SMOC decries asbestos accusation Saturday, July 23, 2005
D. Craig MacCormack Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- SMOC officials yesterday blasted a charge from earlier this week on an e-mail list focused on townwide issues that the Winter Street nursing home they recently bought is hampered with asbestos.

Gerard Desilets, planning director for the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, said recent tests by an environmental engineer found no asbestos in the building, but did turn up lead paint.

SMOC spent $40,000 to have that paint removed, said Desilets, making the building suitable for inhabitants if Building Commissioner Joe Mikielian grants the social service agency a building permit for SMOC's Sage House program.

"There's been a lot of misinformation out there about this and some of the other buildings we own in this town," said Desilets.

He was unaware of the origin of the asbestos reports, but Janice Skelley from Stop Tax Exempt Private Property Sprawl, who opposes SMOC's desired move, mentioned the charge Thursday on Framingham Neighbors, a mailing list dedicated to discussions of local topics.

Skelley could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A subsidiary of the South Middlesex Opportunity Council applied for a change of use permit with the Building Department last week to turn the former Framingham Nursing Home into housing for up to 15 families -- possibly including recovering drug addicts.

"Our intention is to continue working to move into the place as soon as we can," said Desilets.  "We feel comfortable with the test we've done.  If there was a problem, we'd correct it."

Mikielian has one month to deny or grant the permit.  He is on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment yesterday.

According to its application, SMOC contends that the program moving into the nursing home falls under the state law known as the Dover Amendment.  The law prevents cities and towns from restricting or prohibiting developments with educational or religious uses.

Members of Stop Tax Exempt Private Property Sprawl reviewed SMOC's application and forwarded it to their attorney.  A new town committee is set to examine the impact SMOC and other social service agencies have on Framingham.

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