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.

"These questions remain unanswered. I am again asking you for a response:

        1. There is false information on the Treasurer’s form of the ZBA applications stating that Landscape Depot’s PP taxes were paid. Who will investigate how this happen and make sure the files are corrected?
        2. Why did the ZBA grant a permit to Landscape Depot when landscape businesses are a prohibited use according to our zoning by-laws? Does the ZBA really believe that Landscape Depot is just like Home Depot and is entitled to the same Use Category? The report I gave the BOS on January 24th listed other infractions of the zoning by-laws as well. Please see attachment.
       3. Why has the Town allowed the profits of LD coming before the welfare of our residents?
       4. Over 10 years ago Eversource paid the Town $2 million in back taxes and promised to clean it up and bring this property to a better use. Why has the Town not pursued these goals? If it were not for a dedicated group of SS TMMs there would be little progress on this important issue.
       5. A report from Eversource, estimates that clean-up of 350 Irving Street will cost between $11 and $93 million depending on decisions regarding the Remedial Action Plan which DEP is now reviewing. Are you members of the BOS, willing to accept the liability for the Town if any workers, customers or trespassers are harmed while being on this toxic property now, and even more so, while the clean-up is in progress?

"The taxpayers of Framingham are entitled to accountability from our Departments and Boards and especially from you, the 5 members of the Board of Selectmen."

Judith Grove
Town Meeting Member, Chair of Precinct 15
Member of S.T.O.P, (Stop Toxic Operations and Polluters)