxic Operations and Polluters)


“We run this Town like a HOT DOG STAND!” declared Zoning Board of Appeals Chair, Philip Ottaviani, at the December 13th meeting during which they heard Landscape Depot’s request to grant Special Permits for four businesses located on the 350 Irving Street toxic property which is owned by Eversource. He made this comment in response to the following facts which I presented:

   1. According the Assessor’s office the four businesses applying for permits were unknown to his office and have never paid any Personal Property (PP) taxes on their equipment. Landscape Depot, which has conducted business for 15 years in our Town, has front-end loaders, fork lifts, a trailer, office machine, equipment to grind yard waste into mulch etc.


   2. All the Permit Application packets were incomplete or had false information. Three of the applicants did not submit the Treasurer/Collector Form or left it blank. The Treasurer's forms were incomplete in previous years as well.

   3. The September 16, 2016 Landscape Depot Treasurer/Collector form was falsely checked as current for PP taxes paid while the application found on the ZBA on-line site is blank.


Puzzling questions not fully answered

Judith Grove: "Show accountability to
Framingham’s taxpayers and concern for the
health of its residents by denying permits"
I asked the ZBA members if they had noticed that the Treasurer forms were incomplete, blank or had false information. They replied they are not responsible for what the Treasurer puts on the forms and that it is not their fault if it is blank. I replied “This is not the point. Shouldn’t you expect complete and accurate information from an applicant before deciding whether-or-not to grant a permit to him?”

The ZBA members spent considerable time arguing with me about the forms instead of addressing whether the applicant had paid his PP taxes. Finally, the applicant‘s lawyer admitted he, personally, pays PP taxes but his client had not paid them because he did not know he owed any taxes. I reminded the lawyer a PP Tax payment question was asked on the form submitted to the ZBA by his
client. I told the ZBA they should be concerned that the LD Treasurer’s form filed with them, has false information while the form on-line has no information. I asked that they investigate to see who altered this form and why.

Surprising comments from the Chair

Click on photo to watch video snippet
The ZBA Chair responded to this request by saying “Nobody knows anything” and “WE RUN THIS TOWN LIKE A HOT DOG STAND and I’ll say it to my friends who don’t like hearing it. We run it like a hot dog stand. There is no accountability. We have assistants to assistants to assistants to assistants but no one is watching the watchers. It’s unbelievable. Whoever yells the loudest get the attention. Mike Tusino and the Assessor should have more people in their departments. We have departments that are top-heavy. It’s a joke. We need the nuts and bolts in this town and we don’t have it.”

When I told the ZBA Board that the Chief Assessor has replaced a staff member with someone who is now knocking on doors and increasing the collection of PP taxes, the Chair replied “Those businesses don’t have permits, licenses or understand the language.”

Concerned public speaks

The meeting continued for over 2 hours with residents and abutters giving reasons that the permits should be denied. We reminded the ZBA members that the purpose of the Zoning By-Laws is “to protect and promote, life, health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the residents of Framingham.”

We were not surprised but still deeply disturbed that the ZBA voted 3-0 to give these 4 businesses another 1-year Special Permit despite our many arguments against this including:

   1. All the permit applications were incomplete or had false information.

   2. They applicants had allowed their permits to expire for 6 years and paid no back fees or fines.

   3. They have paid no Personal Property taxes for 15 years.

   4. LD allowed 10 businesses to squat on the property and not pay taxes.

Michael Blanchard, Director of Public Health 
and Carol Bois, Environmental Site Assessment Officer
   5. Although being monitored by the Fire Department and the Board of Health’s Licensed Site Professional, LD had 2 more fires in the last 5 months. In Landscape Depot’s opening statement their Attorney said, as an argument to grant the permit, that LD by following “Best Practices” had only one fire (on July 4, 2016) since the last 1-year permit was granted. Later, when questioned in detail, the applicant admitted to another fire on November 28th. A ZBA member said “So the F,D. was not called?”. They responded “Yes, they were. Since we were not there, the Police reported it to the F.D. and they put it out.” The ZBA made no comment on this important information or the fact that LD’s lawyer had made a false statement earlier.

