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Councilors ask building commissioner to revoke permit

Date: 10/26/2011

Oct. 26, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — A group of city councilors has asked Building Commissioner Steve Desilets to revoke the building permit he recently issued for the construction of the biomass plant proposed by Palmer Renewable Energy.

Jose F. Tosado, John A. Lysak, Timothy C. Allen, Melvin A. Edwards, Michael A. Fenton, Amaad I. Rivera, Zaida Luna and E. Henry Twiggs signed the letter that was sent to Desilets.

The letter read: “It has come to our attention that Palmer Renewable Energy (hereinafter ‘PRE’) has filed with your office for a building permit. We further understand that this permit seeks ‘as-of-right’ permission to build a smoke stack necessary for their proposed ‘biomass’ facility.

“Earlier this year, we revoked PRE’s Special Permit for their proposed ‘biomass’ facility. Said revocation was predicated on findings of fact that we made regarding the facility and the changes that were made to plans approved in 2008. This action was taken with the understanding that PRE would be unable to build their facility without a new Special Permit. Such is our interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance.

“‘M.G.L. ch. 40A, § 7 states that ‘[the] building commissioner ... shall be charged with the enforcement of the zoning ordinance or by-law and shall withhold a permit for the construction, alteration or moving of any building or structure if the building or structure as constructed, altered or moved would be in violation of any zoning ordinance or by-law; and no permit or license shall be granted for a new use of a building.’ As such, we believe it is your obligation to deny this permit.

“As the legislative body for the city of Springfield, we respectfully request that you deny this permit and all future building permits for this site, which would circumvent our Zoning Ordinance. Failure to deny said permits will bring unnecessary burden upon the city and its taxpayers.

“Please accept this letter as our request for enforcement prescribed in M.G.L. ch. 40A, § 7. The statute reads, ‘If the officer or board charged with enforcement of zoning ordinances or by-laws is requested in writing to enforce such ordinances or by-laws against any person allegedly in violation of the same and such officer or board declines to act, he shall notify, in writing, the party requesting such enforcement of any action or refusal to act, and the reasons therefore, within 14 days of receipt of such request.’

“In accordance with this statute, please inform us of your decision by Nov. 4, 2011. Once we are in receipt of your response, we will consider our rights for appeal pursuant to M.G.L. ch. 40A, §§ 8, 15, 17.”

City Councilor Timothy Rooke told Reminder Publications that in his opinion, Desilets did what he was legally obligated to do by issuing a building permit for a project that is properly zoned.

Rooke was opposed to the council’s revocation of the special permit because he believed the council should have waited several more weeks when a state report was to be issued on the plant. He added his proposal was ignored.

He believes his colleagues on the council acted because of political pressures.

If the council had not revoked the special permit, both local and state restrictions could have been placed on it, Rooke contended. As such, the city doesn’t have a vehicle to do so.

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