On Wednesday, Richard McClure took a stance against the Epsilon Group by finding new causes to go to court. McClure’s charges came two days after the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen (BoS) voted in favor of the project, claiming that the construction doesn’t violate a 1978 preservation restriction. The August 25th filing of the case was also the deadline to revoke the building permit for the construction.
This is the latest of line of a grand total of four suites against the Epsilon’s group project. At least one of the cases was willingly dropped by the plaintiffs. This was due to the fact the BoS refused to meet for a vote while there was a case pending in the courts. After the case was dropped, the BoS eventually scheduled a meeting—a mere 48 hours before the town’s deadline to repeal the Eliopoulos’s permit.
In the current case, McClure states that “…there were improper, invalid, and absent approvals by required boards and improper notice of public hearings by those boards.” The suite also calls the permits, “…’whimsical, capricious, arbitrary, unconstitutional and unlawful.’”
On August 23rd, the Chelmsford Board of Selectman (BoS) held a town meeting to vote on the construction proposal for 9 North Road and whether it violated a preservation restriction. Though the selectmen seemed contemplative throughout the meeting, their composure appeared lost after the Epsilon’s lawyer forewarned of a lawsuit should the BoS repeal their permit.
What makes this project so controversial is due to a preservation restriction that was created in 1978. The Epsilon group, which represents the Eliopoulos family, claims that restriction doesn’t bar all construction. The group also claims that the intentions of the restriction and the 1978 BoS are not only immaterial, but inapplicable to the project. Specifically, the Epsilon group focuses its argument on Articles 2 and 6 of the restriction. These sections require that any construction be “barnlike” in appearance, that all construction not exceed 55% of the total land area, and that the owners have a limited right to develop the land, respectively.
Such bold statements were probably a smack in the face for former selectman, John W. Carson. Carson, who was on the BoS in 1978, adamantly spoke out against the project at the meeting. According to Carson, he and the other two surviving selectman that signed the restriction crafted the measure in order to preserve the open land as a public park. Carson’s argument relies on Articles 5, 7 and 8 of the restriction. The sections maintain that the land is to be maintained as a park, that all structures are to be small, and that all buildings must match the architecture of the Emerson barn.
The board’s 2 to 1 vote in favor of the project was met with resounding outrage from the dozens of citizens that attended the meeting. Though there was support for the construction, it seemed to have been overwhelmed by the public’s opposition.
Today residents received a pamphlet discussing a construction controversy in Chelmsford, which is backed by the prominent Eliopoulos family. The pamphlet is being circulated by Roland Van Liew. Van Liew is the President of Hands On Technology Transfer, Inc. (HOTT), which is based in Chelmsford. The Eliopoulos family, alleges HOTT, might be flying past obstacles in its efforts to build 15, 000 sq. ft. commercial building. The problem here is that the construction seems to be deflecting restrictions too quickly and effortlessly, which is what HOTT appears to be claiming.
The land in question is located behind the fire station in the center of town, and is protected by a decades-old provision which bars construction on the site. There have been several big plans for the plot, including updating and expanding the neighboring fire station. Since the land is now privately owned by the Eliopoulos family, the plans to fix the station at its current location aren’t possible.
According to HOTT’s circulation, Eliopoulos’s construction proposal “…unlawfully violates the letter and the spirit of a deed restriction on the property, and both of those points along with many others were made in opposition to the permits.” Van Liew’s critique is that the Board of Selectmen should have said no, and not yes, to the proposal given longstanding restrictions.
Van Liew does not appear to be the only resident with such concerns. Former Town Selectman Peter Lawlor and Michael Sargent have filed suit in Land Court claiming that the Eliopoulos proposal is a direct violation of the 1978 historical preservation restriction.
Getting to the heart of issue is tough because two seemingly contradictory interests are at play: preserve historical sites or expand the business community. This balancing act has been an imporant part of the town’s Master Plan for years, which is why some areas of the town appear more urban than others.
This controversy is made all the more contentious as both sides are swapping barbs. In response to being portrayed as self-serving, the Eliopoulos family is calling Van Liew a liar.
Understandably, people stop believing in their government when much of what they see is an ineffective political system in which lasting change is slow to happen. Though it would be easier to just give up, we as a nation owe it to ourselves to keep going especially when times get tough. Instead of dwelling on failures, focus instead of success and what the power of a group can really accomplish.
Earlier tonight, a local TV news station was discussing the issue of forest preservation in the bay state. What made this particular report unusually uplifting and awe-inspiring was the results that were generated by MA residents. It was the efforts of local residents that pushed the state government to increase its preservation programs and transparency practices. Had residents not worked together, then more trees would be lost with little public knowledge.
Though this issue might be small beans to some, it is big beans to others. Regardless of where everyone stands on the issue of green peace/environmental protection, at least realize that is but one example of the difference we can make as a group. So the next time you are down about what’s going on in Washington, or on Beacon Hill, never forget that success always follows failure.