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January 30, 2014

Endangering City Taxpayer Money

by at 9:56 am.

So another interesting exchange at Tuesday’s Council meeting took place because of this item: “Misc. – Request by Grand Manor Condominium Assoc. to address Council regarding Grand Manor Condominiums.”

The story behind this is pretty awful. No one is quite sure if the developer or the land owner who sold the land knew that it was the site of an old city dump - but the condo owners who bought into the property are now stuck with a terrible situation for which they had no disclosure. Their property values plummeted, and some of the buyers bailed out and foreclosed rather than stick around for what turned out to be a bad investment. The condo association is in litigation with the city of Lowell over mitigation and it has yet to be resolved. Since any citizen can petition the Council on any issue, there were a couple of speakers who wanted to bring their grievance up, and really, no matter if anyone stalling or if there’s just honest disagreement or unavoidable delay, who can blame them?

However, as it is active litigation, the Council is limited as to what it can say in open session. Any words from City officials in any capacity can be used against the city in court, weakening the case being argued on behalf of taxpayers. It’s not so much a lack of sympathy with these residents’ plight as just, good lawyering. And since this is not Rita Mercier’s first rodeo, you’d think she’d know this…but she had to be shut down, hard, twice, by the City Solicitor. (What a thankless job that is…) We start with a bit from the first speaker from the condo association and then the Council. Commentary included in the video. Watch:

(Side note: Let’s just say we chuck that five minute rule everyone keeps talking about…The first speaker got 12 minutes…)

4 Responses to “Endangering City Taxpayer Money”

  1. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    It is my understanding that it is even more complicated than just the developer building on a former dump site.

    I believe that I read in past articles that this site was initially in the town of Dracut, but Lowell used it as a dump (it could be the other way around, I don’t recall) and that long after the dump closed the city gave approval for construction of the condos on the old dump.

    I know it will be expensive but IMHO the city needs to take back that site, probably by immenent domain, so that the current owners can be made whole and move on.

    Then if the city wants to battle it out with Dracut, fine.

  2. Gail Says:

    @ ER, Lowell was formed out of Tewksbury, Chelmsford,and Dracut. I do not believe this property has been a part of Dracut since the 19th century.

    Regardless of what is ultimately determined by the courts, city councilors should not undermine the city’s position by offering their personal opinions on active legislation or through disclosing information that should be confidential. Thankfully, unlike the Bayliss case, C. Mercier did stop talking. I half wonder if Ms. O’Connor is likely to be the next resignation. As Lynne indicated it has to feel like a thankless job, especially when members of the city council disregard her warnings, thereby making more work for the law department [which probably means bringing on more attorneys or contracting with a law office to pick-up the extra workload].

  3. Magnolia Says:

    The dump site was part of Dracut until almost the 20th century. A check of the Lowell atlases or a history book should tell you when it became part of Lowell. I can remember questions about that site way back before I retired. The question is, at the time the site was sold, was an environmental study done. or was one even required at that time. From what I have heard they are finding all sorts things literally sticking out of the ground. The builder has to have known there was something there.

  4. Eleanor Rigby Says:

    I am pretty certain that the property was part of the Town of Dracut (yes, after Lowell was formed an annexed land from Dracut) and that Lowell used it as a dump, later the city bought the land from the town and it eventually became part of the city.

    I am 90% sure of this, so that would mean the city, at some point, sold the land to a private person or company knowing (or should have known) that it was a former dump.

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