Three days after the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen appealed the asphalt plant agreement between Westford officials and a Nashua businessman, a second appeal was filed in Lowell Superior Court, Dec. 5, by eight Chelmsford and Westford residents.
The agreement required Westford selectmen to grant a major commercial project special permit to Richard DeFelice’s Newport Materials, LLC, of Nashua, in return for $8.5 million of concessions to Westford over 20 years.
The agreement did not include the impact of traffic, noise, and soil emissions on Chelmsford neighborhoods even though the 115-acre parcel owned by DeFelice spills into the town. DeFelice wants to build the asphalt plant on about 3 acres of the parcel located at 540 Groton Road, Westford.
The controversial asphalt plant was first proposed in 2009 and denied in April 2010 by the Westford Planning Board. DeFelice appealed the decision in Land Court which remanded the matter back to the Planning Board. The Planning Board again denied the special permit for a major commercial property in April 2016 and DeFelice appealed again. Planning Board members and Westford selectmen then entered into secret negotiations with DeFelice, and in early October reached an agreement that required them to issue the special permit. It is this agreement that the Chelmsford residents, in addition to the Chelmsford selectmen, are appealing.
The eight plaintiffs filed the appeal despite the Chelmsford board’s effort “because the attorney for Chelmsford does not represent us,” stated Plaintiff Larry Sweeney. “It is no different than if each one of us eight hired a different attorney and filed eight different lawsuits…”
Although Sweeney is a pharmacist as well as an attorney specializing in government liability, employment law and domestic relations, he is not representing the plaintiffs.
“We are all pro se,” he stated.
Joining him in the appeal are Andrea Gauntlett, John Pecora, Judith Consentino, Marielaina Lorrey, and Michael Greeley, all of North Chelmsford, and Alan Nakashian-Holsberg and James Coveno of Westford.
The residents’ appeal makes the same charges as the selectmen’s Dec. 2 appeal. They are:
- The settlement agreement violated the state’s Open Meeting Law because it was the “product of a mediation and/or conferences between and amongst the members of the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen.”
- It did not get the approval by a required super majority of the Planning Board because only three of five members signed the agreement. A super majority would have meant at least four members signed the document.
- The project does not meet the requirements for light manufacturing under Westford’s Zoning bylaws. “Neither the Board of Selectmen nor the Planning Board therefore has authority, even with a supermajority vote…in its favor, to issue an MCP for the Project.”
- The project does not meet the requirements of a major commercial project special permit, and the issuance exceeds the Planning Board’s authority.
- Selectmen and Planning Board members exceeded their respective authority by issuing the special permit. The plaintiffs call the action “arbitrary and capricious, and legally untenable.”
The court document seeks to:
- Annul the decision of the Planning Board to grant the special permit;
- Or remand the matter back to the Planning Board with instructions requiring the board to deny the application for the special permit;
- The appeal also seeks reimbursement of reasonable attorney fees for the eight plaintiffs.
Follow Joyce Pellino Crane on Twitter @joypellinocrane.