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Health Board Contemplates Suspending Article 37 Fees

First passed by Town Meeting in 2005, Article 37 of the town's By-Laws was controversial from the get-go. To prevent illegal apartments and overcrowding, it mandates that all apartments be inspected by the Board of Health to make sure they comply with the Massachusetts State Sanitary Code and applicable Board of Health regulations. Now, the board is contemplating suspending the annual permit and $15-per-unit fee involved.

"We have accomplished what we wanted to with this program," Chairman Kenneth Evans said at his board's October 16 meeting. "It's worked well for 10 years." Housing Occupancy Inspector David Denlinger's time could be better spent on other projects, Evans said.

Health Officer Paul Mazzuchelli said the by-law was enacted to educate landlords about overcrowding and to curb illegal conversions of apartments into multi-room housing. At the time, neighborhoods were becoming blighted due to the overcrowding, he said. "We single-handedly took this on," Mazzuchelli said. Now, he added, "the majority [of landlords] are very good and very cooperative," he noted.

"I don't want to see them get complacent," board member Gerald Hennessy said. The board's third member, Leonard Izzo, said the Building & Inspections Department is better suited to do apartment inspections than the Health Department.

"I think it's a good idea to suspend it," Mazzuchelli said, adding he planned to ask Town Counsel Gerald Moody about whether a Town Meeting-authorized system could be suspended without Town Meeting approval. Mazzuchelli talked about a suspension that involved renewing a permit without an annual application and payment involved. "Sometimes, we have to take a break," he said.

The board took Evans' proposal under advisement.


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