   6. While they pay nothing to the town, we taxpayers foot the bill for the myriad Town services they consume from Town Manager to the Police, DPW, Inspectional Services, Board of Health, Legal Department and most expensive of all, the Fire Department (16 fires on this toxic property in 5 years).

Landscape Depot has not followed Best Practices

I told the ZBA this is an issue of fairness and of trust. How can we give permits to businesses who do not do the right thing? This property will have Activity and Use Limitations. How can be trust them to observe the extensive rules and regulations required by the Conservation Commission, the BOH, The F.D. and DEP? Will the Town accept the liability if a worker, customer or trespasser is harmed on this property?

The ZBA had the perfect opportunity to show accountability to Framingham’s taxpayers and concern for the health of its residents by denying permits to these parasitic companies. Instead, the ZBA is the Poster Child for how to RUN A BOARD LIKE A HOT DOG STAND!

If you care about fairness to the taxpayers of our community or about the health of our residents, please watch the December 13, 2016 Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting on the Government Channel. It also addresses the serious pollution on this site which to fully clean-up would cost $93 million.

Click on photo to watch the ZBA meeting video

Monday, October 24, 2016

Fall Skatepark Public Design Meeting

Video of October 10, 2016 Skatepark Public Design Meeting held at the Memorial Building 

Preliminary design by Pillar Design

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

ZBA: Deny permits to Landscape Depot

by Judith Grove, Chair, Precinct 15

The purpose of the Zoning By-Laws is “to establish such regulations for the uses of land and structures as will protect and promote life, health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the residents of Framingham. The interpretation and application of the provisions of this By-Law shall be held to be minimum requirements, adopted for the promotion of the public health, safety, comfort, convenience, and overall general welfare.”    Section I Page 3

Town Meeting members protest health and safety concerns at 
Landscape Depot, 350 Irving Street on October 7.













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On October 24th the Zoning Board of Appeals will decide if they will grant Landscape Depot a five-year extension of the one-year Special Permit, they granted them on November 2, 2015 despite the fact that:

⦁ Mass DEP had listed 350 Irving Street as a Priority Disposal Site. From 1889-1967 it was the site of a Manufactured Gas. Large portions of this property, especially low-lying areas were filled with by-products of gas production - carcinogenic coal tar, creosote, arsenic, sulfur and cyanide compounds.

2005 - MassDEP issued a Notice of Responsibility to NSTAR Gas. In 2008 NSTAR acquired the property to address the historical environmental conditions and paid Framingham $2 million in back taxes.

July 25, 2006 - the ZBA gave Landscape Depot (LD) and 3 other landscape, truck and tree companies a three-year Special Permit for storage of landscape equipment & supplies although this “Use” is under the purview of the Planning Board, not the ZBA. LD then allowed 10 other businesses to occupy this property. These businesses did not have permits.

2010 - 2011 - NSTAR excavated and disposed of 2,400 tons of sediment & wetland soil saturated with tar. 

2014 - When a group of Town Meeting Members (above photo) learned that LD’s mulch was sitting on contaminated land they raised their concerns at ZBA meetings that the mulch might also be contaminated and customers could be spreading it around their yards and in areas where children would be playing. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Once again: volatile mulch fires at 350 Irving Street

Vast continuous mulch pile that exceeds required 25' height limit and 30' mandatory separation between piles for safety reasons. To lessen chance of fire, mulch piles cannot exceed 300 cubic yards.


