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Resident Links Rat Problem to Past Zoning Issue

September 21, 2018

SHIRLEY -- Although town zoning bylaws prohibit parking more than one unregistered vehicle on a residential property, some residents in two housing developments off Lancaster Road kept abandoned vehicles outside their homes anyway, said Liz Drexler, who has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years.

At the Board of Selectmen’s meeting Monday night, Drexler revisited that issue in the context of a recent rat problem in the Apple Rock/Valley View Way and Deer Avenue area. That matter is being addressed by the Board of Health, but selectmen have promised to keep it on their radar.

Chairman Debra Flagg said the town’s sanitation agent, Ira Grossman of the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health, visited the neighborhood twice last week and spoke to residents. He reports good progress, she said.

The Board of Health could take action or impose fines if outreach measures don’t work. For example, letters to residents in the affected area spelled out what to do to get rid of the rats. Cut tall grass, remove brush piles, properly dispose of garbage and trash, don’t feed animals outside and set out baited traps. Now, another letter has gone out, this time targeting a particular property and listing problems that must be corrected.

Drexler told the selectmen that unlike another neighborhood resident who came to the board last week, suggesting the town call in an exterminator, the health board’s letters were not at issue.

“My concern isn’t that the letter wasn’t clear,” she said. It’s who to call about properties that are “in clear violation” of local zoning laws and recent health board directives.

Drexler said conditions -- rusted wrecks in some of their neighbors’ yards, garbage piles and discarded junk -- prompted her and others in the area to complain to the town in the past. Their calls were bounced from one office to another and it took seven months before anything was done, she said.

Drexler said after the meeting that the cars are gone, but garbage and discarded items continue to litter some yards; tall grass goes uncut and a derelict, junk-filled garage still stands on one property. She thinks those conditions contributed to the rat problem.

“I just don’t want that to happen again,” she told the board. Flagg assured her it would not.

Selectman Enrico Cappucci added that this matter is the purview of the Board of Health, an elected board not under the selectmen’s jurisdiction. The two boards and the town administrator will work together, he said.

Town Administrator Mike McGovern said any resident can call Town Hall about a problem, whether its rats, storm drains or snow plows. The number is 978-425-2600, ext. 5, to reach the selectmen’s office. He would take action or take the matter up with the board, he said.

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