MASSACHUSETTS -- The question of whether the 5-acre parcel at the intersection of Westford and Loon Hill roads, zoned residential, is a farm or a junkyard continues, according to the boards of selectmen and health.
Board of Health Chairman Margaret Kidder said they received a letter from Building Commissioner and Zoning Enforcement Officer Gabriel Vellante stating there are no zoning issues with the property because it is considered a "non-conforming" use.
"The building commissioner basically threw the Board of Health under the bus," health member Mary Spinner said.
Health agent Bridgette Braley and Spinner went out to inspect the property but the owner, Ralph McNiff, would not allow them onto the property. Braley and Spinner looked at the property by standing on the property line of Orion Industries.
"There's a Dumpster on the property," Braley said at the Board of Health's Sept. 22 meeting. "I'm not sure how long it's been there. There's also an old Ryder truck that doesn't close that's filled with trash."
Braley wrote a letter to McNiff, on behalf of the board, instructing him to inform the Board of Health within seven days of how he plans on cleaning up the property.
"I'm wondering if anyone has asked Mr. McNiff if he needs help," she said. "I would voluntarily help him any way he needs. Instead of everyone going at it tooth and claws, I for one would be perfectly happy to help."
Former selectman Frank Maxant asked the board if they had shown the "common decency" of letting McNiff know his farm was going to be on the agenda and if Braley knocked on his door and asked to look at his property.
"Ralph McNiff has been operating his farm for years," Maxant said. "The things on his farm are healthy It's all completely backwards. It's like Alice in Wonderland."
FRANK MAXANT IS A RUDE DICK
Former selectman Frank Maxant then told Bill Principe, the resident that initially questioned the farm's status, if he didn't like the farm he shouldn't have moved there and handed him a "House for Sale" sign.
"Sorry if I raised a fuss over this," Principe said. "I still don't believe he is operating a farm. [The town of] Ayer deserves better."
Principe, saying he appreciated Maxant's point of view, handed him 75 cents for the sign.
While those in the meeting room appreciated some of the humor around the "for sale" signs, Selectmen Chairman Carolyn McCreary brought the discussion away from selling any properties.
"I would like to bring this discussion back to facts and away from opinions," she said. "We have regulations we need to follow and we have to find out if violations are in fact happening. If they are, we need to fix them."
Braley has requested copies of the Department of Agriculture's inspection reports of the property, but isn't sure if the reports are public records or not.
|Caption and photo from 2016|
"Barn books are not public record," she explained to the Board of Health. "So, we have to wait and see if the inspections reports are public record or not."
McCreary tabled the item at the selectmen's meeting without giving a specific date as to when the discussion would resume.
"I would like to suspend discussion until more investigations are done," she said. "I would also like all the proper parties to be here for future discussions."
(Nashoba Valley Voice - Sept 26, 2008)