What Framingham citizens have to say 
about the July 4th mulch fire at Landscape Depot:

     Um...... I'm shocked. Really. Following best practices?
     And I thought they said they would behave from now on. - KG

     No.....not at all..... ...this is a direct indication why the ZBA should have denied the special permits for all the companies who were operating WITHOUT a legal permit for years.....All we will get is a protective defensive ring around the present government in Framingham and how great they are all doing. The Health department has the power to shut the site down....I want to hear more excuses from the Board of Selectmen and the BOH and any other board why this site is not shut down. - LK
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NOTE: Is Landscape Depot a landscape business? Under Framingham laws, a landscape business is not allowed at 350 Irving Street.
Business owner of Landscape Depot states he does not have a landscape business. He goes further to say that his business is similar to Home Depot. They sell bags of mulch but Landscape Depot grinds questionable wood materials and manufactures what is described as safe Enviro-mulch. Readers: would you consider Landscape Depot a "landscape" business?











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     Our firefighters don't need to be put in harms way by a business that does not seem to value their health and safety. The neighbors don't need to be exposed to smoke and the potential danger of fire spreading.
     With these fires seeming almost routine, how can this not be a safety hazard that can be addressed by the town in a meaningful way? - LD

     As was agreed, best practices required Landscape Depot to turn the mulch piles often enough to relieve any heat build-up? I don't see any attempt today to move the mulch piles. Who is responsible? Who should be held accountable? Is the Framingham Fire Department too passive. What exactly is their role? Does the Fire Department plan to fine Landscape Depot for Framingham Firefighters' s time, equipment, source of water? - GL

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016

Recycling do's and don'ts


Single Stream Recycling Program Recycling Carts

The town provides recycling service to residential dwelling of up to 4 dwelling units that receive trash service by the town. One recycling cart is provided to each residential unit. Recycling carts are town property.

Place your cart at the curb with the wheels and handles away from the street. The automated truck requires at least 3 feet of clearance on each side of the cart and 12 feet of overhead clearance. Only recyclables in the cart will be collected; do not overfill or jam cart full of recyclable.

Curbside Recycling Overview

Recyclables are collected by a contractor, E.L. Harveys & Sons, Inc., every other week. Recycling is now collected single stream; combine all items in your recycling cart. Recycling collection is now fully automated and only materials inside the cart will be collected.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

An attempt to expand developable land at 82 Edmands and adjacent parcels

Several years ago, I compiled a list of various transactions and names connected with the parcels representing the southwest quadrant of the intersection at Edgell and Edmands Roads. You will note transactions by familiar names and entities that began as early as the 1990s. It is my personal opinion that those listed below have had transactions at these addresses and numerous other properties in Framingham. Updated information can be found at the South Middlesex Registry of Deeds.




Wednesday, March 30, 2016

J.J. Newberry Five and Dime in early Downtown Framingham


Early photograph of J.J. Newberry Five and Dime taken in 1938. Downtown Framingham was THE center for surrounding towns to shop. The advent of developments as Shoppers World in the 1950s and 1960s began the demise of the Downtown as a shopping mecca. The store was located at the corner of Concord and Howard Streets. The building remains today but the third floor was removed. Sad that historic buildings where stripped of detail during the 1950s taste for bland, modern architecture.
J.J. Newberry's was an American five and dime store chain in the 20th century. It was founded in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, United States, in 1911 by John Josiah Newberry (1877–1954). J.J. Newberry had learned the variety store business by working at S.H. Kress stores for 12 years between 1899 and 1911. There were seven stores in the chain by 1918.

View toward Howard Street on
Concord Street in the 1960s.

The company was a family business. J.J. Newberry was joined in management by his brothers C.T. Newberry and Edgar A. Newberry in 1919, at which time there were 17 stores with yearly sales of $500,000.  At the time of founder J.J. Newberry's death (1954), the chain had 475 stores. By 1961, the company operated 565 stores with total yearly sales of $291 million

JJ Newberry Co. was sold to McCrory Stores in 1972. It continued to operate under the Newberry name as a division of McCrory Stores. McCrory opened stores under the Newberry banner especially in the Northeast and California where the name had a strong presence. The demise of the company became evident following a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing in 1992.

