As most of you know, the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen was given the power and the responsibility to enforce the preservation restriction on the land behind Center Fire Station. Unfortunately for the residents of the town, they have consciously shirked that responsibility and actively protected the Eliopoulos development group known as Epsilon, LLC, from legal action that would lead to court-ordered compliance with the restriction provisions.
I have therefore filed a Complaint and Petition for Mandamus to require the selectmen to uphold the law. The full document can be seen by clicking here.
The duty of the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen to enforce the preservation restriction is not a discretionary function and the Selectmen had, and continue to have, an affirmative legal duty to the inhabitants of Chelmsford to enforce the preservation restriction for the benefit of the public. As a result of the 2009 and 2010 Board of Selectmen’s breach of their duty to enforce the preservation restriction, the Eliopoulos clan was able to construct a large office building, parking lot, and associated structures, the placement, appearance, and construction of which violated the preservation restriction and obliterated the open space at the North Road parcel.
Preserving open space is one of the purposes of the preservation restriction. The intent of the preservation restriction is clear from contemporaneous written records, as well as verbal testimony from the surviving Chelmsford Selectmen who originally framed the wording. Moreover, the size, appearance, and location of the office building as constructed violates multiple clearly worded provisions of the preservation restriction. The selectmen ignore these provisions and exclusively discuss the provision that any construction cannot exceed 55% of the land area.
It is not sufficient for a single provision to be met, such as the 55% limit. All of the provisions must be met, including: that there be an open space conservation area and pond (not, “which is the pond”); that there be a park for the recreation and enjoyment of residents; that any buildings must be small and also barn-like; and that any buildings must resemble the original outbuildings that were on the property when it was a working farm – in other words, historical restoration not arbitrary commercial construction.
The selectmen’s failure to have the preservation restriction adjudicated (interpreted and enforced in court) has effectively annulled its provisions, an act that violates their legal duty to enforce them. I have therefore filed a formal request for an order mandating that the selectmen properly enforce the preservation restriction on behalf of the residents of the town of Chelmsford.
It is decision time for the BOS. They can draw a line in the sand and refuse once and for all to defend the interests of all of us in Center Park and Center Fire Station, or they can allow the justice department to objectively interpret and enforce the preservation restriction.
We all know what the selectmen will do. They will continue to defend the interests of their colleague’s family to the detriment of the entire community. They will continue to publicly claim that the matter has already been adjudicated (it hasn’t). They will continue to misrepresent the requirements of the preservation restriction. They will continue to make sophist arguments to justify their refusal to take action.
They will fire hose misinformation to the press which will dutifully parrot it without fact checking. They and their proxies will flock to the usual blogs to self-validate and claim that I am “costing the town money.” Of course, they could eliminate unnecessary legal costs for the town by simply assenting to have a judge act to interpret and enforce the provisions of the preservation restriction. This they will not do. They could have done it 18 months ago and protected both the town and the developer from ensuing conflict. They could have done it 12 months ago and avoided the risks and costs of the recall process. They clearly just are not going to do it at all – at least not voluntarily.
It is my expectation that the court will see through the sophist arguments that the selectmen continue to put forth to protect those responsible for the 9 North Road scandal, and rectify the situation on behalf of all of us.
Roland Van Liew