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Date: September 9, 1998
Location: Town of Billerica, Massachusetts


  • The Complete "Starr Report" (unedited) - 445 Pages (836Kbs in total)
  • Business As Usual - Circle the Wagons and Protect the Inept
  • Selectmen Vote To Side With Big Business - Corrupt Appeals Board Practices Allowed
  • Citizens Demand Selectmen Action - Remove Five Members of the Appeals Board
  • Billerica Appeals Board Quotes - Break the Law, But Don't Look At It
  • Billerica Appeals Board Procedures - New Revised Policy - July 30, 1998
  • Town Manager Screening Committee - Candidate List Revised - July 11, 1998
  • Billerica Appeals Board Procedures - New Policy - July 13, 1998
  • New Member of the Billerica Board of Appeals Sharp Replaces Gray - June 29, 1998
  • The Captain Gorham House Has Moved - June 28, 1998
  • "MAC's Two" Denied Liquor License (a.k.a. Gold Club of Billerica) - June 24, 1998
  • Billerica Is Looking For A New Town Manager - Applications Due - May 22, 1998
  • New Ditson School Approved - Town Meeting - May 14, 1998
  • 1998 Town of Billerica Election - Results - April 4, 1998
  • Shawsheen Tech Class of 1987 - 11th Year Reunion
  • Dougherty Legal Fee Reimbursement Witheld - Billerica Board of Selectmen
  • An Urban Open Space Success Story - Grigg's Farm, Billerica (WWW Link)

  • Selectmen Vote To Support Corrupt Appeals Board Practices

    The Board of Selectmen took another in a series of unprecedented steps on September 9, 1998 to unanamously support the corrupt practices of the Board of Appeal. At issue were fourteen (14) decisions filed by the Appeals Board on August 25, 1998 to approve some eighty five (85) variances and special permits to a local industrial developer. Residents of the abutting Concord Road residential development cited numerous and substantial procedural, legal and ethical issues surrounding these Appeals Board decisions and asked the Board of Selectmen to intervene by either firing the Appeals Board or taking them to court. Town Cousel agreed that many of these decisions would not stand up in court, if challenged. In spite of counsel's case assessment, the Selectmen, in a closed room session, voted to ignore any illegal actions of the Board of Appeal and support steam-rolling the industrial developer's project over the rights of residents. This vote also helped the Selectmen to officially avoid chastising their policical appointees on the Appeals Board. The Selectmen have, over the last few years, consistently voted to punish ordinary taxpayers and support the corrupt practices of the Board of Appeal. Last Year, on August 21, 1997, a group of local residents filed a lawsuit, Carroll v. Board of Appeal, to oppose the Appeals' Board vote to help a fellow board member split an 89,000 square foot lot into two 50,000 square foot lots [this is not a typo]. The Appeals Board has not disputed the resident's claims in court concerning the zoning issues. In spite of breaking the laws of mathematics and ignoring the requirements of Massachusetts General Laws and town by-laws, the Selectmen have done nothing to help the residents. The Selectmen also blocked paying a resident (twice) his legal fees after he won his case against the Board of Appeal and a local developer when the second highest court in the state, the Massachusetts Court of Appeal decided on July 26, 1996, Joseph M. Dougherty v. Board of Appeal that the Board of Appeal did in fact act in excess of their authority. In another recent case, the Appeals Board used secret evidence, contrary to the public records and open meeting laws, and sided with another local developer to split lots below the lawful minimums. The Selectmen have totally ignored a written request to intervene. Apparently breaking the law, in this Clintonian era, is not a priority with the Selectmen. And, at least one Appeals Board member told them so, live and in color in a Selectmen's meeting carried on local cable television, that the job of the Appeals Board job is to break the law. This member has never been sanctioned by the Selectmen for this remark.

