Hobart Lane Gilreath Manor #28
Hobart Lane is already well known for the annual Hobart Hoedown, dating back over 20 years. But the street immediately bordering UMass could easily have become forever burned into memory for a far more serious spectacle had the basement fire in an illegal bedroom at #28 Gilreath Manor on September 13th resulted in the deaths of residents, all of them UMass students.
Tomorrow night the Zoning Board of Appeals will hear an appeal from Grandonico Properties, LLC a "foreign limited liability company," meaning they are "organized under the laws of Delaware," the most lax state in our nation for protecting consumer rights (which is why all the credit card companies organize there).
The owners of Gilreath Manor wish to challenge the Building Commissioner's threat of fines for violating Amherst's 1990 zoning bylaw forbidding more than four unrelated occupants in a single family dwelling. The town attorney has come down squarely on the side of the Building Commissioner with an unambiguous opinion:
"The property owner has been aware, or been made aware, of the multiple violations on the Property, and that further evidence may demonstrate that the owner authorized use of the dwelling units in excess of the allowed number of residents."
Attorney Joel Bard continues, skewering another of the landlord's defenses: "The tenants rights of possession may not be asserted as a defense in order to insulate the property owner for liability for zoning violations on her property."
The Amherst Board of Health has NOT issued a variance for low ceilings in the basements at Gilreath Manor, so currently they can be used for nothing but storage or utility, not even for watching TV or doing homework on a computer station ... let alone sleeping.
On September 13, with inadequate fire protection and two bedrooms illegally crammed into unit #28, a disaster was narrowly averted. Initially, town officials were slow to react to problems uncovered in the aftermath of the fire; I even went so far as to brand it a cover up.
But they seem to be fully on board now with making this a test case for the public good.
As President of the Board of Directors for the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, Kathryn Grandonico should be setting a positive example for all Amherst landlords to follow, not acting like a carpetbagger -- putting profits over public safety.
Emails Hannah, Town Officials