Saturday, May 18, 2024

Work has slowed at the condominium project on Yerxa Roads and Rindge Avenue in North Cambridge, while some units have been illegally leased. Neighbors are infuriated by both facts, and some went to court Monday to see if the developer would be held accountable. (Photo: Marc Levy)

The developer of the 45-47 Yerxa Road condominiums was given 30 days to resolve two of the several complaints raised by neighbors and cited by Cambridge inspectors: that units are being leased illegally, and that there is debris on the site that should be cleared away.

The decision to delay the issues from being heard by a judge was made behind closed doors Monday by Middlesex District Court clerk magistrate Susan Plosinski after a hearing with developer Joseph F. Perroncello, contractor Jay Horman and attorney James Rafferty; and, on the city side, attorney Joseph Amoroso, two workers from the Office of Inspectional Services and Lizzie de Rham, a neighbor to the construction.

“What he gets away with is so astronomical it just defies reason,” de Rham said in the courthouse, waiting to be called in to give testimony.

And it has gone on for nearly six years, said de Rham and North Cambridge watchdogs Charles Teague and Michael Brandon. They say Perroncello has, among other things, failed to clean his site, worked outside of allowed hours and without proper permits and approvals, drawn rats with garbage and caused the neighbors flooding and cracked foundations.

“This is just over and over again,” Teague said. It started as soon as the project was proposed in 2004, when the 64-unit project — a 2.2-acre, three-building former Roman Catholic school that wraps around in the shape of an L to 124 Rindge Ave. — was described to the public as “rental units” but in Webster Bank documents from the next year as “condo units for sale,” he said. It was listed as having 10 units of affordable housing that has dropped to nine in deed documents without permission or action from the city.

Inspectional Services has seemed helpless over the years to keep Perroncello in line. For instance, when inspectors stopped by the site Dec. 16, 2008, they found cause to file an application for a criminal complaint for construction going on without permits and approvals, but that application wasn’t filed until Feb. 12 of the next year. The case was to be heard six days later, but was continued to June 17, when it was dismissed.

An application this year with a Feb. 10 offense date says, “This building must be evacuated immediately or a certificate of occupancy must be issued by this department,” but it was filed Feb. 26 and no tenants moved out. Not only has a Coldwell Banker “for lease” sign never come down; a neighbor said Saturday that two more tenants moved in this weekend. Meanwhile, work has slowed on the remaining units.

“He has worn the neighborhood down to such an extent,” de Rham said.

Progress of sorts

Teague and others agreed several of the issues have been taken care and, at least Monday, to let some issues go. A Von Norden Street neighbor complained just March 10 that “I don’t like seeing rats and mice around my yard,” but the neighbors accepted without comment an assertion by inspector Anthony Tuccinardi that “There is no evidence of rat activity at all” at the site. Inspectional Services agents remain paralyzed on the matter of Perroncello’s certificate of occupancy for the units at 45-47 Yerxa Road unless, as Tuccinardi explained, there are “life safety” issues at stake.

“The occupancy issue is there and has been there, but all issues at hand don’t have to be finished. There can be a temporary certificate of occupancy as long as ‘life safety’ issues are met,” Amoroso said, expanding on Tuccinardi’s comments.

Shortly afterward, the clerk magistrate called the hearing to order and cleared the room of all but those she considered essential, even though Amoroso said he didn’t mind if observers stayed. “Right now it’s simply allegations,” Plosinski replied. “It’s not public.”

Amoroso said afterward that the clerk magistrate did find sufficient facts concerning the two violations and, in 30 days, wanted to see the debris gone and that Perroncello has followed through on his promise to seek a certificate of occupancy. The next court date is April 20.

Perroncello seemed perturbed when he arrived to the Medford courthouse at about 2 p.m., dressed semi-casually in a gray suit with no tie. He was friendly with the inspectors and chatted quietly with them for several minutes before going into the first part of the hearing.

“How’s your vacation?” Tuccinardi asked.

“I came back for this,” said Perroncello, the owner of a 15-room house in Boston, where he owes $210,773 in back taxes.

After the hearing, he seemed in a better mood and shook de Rham’s hand as he left.