    Sharp Replaces Gray on the Board of Appeal

    The Board of Selectmen voted to replace John Gray on the Board of Appeal in its June 29, 1998 meeting. Sandra C. Sharpe of 10 Otter Circle will replace Gray on the Board of Appeal. She is 53 years old, registered as an unenrolled voter and is employed as a financial analyst. One factor in this decision may well have been John Gray's poor voting record, which has had numerous conflicts with a large body of law established by court decisions and the Billerica Zoning By-Law. The Selectmen used a "weighted vote" method to determine the order in which the potential candidates would be voted upon first. This method requires that a "5" be assigned to each Selectman's top choice candidate, then a "4" to the next choice candidate, then a "3" to their third choice, a "2" to their fourth choice and finally a "1" to their last choice candidate - the score totals would be tallied, with the highest aggregate score being voted upon first, the second place next, etc. The table below shows how each selectman voted with their first choice candidate (a "5") in bold face type. Selectmen Brion Cangiamila and Michael Rosa picked Walter Bradbury as their first choice candidate. Selectman Rawlings went with John Coppinger as the best candidate. In spite of Gray's awful voting record, Chairman Edward Hurd and and Selectman James O'Donnell voted to keep John Gray on the Board of Appeal and gave him their top choice vote. However, Sharp's "weighted vote" edged Gray out by a mere one point - enough for first shot at being appointed (see tables below). The Board of Selectman voted unanamously to appoint Sharp.

    Regarding the voting for Gray, there was not much of a surprise for O'Donnell. When making appointments, his voting reflects a strong taste for political supporters, rather than selecting the most qualified person(s). But, the vote from Hurd is indeed paradoxical. Chairman Hurd has been highly critical of the appeal board spliting building lots and John Gray has voted for a lot of lot splits on the appeal board. Lot splits, mainly the ones that create new undersized lots, only serve to create new problems for the town. The Billerica Zoning By-Law prohibits creating undersized lots. Gray has ignored this prohibition and has used his authority on the appeal board to vote to help split numerous lots into undersized lots that are prohibited by the Zoning By-Law. Just recently he voted [see Fitzgerald] to split an undersized 15,000 square foot lot, that was in a minimum 30,000 square foot zone, into two undersized 7,500 square foot lots. Lot splits generally increase land values substantially - about $25,000 to $75,000 per lot. This practice has continued unimpuned for some time because the selectmen have taken no action against the appeal board for operating in direct conflict with the Zoning By-Law and in direct conflict with state law that requires the appeal board to prove a financial hardship, rather than a substantial profit. The selectmen are well aware of the unauthorized practices of the Appeal Board acting in excess of their authority [see: Dougherty v. Board of Appeal ]. However, the appeal board has never been formally investigated by the Board of Selectmen to see if appeal board members have financially benefited from lots splits or other unauthorized activities.

    Board of Selectmen 5 4 3 2 1 0 0 0
    Cangiamila Bradbury Sharp Dirring Gray Coppinger Cooke Jones Musker
    Hurd Gray Coppinger Sharp Bradbury Jones Cooke Dirring Musker
    O'Donnell Gray Sharp Cooke Coppinger Musker Bradbury Dirring Jones
    Rawlings Coppinger Gray Bradbury Sharp Musker Cooke Dirring Jones
    Rosa Bradbury Sharp Dirring Jones Coppinger Cooke Gray Musker

    The next table shows the mathematical tally of the votes cast by each Selectman for each candidate. The top choice candidate (i.e., a "5") is shown in bold face type.

    Sharp Gray Bradbury Coppinger Dirring Cooke Jones Musker
    Total Votes 17 16 15 13 6 3 3 2
    Cangiamila 4 2 5 1 3 0 0 0
    Hurd 3 5 2 4 0 0 1 0
    O'Donnell 4 5 0 2 0 3 0 1
    Rawlings 2 4 3 5 0 0 0 1
    Rosa 4 0 5 1 3 0 2 0

    The Captain Gorham House Has Moved

    The Captain Gorham House", until Sunday, June 28, 1998, was located at 473 Boston Road and was one of three Greek Revival style buildings built by Henry Bowers. The Greek Revival style is often called the first "truly American style" of architecture. One of the these three buildings was moved to 596 Middlesex Turnpike in 1973. Stephen and Jan Wetzel recently purchased the "Gorham House" from Osco Drug, to save it from demolition and plans to move it to Dudley Road came to fruition on June 28, 1998.

