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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Environmental Injustice in Southside

Framingham is a community of over 68,000 people inhabiting an area of 25 square miles and possessing a diversity of neighborhoods and people.

Most of us are familiar with the lovely neighborhood of the Framingham Centre Village Green which is bordered by the Village Hall, the History Center and colonial churches. We look forward to the Farmer’s Market and the Concerts on the Common.

On the southeast corner of Framingham is an area about twice this size. It is bounded by Beaver Street, Leland Street and Irving Street. Within this densely populated area are three known toxic chemical sites. This is an Environmental Justice Neighborhood.

For over 100 years (late 1880s to 1960s) companies like Dennison Corporation, Old Colony Tar Company and Com Gas located factories there because the area possessed railroads, waterways and a ready population of workers. These businesses brought jobs and prosperity to Framingham. Their owners sat on our Town Boards and donated civic buildings. However they also polluted our land and waterways with carcinogenic toxins such as coal tar, coal tar creosote, lead, chromium, arsenic and cyanide.

The U.S. EPA defines Environmental Justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulation and policies.”

Monday, November 6, 2017

Skatepark construction underway

Final selected site for skatepark

October 2, 2017
October 2, 2017
October 2, 2017
October 2, 2017

October 26, 2017
October 26, 2017


October 26, 2017
November 3, 2017

November 3, 2017

This 2015 rendering shows what a skatepark along Dudley Road at Farm Pond might look like. After 15 years of promises and disappointments, Town Meeting approved funds to begin construction. Through the tireless efforts
of Judith Grove, the skatepark is becoming a reality. Situated in a park-like setting with water views of Farm Pond, the skatepark will be another treasure for Framingham youngsters added to the Cushing Park complex.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Hot air phrases in the run for Mayor

(click on picture to enlarge)

"... clearing the channels of communication and closing the feedback loop"
".... will lead Framingham through the process and facilitate meaningful participation"

"... preserve and protect the wealth of open spaces"

What do phrases like these mean to impoverished families in Southside whose children live among stifling conditions of pollution and blight as shown in the balloon photograph?

It is my opinion that the statements in Ms. Spicer's 36-page volume Platform do not speak in specifics but use hot air rhetoric. Read them for yourself. The phrases on the balloon and many more from her report are meaningless to me. There is nothing concrete that I could find in her Platform. It disturbs me that her Platform does not acknowledge or address any of the specific issues exclusive to Southside. Nothing is mentioned about the sad conditions where underprivileged people live nor the stifling environment of children who pass by blight and contamination every day.

I selected some of the air-filled phrases from Ms. Spicer's Platform and placed them on a hot air balloon hovering - in stark contrast - over an actual contaminated site on Waverly Street which represents the typical, deplorable conditions in this Environmental Justice neighborhood. The juxtaposition of her "flowery" rhetoric on the hot air balloon against the horrible conditions of the people and condition that she had failed to address is disturbing.

The illustration expresses my feelings in a way that I am unable to say in words.

Sunday, October 8, 2017











Friday, October 6, 2017

First Amendment Rights Abridged

To those people who don't know the person I am, I would like to tell the Framingham community that I am a visual and creative artist. I find great excitement making things that never existed. That is what I call being creative. I enjoy developing ideas and "speaking" through my fine art painting, graphic design, photography, computer work and even my Framingham Matters website.

Political cartoons express the artist’s opinion and draw attention to an issue by combining artistic skill, hyperbole and satire. Yesterday I posted a political cartoon photo I created relating to the Framingham Mayoral race. It was meant in humor as any political cartoon/illustration is. In my own way, it was created in the spirit of countless political cartoons from around the world over the past hundreds of years. Not only was my cartoon photo attacked but I am being attacked as "racist and misogynistic" by readers of FramGov on-line and in personal e-mails to me.

I created the Framingham Matters website to inform the Framingham community about important, sometimes humorous, matters in this town. This blogsite is a small publication. I receive no remuneration or benefits from the work I do. It is what I enjoy. I have no affiliations with either Mayoral campaign. Like it or not, it's my site and you are free to not look at it.

It is a sad commentary that this fractious election has resulted in an attack on my First Amendment rights.

Is the political game in Framingham dirty? Sure seems so from these eyes.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Vote "Yes" for a City Government On April 4

by Judith Grove
Town Meeting Member, Chair of Precinct 15

Any doubts I may have had about voting “Yes” for a City form of government were dispelled by what happened at the Special Town Meeting on February 28, 2017.

