Town wants SMOC case to move forward

Town wants SMOC case to move forward Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Dan McDonald 508-626-4416 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Get on with it.

That's the gist of the latest filing in the federal case that has pitted elected officials against South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) in federal court.

Defense attorneys for town officials filed documents Monday opposing the nonprofit agency's request for more depositions and a time extension for the discovery portion of the suit.

SMOC brought a federal lawsuit against the town and numerous local officials in Oct. 2007, alleging the town blocked expansion of its programs and broke federal law - including provisions of the Americans with Disability Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.

Named in the suit were selectmen, Planning Board members and Town Meeting members.

In its latest filing, the defense team assembled statements of SMOC's own employees and representatives to poke holes in the agency's claims.

Earlier this month, SMOC asked a federal judge to allow its attorneys to conduct 10 more depositions in addition to the 10 already allowed by court rule.

SMOC has also requested a 90-day extension for discovery, which would bump the deadline from Jan. 15 to April 15.

The town insists there is no need for more time, claiming the remaining allegations in the suit have narrowed and that there is ample evidence the town did not try to hinder SMOC programs.

SMOC spokeswoman Jane Lane said yesterday,"The defendants' claims are completely without merit and SMOC will respond in due course."

According to the town's newest filing, three SMOC programs are still in play in the lawsuit: the now-closed Common Ground Shelter, once located at 105 Irving St.; Larry's Place, a once-proposed veterans shelter that has not materialized at 90 Lincoln St.; and Sage House, a drug treatment center located at 517 Winter St.

The town's attorneys say SMOC voluntarily closed the Common Ground Shelter in October 2006.

In the case of Larry's Place, the defense say it was SMOC, not the town, that dragged its feet and stalled the shelter's planned opening. SMOC bought the 90 Lincoln St. site in September 2005, but did not apply for any permit for 90 Lincoln St. until 22 months later, according to the town's filing.

The town has maintained that deficient architectural plans - not a conspiracy of local officials - scuttled SMOC's plans for that site.

The town also says any delay had no effect on SMOC's financing because all financing for the project was in place by December 2005.

In the case of the Sage House, SMOC wanted to move the residential drug treatment facility from Clinton Street - where it had been for 15 years - to Winter Street.

It purchased the Winter Street property in June 2005, but did not file for site plan review until February 2006, at which time the council failed to submit what the town says was required paperwork.

That documentation was not pulled together until May 2006, according to the town's claims.

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