382 North Pleasant Street
If the town ever wants to generate revenue on the side they could always hire out the Building Department as private investigators.
Last night after a thorough 30 minute presentation by Building Commissioner Rob Morra the Zoning Board of Appeals, with little discussion, unanimously affirmed his October 2 enforcement order to the owner of 382 North Pleasant Street declaring it in violation of the town's four-unrelated-tenants-per-one-family-unit bylaw.
13 names show up associated with 382 N. Pleasant Street address
Morra used Amherst police license checks to definitively show 8 tenants were members of UMass Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity (which coincidentally has no official address) and anther two cars present during the month of September were also owned by frat members, bringing the total to 10.
In addition two more names showed up when police were called to quell a party there on July 4th.
Mr. Morra also presented photos from a Facebook page showing gatherings on the front porch and back parking lot of the house at 382 North Pleasant Street plus Internet comments about how they threw great parties.
Amherst Fire Department assisted by monitoring the parking lot behind the building during the month of September and routinely found ten cars present in the early morning hours with cold engines indicating that had been there overnight.
The two individuals who did not register with the landlord for a parking permit also just happened to be employed by the landlord, Clifford Laraway, who also owns the Subway in town center.
After the October 2 order from the Building Commissioner they went to Town Hall and took out a downtown street parking permit and indicated they worked at Subway. They then simply started parking near 382 North Pleasant Street, but not in the official back parking lot.
The defendants put up a pitiful rebuttal providing signed statements by (supposedly) all eight tenants saying they were the only tenants in the two unit structure. Lawyer Tom Reidy also provided copies of eight checks used for security deposits.
But when questioned about the two individuals who work for his client at Subway, Mr. Reidy could only provide their (non local) home addresses.
In addition during their brief discussion of the evidence ZBA Chair Mark Parent also brought up the site visits that showed numerous extra mattresses in storage and extra rooms locked from the outside with a padlock.
At 7:30 PM, one hour after the hearing started, Mr. Parent made the motion to uphold the order of the Building Commissioner due to "overwhelming evidence the building at 382 North Pleasant Street was occupied by more than eight tenants." The motion passed unanimously.
The board then moved on to the continuation of the Special Permit hearing to allow the structure to remain a "two family" unit with no more than eight tenants.
AFD Chief Nelson had issued an order on October 29 requiring the owner to "Install Adequate System of Automatic Sprinklers" because AFD considered the house a "boarding house."
AFD Chief Nelson telling the ZBA, "Safety is our main concern."
But the Chief said he would hold off on enforcing that order if the ZBA declared the property a two family duplex and instituted conditions that made him believe the landlord would enforce the eight tenant occupancy cap.
ZBA member Tom Ehrgood was visibly angered by the Appeal Hearing saying, "I've lost some confidence in Mr. Laraway. How is it his two employees are parking in his lot without him knowing it? Every one of those tenants made a false statement! How do we know everything is not a fictional scenario?"
Unhappy landlord Cliff Laraway (left) befuddled attorney Tom Reidy (right)
Soon thereafter Mr. Laraway was angered to the point of shouting over the contention the rear fire escape needs to be certified by a structural engineer as soon as possible. Laraway muttered that was "yet another $2,000 bill. That's ridiculous!"
ZBA Chair Mark Parent shot back "Safety is not ridiculous". Chief Nelson added, "Bottom line is we want them to have a safe building. We want to work with them to ensure safety."
Building Commissioner Morra also pointed out he could fine them $1,000 per day for having an unsafe fire escape.
After 2.5 hours of give and take the ZBA unanimously approved the Special Permit for the building to be a two family house as long as the owner follows all the conditions, mainly centered around keeping the number of tenants to eight.
The Building Commissioner is only issuing a temporary certificate of occupancy through May 31, the end of the lease for current tenants. But by September 1st the owner will install a knox box, wired fire detection panel, certified safe fire escape, and a management plan/lease that helps enforce the 8 person limit.
Between now and June 1st town officials will make three "safety inspections" with only 24 hours notice to the owner, and thereafter one per semester.
The parking plan can retain 10 spaces although stricter language in the lease will now clearly describe the two "guest" parking spots cannot be used more than 3 nights consecutively.
Two guest parking spaces will be more closely monitored
The Special Permit will come up for review at a public hearing in a year just to review how the new management plan is working.
Building Commissioner Rob Morra told the ZBA that between now and then, "We will be watching them." Cue the Jaws theme.
Conditions that must be met and maintained
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