Thursday, June 13, 2024

Garbage and clutter is seen at a Yerxa Road and Rindge Avenue development in a photo bearing a time stamp three hours before a Tuesday hearing on whether the site had been cleaned. (Photo: Lizzie de Rham)

The developer of illegally occupied condominiums on Yerxa Road and Rindge Avenue is headed before a judge, according to residents who attended a hearing Tuesday.

There is probable cause to send Joseph F. Perroncello back to court June 1 for failure to clean up the work site, Middlesex District Court clerk magistrate Susan Plosinski decided.

After being given 30 days to do so since being cited by Cambridge building inspectors, Perroncello has not cleaned, neighbors said, showing photos of clutter and garbage bearing a time stamp of 11 a.m. Tuesday — only three hours before the hearing.

But area residents who have complained for nearly six years about Perroncello’s 64-unit renovation of a former Roman Catholic school may be disconcerted to learn a certificate of occupancy is to be ready and granted in two weeks, apparently wiping away the fact Perroncello allowed real estate agents to lease to tenants even though he lacked city permission. Like at the March 22 hearing held before Plosinski, neighbors weren’t allowed into the hearing; this information was passed on to neighbors and area watchdogs who attended, waiting out in the hall, by Joseph Amoroso, the attorney representing the city.

Now Perroncello will have the certificate, despite neighbors’ pleas and a petition signed by 34 residents that the city “not issue any form of ‘Certificate of Occupancy’ for any buildings at this site until conditions of the Variance(s), conditions of the Special Permits(s) and promises to the neighbors have been fulfilled.”

Before listing 15 conditions, such as removal of dirt, garbage and construction debris, the petition says:

We also request that the development be brought into compliance with all laws, regulations, and ordinances regarding public health, sanitation, safety, and crime risk.

“This was a great chance for him to be forced to fix all this stuff,” said Charles Teague, a development watchdog who was at the hearing, referring to the petition. “If they give him a certificate of occupancy, that chance goes away.”

There is already a temporary certificate of occupancy lacking some necessary signatures, neighbors said, although on Thursday a clerk at the Inspectional Services Department said the needed signature was affixed April 15.

There was no answer Tuesday evening at phone numbers for Perroncello listed in Boston, where he is developing other troubled properties, owns a $5 million home and has been called one of the city’s biggest tax scofflaws. A message seeking with his Cambridge attorney, James Rafferty, was returned Wednesday.

“I didn’t think you were giving the guy a fair shake,” Rafferty said, referring to Perroncello as a “developer in a challenging financial situation who is trying to rescue and survive the project. From that comes a range of issues.”

He disagreed that Perroncello had been acting illegally in allowing units to be leased without a final certificate of occupancy. “There were temporary C.O.s applied for for the 11 units that are occupied,” he said. “Once the applicant applies for the C.O., whether the administrative task of typing them up is completed doesn’t make the occupancy illegal … It’s a very commonly used vehicle, the temporary C.O.”

Asked Thursday, a man at Inspectional Services identifying himself as the department’s deputy commissioner — listed on the department website as Mike Nicoloro — said a certificate of occupancy means a building complies with all legal codes and can be lived in by tenants. Asked if it was okay to move tenants in without a certificate of occupancy, he said, “No.”

In looking at the complaints of neighbors about the condition of the site, Rafferty said he wanted to offer a “full, balanced understanding of this project  … and why when you have a three-building project with landscaping requirements to occur all over the site, you don’t necessarily complete the landscaping while you’re still actively under construction with two other buildings.”

But photos showing garbage at the site surprised him, he said Wednesday.

“I can see the Dumpster there, the Dumpster has since been removed, so I don’t know how that photo could represent the conditions on April 20 … by the testimony of the [city] inspector yesterday, the Dumpster was reported to have been emptied and removed. I’m looking at an overflowing Dumpster from a hearing six weeks ago and seeing it reported as conditions of the morning of the [latest] hearing. I was there yesterday morning, I didn’t see anything like this there.”

The photographer, neighbor Lizzie de Rham, confirmed after Rafferty’s call that the photos were taken Tuesday and pointed out that the condition of the site was the matter the clerk magistrate decided should be heard by a judge. A visit to the construction site late Wednesday confirmed that the garbage and construction detritus seen in her photos is current, including a Dumpster filled to the top. The materials are safely behind fencing but, along with large mounds of dirt, can be seen from surrounding homes.

Summing up the issues surrounding the development, Rafferty said, “The conclusion was that he has removed some of the stuff, he needed to continue to remove others, he had addressed the C.O. issue, he’s supposed to meet with city inspectors to determine what is construction debris and what isn’t.”

The project at 45-47 Yerxa Road and  124 Rindge Ave. was proposed in 2004. It covers 2.2 acres and three buildings.

The court appearance is scheduled for 2 p.m. June 1 at Middlesex District Court in Medford.

This story was updated Wednesday with quotes from Rafferty and de Rham. Rafferty also took exception with some opponents of the project being referred to as “neighbors” when they lived a mile or more from the site, and some language has been changed to reflect that used in a previous post. “We have other neighbors who are very supportive of the project,” he said. The story was updated Thursday with comment from Inspectional Services and confirmation about the state of the construction site.