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NOTE: In the nineteenth century, the Nobscott Building once stood at the same spot as the JJ Newberry store. The Nobscott Building originally housed the Post Office on the first floor and the District Court on the third floor. (1880)


Monday, February 8, 2016

Back to the drawing board

By Danielle Ameden
Metrowest Daily News, Framingham, Sunday, February 7, 2016


You wouldn't know George Lewis once had his own art gallery on Boston's Newbury Street, or that corporations such as Delta Airlines and Marriott Hotels snapped up his paintings.

He's a humble artist whose career took a back seat when he moved to Framingham 16 years ago and became a Town Meeting member and local activist.

Expanse, acrylic, 42"x54"

But with a new exhibition at Access Framingham's studios in Framingham Centre, Lewis is once again sharing his abstract works — some bright, some dark; some pastel, some acrylic – with the public.
Voyage, pastel
Lewis, 72, said it took a nudge from Francesca Cerutti-Harris, the station's assistant director, to get him to agree to a show.

“I knew in another life he had been an artist and I said, “You could hang your work here, we have an opening,’” Cerutti-Harris recalled. “He had to think about it a little bit.”

Lewis introduced his collection at a well-attended opening night on January 28. The exhibit remains up until March 15 at 4 Vernon St., open Wednesdays and Sundays from 4 to 7 p.m., and Thursdays and Fridays from noon to
4 p.m., or by appointment.

Light no.5, acrylic and sand, 36"x48"




(top left) Horizon Edge no.3, acrylic, 18"x18", (top right) At Dusk, acrylic, 18"x18",
(above left) Veil of Summer, acrylic, 18"x18", (above right) Passage, acrylic, 18"x18"


Lewis is selling his paintings, which start at $375, and had one buyer the first night. “It was a pleasant surprise,” he said.

Lewis said he first got into art when he was studying piano and music education at New England Conservatory of Music and administrators approached him. “They asked if I would do some covers for their catalogs so I started working in pastels and it gave me the confidence to continue,” he said.
Former George Lewis Gallery at 20 Newbury Street, Boston
Lewis went on to open his own gallery with studio space in a coveted Boston location.

“This was my livelihood.” He said. “I started painting in the 1970s and I opened my gallery on Newbury Street in 1977 and was very successful selling my paintings around the country and various cities around the world.”

He said his works range up to 6 feet by 11 feet, and the “Usual size” is three by four.

He dabbles with different materials but likes to work primarily in acrylics, and his style has changed over the years to be less bright and colorful.

Lewis says his artwork is essentially abstract and has “kind of a mystical feeling where it’s a little hazy and quite a bit of depth.”

“I like to work with color and creating forms that appear to recede in the background or advance in the foreground,” he said.

Francesca Cerutti-Harris, Assistant Director of Access
Framingham with George Lewis
Cerutti-Harris said Lewis is a member of Access Framingham and seeing his talent blew her away. She said his collection is maybe the fifth to hang at the station’s new location.

“It’s very modern and it’s very different than anything we’ve had up so far,” Cerutti-Harris said. “It’s very interpretive and it’s interesting to see the different stages. He goes from being very colorful to being very dark.”

Lewis said he closed his Boston gallery after five years, not liking the feeling of being confined during the day. He stopped painting as much when he moved to Framingham in 2000 and got involved in local government, which absorbed all his time.

“I had kind of put my artwork to the side so a lot of people don’t really know that this is what I used to do,” Lewis said.

Garden, acrylic, 36"x48"
He suspects his fellow residents and Town Meeting members would be surprised to know that his paintings hang in banks, law firms and corporations around the country. Some came out to support him on the opening night of his exhibit.

He said the exhibit shows that he’s “not just an activist.”

But Framingham – and the Southside especially – are near and dear to his heart.

“I got really turned on to Framingham when I saw the potential,” he said.

He said he loves all the natural resources and long desired a connection from Farm Pond to downtown and a walking path through Cedar Woods, a project now coming to reality.

With his art exhibit now up, Lewis says he is going to search for other outlets for his work.

“I want to get back to painting and being creative,” he said.

(Highlight photo to enlarge)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016