SMOC lawsuit is misguided Date(Friday, April 25, 2003)
David T. Robertson Metrowest Daily News
When you're right, you're right - I wish to respond to the editorial "A misguided lawsuit in Framingham" (MWDN Friday, Oct. 26), and offer my congratulations to MetroWest Daily for finally taking a position I can agree with.

SMOC's suit is clearly focused on intimidating its critics.  It is not that Framingham is not willing to do its part to help the homeless, the mentally ill, or the substance abusers.  Framingham today has over 180 Social Service sites, valued at $13,081,000, which have become tax exempt and therefore do not provide any compensation to the town.

At the same time these locations have a far higher use of services, especially police and fire, because they care for more troubled clients than is the norm.  These programs are needed, but because of lower funding or less than adequate management they pose a recognizable burden on the town.

The PILOT program was a means to compensate the town for these services and to remove from the town the costs associated with these programs that are not exclusively the burden of the town since these individuals come from all across the state, not just from Framingham.  I myself would have preferred to see the Social Service agencies themselves, recognize the burden they place on the town and voluntarily stop citing additional programs in this town.  No other town around us has the concentration of social services that Framingham has.

SMOC objects to the town's oversight of its boarding houses.  They specifically cited a home for disabled veterans on Lincoln Street.  The reason that the Building Department disallowed tax-exempt status to this building was that there was no common room in the building for education, so the building did not comply as a Dover Amendment Property.  SMOC could have gone ahead and built the rooming house, but would not receive tax exemption and would also have to comply to the new rooming house bylaw now under review by the Attorney General.

In their objections that they filed with the court that they were apposed to, one was to build basement apartments in the Lincoln Street facility.  They wished to squeeze every inch of that property to house veterans.  This overcrowding was exactly what the rooming house bylaw was designed to protect.

The last point I wish to express was aptly pointed out in your editorial - that SMOC has decided that neither the town nor the State will support their plans for building rooming houses in Framingham under the conditions they wish to.  Since they did not wait to hear the Attorney General's ruling on our boarding house regulations, I am heartened that they must think that they will be approved as written.

I also noticed in your news item (pg. A8) that Howard Cooper, a lawyer representing SMOC stated that the case cannot be considered a strategic lawsuit or SLAPP suit, which are filed to intimidate opponents because it was filed in Federal Court, which doesn't have that protection.  This tells us why they choose the federal courts, not the state courts.

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