City Council meeting: May 6, 2014

I had another commitment earlier tonight so Jack Moynihan kindly covered the first 40 minutes of the meeting until I was able to get online.
Thanks Jack!

Meeting called to order at 6:35 by Mayor Elliot

Councilor Samaras asked for a moment of silence for a deceased teacher whose name I did not catch. (I apologize to all concerned, as Mr. Samaras spoke glowingly of the deceased.) The Council then agreed to hold the remaining interviews (after this Thursday) for Auditor on Monday, May 12. Under Mayor’s Business, Mr. Elliot awarded a citation to Bob Johnson and P.J. Mercier – the owners of “Navigation Brewing Company.” The Council then awarded a citation recognizing the achievements of the Umass-Lowell Hockey Team. Minutes of the City Council and Economic Development
Sub-Committee from April 29 were approved.

Under Communications, Councilor Mercier suggested having the public and others from the City decide on resuming the use of the slogan “There’s a Lot to Like About Lowell,” or else coming up with a new one – possibly as part of a contest. The City Manager stated that he has recently met with Susan Halter and Deb Belanger about developing a comprehensive marketing strategy. Councilors Leahy and Belanger spoke in support of the importance of marketing. Councilor Martin stated that he looked forward to the CM’s research on marketing. Mr. Leahy also spoke of the motion addressing the need to keep the dumpsters in the downtown emptied on a regular basis. In reference to the motion regarding COMCAST, C Leahy raised the need to negotiate with COMCAST about cable service and rates. C Samaras asked if there were any viable alternatives to COMCAST. A city representative explained that the infrastructure of the city (eg. The river separating parts of the city) limits options. With regard to the code violation at 1291 Varnum Ave., C Rourke asked for clarification, and Ms. O’Connor and Mr. Slagle explained that fines continue to accrue on the property – and that (once the fines have been paid) the structure could be moved and lowered to get it into compliance. A motion to place the Communications on file was passed unanimously.

Informational Reports: Proposed amendment to extend Suburban Mixed Use to include 14221.1 and 1434. Gorham Street. Atty. James Flood spoke explaining the proposed development that would require the zoning change. Dennis Conners also spoke in favor of the change, as he and other local residents feel that the residential development aspect would be an improvement to the area. Councilors Martin and Leahy indicated support for the change, but expressed concerns about possible congestion in the area.

++++ [Jack’s coverage ends here and mine begins; there is a small amount of overlap]

Discussion of Varnum Ave greenhouse – the oversize greenhouse on Varnum Ave is incurring fines for failure to comply with zoning. There is a lien on the property in favor of the city now and if that’s not soon resolved it will lead to a tax taking and possible loss of the property. Eric Slagle, the director of development services for the city, did explain that the structure only violates zoning in that it is too close to the property line and a bit too high. If both of those are remedied, the structure would be able to remain standing (Councilors seemed to be of the opinion that the structure had to be removed completely). Before any reinspection will be done, however, the outstanding fines must all be paid.
Public Hearing – Zoning change for old 1400 Motors at 1400 Gorham Street. There’s a purchase and sale agreement that is contingent on this zoning change. Plan is to build 23 condex buildings and 1 standalone unit (for a total of 47 residential units). It would still have to go to Planning Board for site plan review. This abuts Rivers Edge Development (the former Julian Steele housing project). Councilors want the project to proceed but are concerned that the “concept” plan is too dense for the lot, particularly regarding parking for the vehicles of those living there. Passes unanimously.

Subcommittee Reports

Councilor Milinazzo give report that discussed possible zoning change on Rogers Street that’s been under consideration and debate for an extended time. A compromise plan was developed. That is now being shared with all interested parties. Another meeting will occur in the near future to discuss these proposed compromises.

Citizen complaints about “license violations” at 705 Dutton Street (owned by Kazanjian Enterprises). Citizen is a neighbor who complains about 24 hour tow truck activity, other equipment blocking the citizen’s driveway, storing junk cars. They say they feel intimidated by the people working on the lot. Their quality of life is being adversely affected by this activity. They feel that they are getting bounced around by various city departments. Councilor Mercier says she has investigated this and found that Mr. Kazanjian does have the proper licenses so that when these people went before the license commission the commission must have found no violation. Councilor Mercier asks the citizens if they offered to sell the house to Kazanjian and she accuses them of only lodging complaints when the sale fell through. Councilor Belanger says he’s confused as to why this matter is before the council. He says this should be before the license commission. He says this looks like a grudge because of the failed real estate deal. He makes a motion to refer this to the city manager for disposition by the license commission. Councilor Kennedy says it seems like a residential and industrial abutter not getting along. He says the complainants and Mr. Kazanjian are both there so it’s important to them at least. He recommends the city manager look into it. Alan Kazanjian was also registered to speak. He says he and his company own a lot of property on Dutton Street. He says it’s an industrial zone and they’re able to do what they do there. It’s unfortunate that the neighbors happen to live in an industrial zone. Says it happened four years ago when the citizen offered to sell the property to Kazanjian for three times its value. That’s when the complaints began. The police have better things to do like fighting crime rather than investigating something that I’m entitled to do. It seems like this is payback for me not buying their property. He says the neighbors are harassing his employees and his customers, taking pictures of them and “in the age of computers God only knows what they’re doing with them.” He says he’s a good person and a good neighbor. He’s not trying to bully these people. No further discussion. Referred to City Manager.

Citizen petition asking that animal ordinance be amended to allow miniature pigs to be kept as pets. She has a miniature pig whose name is “Bacon”. She’s about 20 pounds in size. She wants to move in Lowell and had an offer accepted on a house but doesn’t want to move here without her pet pig. She’s suggesting that it be amended to allow just miniature pigs. Recommends allowing two per household because they want companionship. Councilor Martin moves to send it to Law Department for a report and recommendation. Motion passes.


Councilor Rourke requests update from city manager on plans for Glendale Nursing Home on Varnum Ave which has closed and is no boarded up.

Councilor Rourke requests Police Superintendent report on funding for UTEC. Rourke says he supports Supt Taylor’s actions on reducing UTEC’s funding because of some actions UTEC staffers took in dealing with some accused criminals with which the police disagreed. Councilor Samaras commends Chief Taylor for taking decisive action in upholding public safety. UTEC has its role but safety is paramount. Councilor Milinazzo supports the motion, says there’s a longstanding relationship between UTEC and the police and so it’s important for the two to sit down soon and resolve their differences. Manager Murphy says he’s meeting with UTEC on Monday to discuss where we go from here.

Councilor Leahy asks City Manager to meet with Sheriff’s Department to organize a major cleanup of the city. Councilor Mercier says she supports the motion but we have to be cautious to not infringe on rights of city unions. There should be negotiations with unions to try to resolve this with all parties at the table. Councilor Leahy says he’s looking forward to a change in philosophy on how we get things like cleanups done in times of budget cuts. If there’s not enough city workers to do it then we should find other ways to get the necessities done like volunteers or the sheriff’s department.

Councilor Leahy asks for report on annual fund raising efforts by Lowell Police and Fire Departments. The purpose is so the public knows when to expect legitimate fund raising efforts.

Councilor Mercier asks the lights at Gorham/Highland/Elm be synchronized in some particular way. Seems to want the lights on Gorham Street to be longer and the lights on Elm and Highland to be shorter. Seems the major intent is to help drain cars coming off the Lowell Connector. Referred to traffic engineer

Meeting adjourns at 8:42 pm

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