The Selectmen’s meeting Monday evening displayed the continuing contortions that town officials are willing to go through to provide the appearance that they are trying to find a solution to the multitude of problems posed by the Eliopoulos development behind Center Fire Station. Of course the real solution would be to recover the Village Green through a rectification of the fraud and violations of due process that have allowed this priceless historical site to slip through our fingers.
But instead, the town’s Permanent Buildings Committee has joined the Town Manager in pretending that it makes sense to build a new fire station rather than simply shuttering or refurbishing the existing one. Interestingly enough, the town’s own study committees have shown that refurbishment is a feasible and desirable option that would cost less than a million dollars at this point. All the town would have to do at this point would be to demand the Board of Selectmen to vote to enforce the Preservation Restriction and uphold the law by joining in Dick McClure’s lawsuit against Epsilon, LLC at no cost to the town. Yet your BOS steadfastly refuses to uphold the law.
Instead, they are paying the unethical law firm of Kopelman & Paige (who was paid by an Eliopoulos-controlled Board of Selectmen for 12 years) to fight against the McClure lawsuit on behalf of the developer! This is the same law firm that advised (falsely) the Board of Selectmen that the Town would have to pay millions in damages to Epsilon if they voted to enforce the Preservation Restriction. The selectmen are aware that Kopelman & Paige lawyers have lied to them and are violating professional ethics, but they continue to pay them for services with our tax dollars.
Why were town officials discussing at the BOS meeting on Monday taking some of the land owned by St. Mary’s Church by eminent domain, but not any of the land around the current fire station? Why is the town is so secretive about what happened with the Eliopoulos land deal and not allowing people to testify about what went on? If they have done no wrong, then why are they not being transparent and honest with the people they serve? Instead of running away from the issue, they should have no fear of disclosing what has transpired.
Below is a new article from the Lowell Sun which, while valuable, propagates lies and misinformation through the usual quotes from Phil Eliopoulos and Paul Cohen. It’s unfortunate that the Sun continually provides these two men with a platform for their disinformation campaign. Corrections and correct contextual information are inserted in green.
North Road battle heads to Land Court on Thursday
By Rita Savard, firstname.lastname@example.org
Attorney Richard McClure, who is suing the town for approving the construction of a two-story office building at 9 North Road, subpoenaed six town officials for deposition statements – Selectmen Chairman George Dixon, Selectman Eric Dahlberg, former Selectman Clare Jeannotte, Planning Board members George Zaharoolis and Jim Lane, and Permanent Building Committee co-Chair Pat Maloney.
McClure said questioning the officials is crucial in proving the land was transferred in an alleged back-room deal, at a loss to the town's taxpayers. But Chelmsford attorney Philip Eliopoulos, a former selectman whose family is building on the land, has also joined in the motion to halt the process, saying the deposition hearings are merely another attempt by McClure to harass the town.
"A judge has already said he didn't believe the case had merit," Eliopoulos said. "These depositions are not being conducted for evidence to support McClure's allegations and complaints. He is using the whole process to try and embarrass people who volunteer their time to serve the town, and it's sad."
Eastern Bank owned the North Road parcel, which it sold to Michael Eliopoulos, Philip Eliopoulos' father, for $400,000 in 2009.
McClure argues the town could have acquired the land, but officials never made news of the land's availability public so Michael Eliopoulos' family could seal the deal. Philip Eliopoulos was on the Board of Selectmen at the time.
The Eliopoulos family and Town Manager Paul Cohen have denied the accusations.
Philip Eliopoulos said his father inquired about purchasing the land from previous owners, Mass Bank. But that bank was not willing to sell. As soon as Eastern Bank moved in, Michael Eliopoulos asked again about buying the parcel, and the new owners agreed to sell.
On Jan. 7, McClure questioned Thomas Dunn, a senior vice president at Eastern Bank. The entire deposition can be viewed on the town's website at www.townofchelmsford.us/whats-happening.cfm.
Dunn said he didn't offer the land to the town but that he did contact Cohen to see if the town had any interest in the parcel.
Cohen said he'd get the news to the Board of Selectmen, which he did during an executive session, but there was no real interest to purchase the whole parcel. The bank, Cohen added, wasn't willing to carve up the land.
Cohen said Dunn's deposition disproved previous claims from critics like Chelmsford resident Roland Van Liew, who said Cohen was offered the land for free but turned it down.
McClure said the deposition proves town officials knew about an opportunity to obtain the parcel but let it slip through their fingers to benefit a colleague.
"Besides the direct abutters, people in town never received notice this (office building) was supposed to be built on a piece of property with a preservation restriction that everyone had an interest in," McClure said. "I think the depositions will make it blatantly clear that Philip Eliopoulos called in favors, that instead of getting a gold watch for his retirement, he got a piece of town-owned land."
The two-story, 15,494-square-foot office building, which will eventually house medical, dental and law offices for the Eliopoulos family, first spurred lawsuits from local dentist Michael Sargent, whose practice abuts the property.
Sargent filed suit with three town boards over an alleged violation of a 1978 preservation restriction, which he said was created to retain the two-acre parcel as open space. Former Selectmen John Carson, Paul Hart and Joe Shanahan, who helped author the preservation restriction more than 30 years ago, spoke before town officials last year to confirm the intent of the bylaw was to keep the land as open space.
Following a packed public hearing in August, selectmen agreed that the project didn't violate the preservation restriction, and Sargent dropped his lawsuit. But McClure picked up where Sargent left off.
An attempt to halt construction last year was rejected by a state Land Court judge. Motions to dismiss McClure's case and to quash the subpoenas will be heard Thursday in the Massachusetts Land Court at 3 Pemberton Square, Boston.
Yours with best wishes and hope for the future of our town,
Roland Van Liew