9 North Road and the Selectmen Recall: A Timeline
A look at how Chelmsford got to where it is today regarding 9 North Road and the recall.
In the days leading up to the recall election on Aug. 2, we're taking a look at all aspects of the issue at hand. Today, we take a look at the timeline of the issue and how it all has come down to the election on Aug. 2. You can also check out headlines from the selectmen recall and letters to the editor from residents about the issue.
2007: The Emerson House is owned by MassBank, predecessor company to Eastern Bank. Developer Michael Eliopoulos (the father of Philip Eliopoulos, who at the time was a member of the Board of Selectmen) asks the bank if they would consider selling North Road parcel. MassBank declines.
2007: Roland Van Liew starts Slow Growth Initiative (SGI).
September 2007: Fire Department/Department of Public Works Facility Study Committee presents recommendations to Board of Selectmen. They say North Road site is too small and that renovating is not feasible. Committee recommends that Fire Dept. should ideally relocate.
October 2008: Pat Maloney of the Permanent Building Committee raises questions about whether the Chelmsford Street/Wilson Street site was most economical and fiscally sound option. He suggested closer look at existing Fire Dept. site and property behind it.
February 2009: Town Manager Paul Cohen hears that Eastern Bank was considering subdividing and selling the Emerson House and land behind it. Cohen and Pat Maloney call Tom Dunn of Eastern Bank to ask if he’d consider selling just the land parcel to the town. Dunn says he’ll get back to them.
February 2009: Pat Maloney notifies the Permanent Building Committee of the possibility of acquiring land behind the fire station from Eastern Bank.
February 2009: Paul Cohen tells Pat Maloney the bank’s appraisal value of Emerson House plus the land is $430,000, and there is an offer of $480,000 from Michael Eliopoulos of Epsilon Group. Both feel it may still be possible for the town to purchase some of the land.
March 2009: Paul Cohen receives approval from Board of Selectmen to inquire of the bank about possibility of purchasing some of the land behind the fire station. Phil Eliopoulos is not present at that portion of the meeting.
April 2009: Selectmen Philip Eliopoulos and Bill Dalton decide not to run for re-election. The Epsilon Group LLC, owned by Michael Eliopoulos, finalizes purchase & sale agreement with Eastern Bank for Emerson House and the land. Paul Cohen is informed by Eastern Bank and first learns of the intent of Epsilon Group to construct a new office building.
July 2009: Slow Growth Initiative tries to recall the town manager. The effort fails because the town manager cannot be recalled.
October 2009: Epsilon Group files plans to construct a 15,400 square-foot office building on the former Eastern Bank property, subject to a preservation restriction contained within the deed. The restriction identifies the Board of Selectmen as the only enforcement authority to insure its conditions are met in the event that the land is developed.
December 2009 through March 2010: Historic District Commission, Conservation Commission and Planning Board approve the project.
March 2010: Phil Eliopoulos gets letter clearing him from Ethics Commission.
July 2010: Chelmsford building inspector issues permit for Epsilon Group building foundation.
August 2010: Board of Selectmen votes 2-1 that the building complies with preservation restriction.
October 2010: Roland Van Liew begins the process to recall Planning Board members Sue Carter, Ann McGuigan and George Zaharoolis for their positions on 9 North Road. Ann McGuigan cannot be recalled because her term is too close to ending.
November 2010: Roland Van Liew hires temporary workers to collect signatures at the polls on Election Day.
November 2010: The Planning Board recall effort fails due to lack of signatures.
April 5: Van Liew again hires temporary workers to collect signatures for the selectmen recall.
April 19: Van Liew returns the first set of petitions to the town clerk and the recall process moves forward.
April: Attorney Richard McClure, who at first represents Roland Van Liew, raises questions about when the 14-day window to collect signatures starts. Town Manager Paul Cohen asserts the town is following the bylaws. A judge wanted both to appear in court together.
May: Van Liew files an expense report that says he's already spent $70,000 on the recall. Also, after going back and fourth to court over the number of petitions that should be issued from the town clerk and when the 14-day window to collect signatures starts, the court sides with the town and denies McClure's injunction.
May: Residents establish "Choose Chelmsford" to fight the recall effort.
June 23: Choose Chelmsford holds an informational meeting. Two hours of questions were taken in an open mic setting.
July: Both sides do their best to rally voters. Cheating Chelmsford holds an information session, during which questions are submitted for answering. Outside that information session, Choose Chelmsford rallied against the recall.
Aug. 2: Election day.