Background

All three articles concerned Tax Incentive Financing (TIFs) for two downtown Framingham developments These TIFS amount to $8.7 million in tax breaks. The purpose of TIFs is to promote housing and commercial development in commercial centers. TIFs are rarely given to apartment buildings with little to no retail like these projects, because they do not create jobs. They are taxed at a lower residential rate and cost the taxpayers money for educating the children who live there.

Community and Economic Development estimated these 2 development would generate 65 students, a tax burden of about $1 million. The estimated yearly tax revenues from them is $1.37 million. In addition to school expenses, they will incur costs for other services such as Fire, Police, Inspectional Services, and the Department of Public Works.
Proposed Neighborhood Districts if Framingham becomes a city

Scant data was given to support the 65-student estimate which I believe is too low. The 467 apartments will include 22 studios, 227 1-bedroom, 186 2-bedroom and 32 3-bedroom units. Unlike the Staples CMU which was proposed for an office park on Route 9, these downtown apartments could appeal to families because of their proximity to transportation, restaurants, parks, churches, the library and schools. If there were no children in the 227 studio and 1-bedroom units and just one child in each of 2 and 3 bedroom units, the number of students could be as high as 218, adding about $3.4 million/year in educational costs, which is more than twice the tax revenue.

TIFs are usually given for the 1-4 years before the apartment are occupied. Ways & Means, the Finance Committee and TMMs expressed concern that the 75 Concord Street TIF is too long - 15 years. Economic Development was unable to negotiate a shorter TIF with the Developer.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Board of Selectmen fails to respond to public pleas

A letter from Judith Grove to the Board of Selectmen following her presentation at the BOS meeting on February 14.

"On December 29, 2016 and January 17, 2017 I sent detailed e-mails to the Board of Selectmen about serious issues regarding 4 businesses at 350 Irving Street, which affect the residents and especially the taxpayers of Framingham. I received no response from you, so I spoke before you at your meeting on January 24th and gave you documents on the issues I raised. Still no response from any of you. This is my fourth attempt to get your attention.

Landscape Depot claims at ZBA meetings that their business is not considered a landscape business but says they are like Home Depot

"Here is a brief summary of the problems with the businesses operating on the toxic coal tar polluted property at 350 Irving Street, a former gas manufacturing plant:

     1. All the permit applications to the ZBA were incomplete or had false information.
     2. They applicants allowed their permits to expire for 6 years and paid no back fees or fines. Landscape Depot allowed 10 businesses to squat on the property and pay no taxes.
     3. No Personal Property (PP) taxes were paid for 15 years by the 14 businesses operating on this property and all of them were unknown to the Town Assessor’s office.
     4. Although being monitored by the Fire Department and the Board of Health’s Licensed Site Professional trying to teach them “Best Practices”, Landscape Depot had 2 more fires in 5 months.
     5. While they paid nothing to the town, we taxpayers paid the bill for the myriad Town services they consume from Town Manager to the Police, DPW, Inspectional Services, BOH, Legal Department and most of all the Fire Department (16 fires on toxic property in 6 years)

"I have repeatedly asked the Board of Selectmen the following questions:

     1. Will these businesses be made to pay their Personal Property taxes and back permit fees and taxes?
     2. Will they be charged for excessive use of our FD? (16 fires in 6 years)

"Since you did not respond I contacted the Assessor’s office and the Fire Department and obtained this information:

     1. The Assessor’s Department has billed LD $11,000 in PP taxes for the current year. They cannot bill them for missed PP taxes or Permit fees. Since LD has been in Framingham for 15 years, the Town has lost out on about $150,000 of tax money. This does not include lost revenue from the other 14 businesses that operated there.
     2. The Fire Department will now bill Landscape Depot for additional mulch fires.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Neighborhood frustrated with lack of responsibility, accountability and action of Government departments and Board of Selectmen

From S.T.O.P. reporter to new Fire Department Chief (December 30, 2016)


Hello Chief Hicks,

I am requesting a copy of the Fire Department report for the fire at Landscape Depot on November 28, 2016. We were unaware that this fire occurred until the December 13, 2016 ZBA meeting at which Mr. Mullen's lawyer made an opening statement that Landscape Depot should be given their Special Permit because they are following Best Practices and only had one fire, on July 4, 2016.

