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.

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. 

2015 - MassDEP issued a Notice of Audit Findings because NSTAR needed to do a great deal more work.

2010-2015 LD had 15 spontaneous combustion mulch fires because they were not following “Best Practice.” None of their fire hydrants were in working condition so the Fire Department had to run hoses 1,000 feet from the other side of Irving Street to their mulch piles and the Police Department had to direct traffic over the fire hoses. Taxpayers paid for the water to extinguish the fires.

The Department of Public Works used its equipment to help put out the fires by moving the burning mulch piles around thus putting the DPW staff and equipment at risk.

October 15, 2015 - Town Meeting, Zoning By-Law Recodification made Landscape Businesses a Prohibited Use. We expected that Landscape Depot would be denied its permit.

November 2, 2015 ZBA Meeting – The ZBA denied permits to 10 businesses which were “under the radar”. When asked why none of these businesses was fined, the ZBA said they had no power to do this. They also said it was also not their job to monitor if a permit had expired. 
November 2, 2015 ZBA Meeting -The ZBA was given a petition signed by Sixty-two Town Meeting Members, representing all 18 Precincts, urging the ZBA to deny any applications for a landscape use. To our shock, the ZBA sided with the owner of LD when he claimed Landscape Depot was NOT a Landscape business. The ZBA voted to give Landscape Depot a 1-year Special Permit with conditions.

The Board of Health’s Licensed Site Professional was then tasked with instructing LD how to institute Best Practices. The F. D. was required to inspect them quarterly. Despite oversight from the BOH, the F.D., the Building Department and the BOS, LD had another mulch fire on July 4, 2016 (see photo below). According to the official F.D. report, 11 personnel were involved as well as Engines 3 and 5, Ladder 3 and Car 2. None of the employees were on-site and the F. D. had to call them. Other fires broke out on this extremely hot July 4th, so this LD fire strained the resources of our Fire Department.

⦁ To add insult to injury, when we asked the Assessor’s Office how much Personal Property Tax had been paid by Landscape Depot, 3 other companies with Special Permits and the 10 squatters, he responded that the Town had no record of their existence and thus no personal property taxes had been paid.

The ZBA has failed to honor the purpose of the Zoning By-laws by allowing these businesses to put their profits before the health, safety and general welfare of the residents. Framingham’s taxpayers have been abused by parasitic companies draining the services of our Fire Department, Conservation Commission, Inspectional Services, Department of Public Works, Police Department, Health Department, Town Manager, Legal Services and Board of Selectmen while using our tax dollars for their benefit.