    The Town Manager of Billerica, and others, fought hard to stop the relocation of the Gorham House for a variety of reasons. However, the board of selectmen and particularly Chairman Edward Hurd, stepped in to facilitate the move. On June 28, 1998, the move was slowed traversing Charnstaffe Lane when the pavement gave way. Tree trimming along Concord Road and utility cable relocations also slowed progress. On the last leg of the trip, turning onto Dudley Road proved problematical. At dusk the house was still on Dudley Road where it spent the night of June 28th.

    The house was built in 1845. We know this very accurately as the previous owner, Robert Svensson, found a board behind the chimney when the building was totally renovated in 1989, which is signed "This chimney piece was built by Henry R. Bowers February 10, 1845". The house was one of the first 165 houses built in Billerica. In 1991 the building won the "Visual Improvements Award" as the best kept historical property, for a business, from the Billerica Plan, Inc. The entire frame of the building is built with no nails and it still retains its original wood moldings, one foot high baseboards and soft pine floors.

    Captain Gorham was born in 1809 on a ship travailing from Boston to Havana. He started working at an early age on merchant ships, and by the age of 20, he had already made four trips around the world. In 1838 he retired, a wealthy man at the age of 29, and bought 136 acres in South Billerica. His first house burned and he bought the house lot on Boston Road in 1845 and commissioned Bowers to build the house for him. He spent the rest of his life as a prominent citizen of Billerica and died in 1893 at the age of 84.

    The Gold Club of Billerica Will Have No Liquor License

    On June 24, 1998, the Billerica Board of Selectmen unanimously rejected approval of a liquor license for The Gold Club of Billerica (a.k.a. "MAC's Two") at a special meeting held in the Maurice Buck Auditorium. The meeting was well attended by the clergy, local residents and governmental officials. A wide range of objections to the board of selectmen was voiced at the public hearing. Numerous petitions were presented to the board of selectmen and many testified that there is no need for an additional liquor license in Billerica, that the area is saturated with existing liquor licenses, that the potential licensee failed to fully cooperate with town officials in the investigatory process and that the mix of liquor and adult entertainment creates significant day end evening problems for abutters and neighbors.

    New Ditson School Approved by Town Meeting

    On May 14, 1998, the Billerica Town Meeting nearly unanimously approved a $18M bond issue that will begin the process of building a new school to replace the aging sixty seven year old Ditson school located on Boston Road in the Pinehurst section of Billerica. The new school will be near Cook Street and Christina Avenue and will be designed as a neighborhood school to house approximately 800 elementary age students. The targeted construction site is 25 acres, comprised of 13.4 acres of buildable land and 11.6 acres of wetland, and is for assessed for approximately $245K, with an appraised value of $850K. Dr. Robert Calabrese, Billerica School Superintendent, has targeted occupancy for the new school for spring 2001.

    1998 Town of Billerica Election - Results

    Michael Rosa has defeated Incumbent Arthur L. Doyle in a stunning upset on Saturday, April 4, 1998 for the office of Selectman. Rosa's message of excessively rising taxes, moving too slowly on the sewer program and using a more practical approach to upgrading the water treatment plant has apparently reverberated with the voters. Incumbent Ellen Day Rawlings topped the ticket by only 20 votes while Doyle lost to his seat to Rosa by 323 votes. Rawlings was said to be a big favorite, but Rosa's strong showing may cause Rawlings to re-evaluate her views on the needs of the town. In the School Committee race, David E. Hudson upset incumbent Lawrence J. Grey. Incumbent Maureen Collins-Rea held onto her seat. The Planning Board was uncontested. Donna Doucette, Peter McCarron and Lawrence P. Bavis, Jr. were re-elected. The Town of Billerica, Massachusetts election day was held on Saturday, April 4, 1998, from 10:00 AM until 8:00 PM. Slightly over 4,400 voters from 10 precincts, or little more than 20%, of the potential voters, decided the election.