Mulch fire at Landscape Depot on November 28, 2016. Another mulch fire ocurred on July 4, 2016. Please read artucle here. http://framinghammatters.blogspot.com/2016/07/once-again-mulch-fires-at-350-irving.html


It was not until later, under direct questioning, that Mr. Mullen admitted a second fire occurred on November 28th. This additional fire made no difference to the ZBA. They read your statement of support for granting the permit because you wrote that LD is following Best Practices.

We presented the ZBA with a number of compelling reasons why the permit should have been denied. Since then, we have sent these reasons to the Board of Selectmen and now to the Fire Department. I have highlighted issues directly applicable to the Fire Department.

The ZBA's decision to continue to grant permits to Landscape Depot despite all the thoroughly researched information we presented to you at the December 13, 2016 ZBA meeting is appalling. We asked many questions and in the very least we deserve answers to them.

1. Why has the ZBA decided to grant a Special Permit to 4 businesses under the "Storage and Distribution" Use when according to the Zoning by-laws, this "Use" is only granted by the Planning Board?



2. When will you investigate the fact that Mr. Mullen is doing Asphalt, Brick and Concrete reclamation? (Please see attached photo). Shouldn't this zoning by-law "prohibited use" violate his lease? How much time will he be given to correct this? Chief Hicks - When you did inspections, were you aware the ABC is a prohibited use?

3. Attached are photos of the LD mulch fires on July 4th and November 28, 2016. There have now been 16 fires in 5 years which continue despite the monitoring by our Fire Department and the efforts of the Board of Health and its Licensed Site Professional to teach LD "Best Practices". According to Fire Chief, Hicks, the Fire Department has no record of mulch fires at any other landscape mulch operation in Framingham, including D & D which is a much larger business. How many fires are O.K. with the ZBA in this environmental justice neighborhood? How many more fires are needed to claim a violation of LD's lease? Chief Hicks - do you have a limit on the number of fires? Does LD have fire insurance? Have they filed any claims? Does the Insurance Company know about the excessive number of fires?

4. Who and when will the ZBA investigate to see who altered the data on the Treasurer/Collector Form in Landscape Depot's application packet after it was filed with the ZBA in September? This form falsely stated that LD had paid their personal property taxes. Go on-line to your ZBA site and you will find that this form is now blank. Perhaps this issue would be better addressed by the Town's Legal Department? Chief Hicks - The Treasurer form also asks if "Alarm Billing" is Current or Past Due. Has LD been billed for excessive calls? If not, why not?

5. Were you satisfied with Mr. Mullen's response when asked if he had paid his Personal Property Taxes? He said no one told him he owed any taxes even though he admitted he paid them for his businesses in other towns. After 15 years of not paying taxes and allowing 10 business to squat on his property and also not pay any taxes, when will Mr. Mullen inform the Assessor's Office that he is doing business in Framingham? Shouldn't non-payment of taxes violate a lease? Will Mr. Mullen also pay back taxes for the last 15 years?

6. The Purpose of Framingham's Zoning By-laws is "to protect and promote life, health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the residents of Framingham?" Please explain how the general welfare of Framingham's residents is being served by the ZBA giving another permit to Landscape Depot, a business that pollutes our air, pays no taxes and makes liberal use of the many departments our tax dollars support such as: the Fire, Police, DPW, Legal, Inspectional Services and the Board of Health? Chief Hicks - do you believe the ZBA if following the By-laws to provide for the general welfare of the residents of Framingham?

7. What, if anything, would violate Landscape Depot's lease?

8. Is the Town willing to accept the liability if any workers, customers or trespassers are harmed while being on the toxic 350 Irving Street site now and even more worrisome, while the clean-up is in progress? Chief Hicks - does it concern you that a fireman could be injured putting out mulch fires?

9. Why has the ZBA placed the profits of Landscape Depot above the interests of our community?"

Please watch the video of the December 13, 2016 ZBA meeting on the Town website for the complete story on this issue...



The taxpayers of Framingham are entitled to accountability from our Departments and Boards and especially from the Board of Selectmen since you are they appointing authority for the ZBA.

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NOTE:
On January 4, 2017, Framingham Fire Chief, Joseph C. Hicks, had replied to these issues by saying, "I have faith that the Town's administrative entities are providing for the general welfare of the community" and "Safety is the top priority in every response."