Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hobart Show Down

 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


Anonymous said...

The head of the Amherst Chamber of Commmerce owns this property?!?!?! Wow.

Anonymous said...

Kathy and Peter have always put profit before anything else. Right down to sellling off
her portion of her parents farm for building lots.While her Brother Dr.Z still farms his share to this day!

Tom McBride said...

Actually the comment from the student puts this all in perspective. This person doesn't have the money for more rent. How many of us have more money for rent?! Hardly any of the students do. Why torture them with the threat of EVICTION, at least without throwing out some plausible alternatives? You and I take for granted having a car for transportation. Not all students do. We must be getting pretty old if our memory of those days is getting that poor.

The Juggernaut said...

I wished the ACLU would challenge the bylaw already, it wouldn't stand up.

Larry Kelley said...

City of Worcester vs Coll. Hill Properties, LLC. It did hold up.

Dr. Ed said...

If there ever was a time when the Town of Amherst could and should have shown that it wasn't just into screwing UMass students, that it actually considered them to be human beings, this was it.

You have a polite, responsible (and probably quite scared) young adult asking the town for help with a problem that she and her friends did not create.

An adult response from the town would have been something along the lines of "Julie, we promise that the Town will find you safe housing, somewhere, in a motel if need be, and that you and your friends won't be paying any more than you are right now -- the Town will pay the difference and we will get it back via an assessment on the property." (This is, incidentally, what the law is in situations like this, but I digress.)

This girl is someone's daughter -- Larry, it could be one of your girls in a few years. She isn't drunk out of her mind throwing rocks at the cops, nor did she even create this situation, and the town wouldn't even have known about this if she hadn't told you folks.

Hence, do you or do you not believe in "Social Justice"? Worst case and the Town has to pay for housing, who is more deserving of town money -- her or those "homeless" schumucks who are harassing everyone?

Oh, and Stephanie, all that stuff about how you want the UM students to consider Amherst the town they are living in and to respect it -- well respect goes both ways and I don't see it here....

Oh, an dLarry, as to Coll Hill Prop -- yes, the Town can force the extra tenants out, but the town also has to find housing for them AT TOWN EXPENSE.

Anonymous said...

Amherst needs more density. It needs apartment buildings -- not towers, but more two- and three-story development. Trying to maintain the fiction that it's a quaint village of clapboard single-family homes is absurd.

This scandal -- and make no mistake, it IS a scandal and the property owners deserve to have all their properties padlocked -- shows that a town gets the density it needs. Amherst can either have properly-built apartments or illegal tenements like this one, but the population density isn't going away.

Corrupt or apathetic landlords are only half of the problem. NIMBY activists trying to keep Amherst a theme park "quaint New England town" are the other half. Perhaps it's time the town entered the Twentieth Century.

Dr. Ed said...

One more thing - I suspect that everyone living at Hobart knows who Julie is, and the town can either protect her or "throw her under the bus."

If the town merely enforces the bylaw, the landlord is going to tell the students "sucks to be you" and "blame Julie" which they will.

Half the kids will wind up bankrupt and the other half homeless and the only one not harmed will be the slumlord who created the mess, everyone will blame Julie who will be so much of a social outcast that she probably will be forced into dropping out of UMass.

And it will be at least three years before any other UM student cooperates with the town -- on anything.

Everyone will remember what happened to Julie....

Now if the town was to PROTECT its witness, if it was to send the clear message out that "if you cooperate with us, we will protect you" then other kids are going to come forward for other stuff that the town would really like to have them come forward for.

Above and beyond just "walking the walk" on social justice, think of this as "an investment' in the community. And to members of the community who have concerns about obnoxious behavior of some students, what happens to Julie and her friends is going to be the difference between other students cooperating with municipal officials in the future or the peer-pressure-enforced concept of "no snitching."

Think that there aren't kids who know who is lighting dumpsters on fire? Think that the drunken schmucks who do it aren't bragging about it amongst the tightly-knit student community? And there are kids, like your kids, who will "do the right thing" if they feel safe enough -- make them feel safe enough and they will tell you exactly who is doing it.

It is not just social justice, it is not just doing the right thing here -- it is the town's self interest not to see these girls get screwed.

Dr. Ed said...

And to the AFD guys (and gals) -- stop hating me for a minute and think logically -- you really don't want college kids living in these unsafe basement apartments. You are the people who have to carry the bodies out -- and have, most recently over to that duplex near Puffer's Pond.

The only way you (AFD, APD, etc) are going to know about these illegal basement apartments is if the college kids tell you about it. Otherwise, you stumble into a building fire and find exactly what you did -- or far worse.

Bluntly, you know what hauling a dead kid out of a burnt building does to you. You (wisely) may not share it with the psychologist, but you know what it does to you -- and how much is it worth to not have to do it again?

And as I understand it, the AFD union can have a charity drive for any charity it desires. So why not have one for Julie and her friends? Why not go to Kurt Shumway and others and see if they can help them out?

The message would be simple: the union is glad that she came forward and the union is going to make sure that she and her friends are "held harmless" -- that shes not going to get screwed for doing what you would want your daughter to have done.

That is an important point here -- many of you are parents and imagine your daughter going to college at UCLA or the University of Arizona -- somewhere a long way from home. She has co-signed a year-long lease for what she and her friends thought was safe/legal housing and when she had reason to believe otherwise, she did the responsible thing.

But back to my initial point -- you need the college kids to come forward and if Julie gets screwed here, they won't.

Dr. Ed said...

OK, it's "Hannah" not "Julie" -- but my point remains the same -- this kid took a chance and what happens as a consequence of her having done what was the right thing to do will be well known amongst the student body.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Grandonico should resign as President of the Amherst Chamber immediately. If she does not resign, the Chamber should ask for her resignation. She is unscrupulous and a liar. She quite clearly lied to the students who rented from her.

Ponziville of chimps said...


Jesus, she fits in ~perfectly~!

The Juggernaut said...

Also ignored is the town of Amherst created this fiasco.

Limiting students to four isn't going to stop the parties. The continuing trend of parties shows that this bylaw, as well as the fine increase, has failed miserably.

Now that housing is becoming a crisis in the area with places restricted to four unrelated tenants, the oligopolists controlling the market are fleecing students. This forces students to hide extra roommates to afford housing, while the town wonders why those "darn hooligan students" are breaking the law again.

The icing on the cake is then the town ironically blames the students for solving a problem the town created.

Larry Kelley said...

Actually for the first time in history the town is blaming the property owner. And that is why this case is so important.

Dr. Ed said...

The property owner who will then blame the student. Students who know they have done something wrong aren't going to call the fire department and ask for permission to put their beds back into an unsafe bedroom.

And the lesson they likely will learn from this is not to talk to the AFD about *anything* because you don't know what you might get into trouble for.