    Town of Billerica Election Results - April 4, 1998 - Board of Selectmen
    Precinct Ellen Day Rawlings Michael Rosa Arthur L. Doyle
    ALL 2,497 2,477 2,154
    One 242 218 246
    Two 269 264 236
    Three 203 224 184
    Four 206 194 192
    Five 242 262 189
    Six 263 265 198
    Seven 315 307 231
    Eight 251 205 217
    Nine 241 285 186
    Ten 265 252 196

    Town of Billerica Election Results - April 4, 1998 - School Committee
    Precinct Maureen Collins-Rea David E. Hudson Lawrence J. Grey
    ALL 3,039 2,214 1,830
    One 305 196 172
    Two 365 226 196
    Three 279 163 153
    Four 241 173 153
    Five 262 229 167
    Six 303 220 207
    Seven 343 263 223
    Eight 275 209 173
    Nine 334 199 196
    Ten 332 303 182

    Billerica Is Looking For A New Town Manager

    The Town Manager Screening Committee is accepting resumes for the position of Town Manager. The salary range is negotiable based on qualifications and experience (range expected to be $75K to $85K per year). Billerica has had only two managers since a Home Rule Charter revision in 1978 that established a strong Town Manager form of government with full appointment powers. Position reports to a five member, policy setting, non-partisan board of selectmen and is responsible for a $78M operating budget, 350 employees and duties established by the Billerica Home Rule Charter and the General By-Laws of the Town. Applicants must have at least five years full time experience as a city or town manager under any title and this requirement is not negotiable. Applicant must be qualified to be a member of the International City Management Association (ICMA) in good standing. Applicants must also have earned, at least, a bachelors degree from a recognized and accredited college or university, but this may be waived in whole, or in part, based on special and unique municipal management experience. Applicants need to forward a resume, salary history and references to Michael Rea, Chairman, Town Manager Screening Sommittee, c/o the Town Managers Office, 365 Boston Road, Billerica, Massachusetts 01821 by May 22, 1998. The TMSC committee will forward its recommendations to the board of selectmen, as required by statute, on or before August 17, 1998 for an appointment by the board of selectmen on or before October 1, 1998.

    Shawsheen Tech 11th Year Reunion - Class of 1987

    Shawsheen Tech Class of 1987 we missed our 10th year reunion. How about an 11th? Please contact me with whereabouts of fellow students and/or suggestions for a reunion. Cheryl Casey 800-375-1282 x 300,

    Dougherty Legal Fee Reimbursement Witheld

    The Board of Selectmen have taken the unprecedented step to subvert a legal May 1997 Spring Town Meeting vote on Article #54 and deny Joseph M. Doughery payment of his legal fees when the Board of Appeal acting in excess of their authority. The vote was unanimous, in spite of the Massachusetts Court of Appeal case decided on July 26, 1996, Joseph M. Dougherty v. Board of Appeal whereby the court ruled that the Board of Appeal did in fact act in excess of their authority. In spite of the outrageous behavior of the Board of Appeal, the Board of Selectmen merely relied on two opinions from town counsel that alleged that any payment to Mr. Dougherty would be illegal. The Board of Selectmen and Town Manager have made no move to file a suit in court to legally block the payment to Mr. Dougherty, but have instead have directed the Town Accountant not prepare a payment warrant. The legality of this approach, without a court order, is indeed a questionable tactic, after the Town Meeting voted to pay Mr. Dougherty.

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