First, there are two Andre J. Cormier, the senior and the junior. It is difficult to separate the two as they have the same name and the same middle initial. For the purpose of this report it is irrelevant as they both pursue the same business and are father and son. Most of this report relates to Andre J. Cormier senior.
Andre J Cormier lives at 100 Wildwood Road in East Brookfield, MA 01515, is a real estate developer, and has been in business for more than 36 years. Age 66, he is married to the former Fay Corey; he has three children and nine grandchildren. Cormier moved to East Brookfield in 1978. He is a member of the Planning Board in East Brookfield for many years, and served also on the Master Plan committee. The two Andre J. Cormier are the CEO and President of Escape Estate Inc., 537 Main St., Fiskadale, MA 01518, phone (508) 347-7985. Escape Estates was organized on 12-17-1974. Cormier is a Republican and made financial contributions to the 2004 campaign of George W. Bush. Cormier is also the president of Barnes & Stables Co., a manufacturer of architectural metal ornaments with same address as Escape Estates.
Andre J Cormier is enmeshed with two other individuals involved in land development and land deals in Holland and surrounding towns, Anthony J. Grossi and Michael J. Bergeron.
I never met Andre Cormier I therefore do not have a bias one way or the other. It was not difficult (as it never is if certain town officials of Holland are involved) to find corruption in the dealings between Cormier and our town officials, corruption as defined in Black’s Law Dictionary, fourth edition, page 414: “An act done with an intent to give some advantage inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others.” Here are a few examples:
Escape Estate Inc. bought a 24.47 acre tract of land from Quaboag Roads, Inc. This parcel of land located along Butterworth Road in Holland (the parcel) was conveyed for the price of less than $100, see deed book 14347, page 539. The deed refers to a plan in book of plans 331, page 32. The parcel had little value as it is zoned special conservancy and has steep drops towards a brook that runs along the back of the parcel and eventually underneath Mashapaug Road just 800 feet north of the state border between Connecticut and Massachusetts and feeds into Hamilton Reservoir. The front setback requirement for parcels zoned special conservancy is 100 feet, which would have placed the houses down the steep slope and close to wetlands. Despite this predicament, Cormier presented first an Approval Not Required division of a tract of land or ANR plan to the Planning Board of Holland (PBH). The ANR plan was endorsed by Debra Benveniste, Lynn Arnold, and Earl Johnson on 10-19-2004, and registered at the Registry of Deeds, book of plans 335, page 18. The ANR created 5 building lots, lot 7 – 11. The next step in turning a tract of land that was conveyed for less then $100 into five valuable building lots was submitting applications for variances to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). The applications requested a waiver of the front setback requirement of 100 feet down to 50 or 60 feet. Cormier already had created two other lots along Butterworth Road. According to the ZBA decisions, building homes with the required set back of 100’ was not feasible. The ZBA granted not less than seven variances between April 20, 2004 and April 5, 2005 for seven continuous lots along Butterworth Road to Escape Estates. The ZBA granted variances that allowed building dwellings with a front-setback of 50 feet or 60 feet instead of 100 feet, for lot 5 see registry of deeds book 15254, page 224; lot 6 book 14209, page 233, lot 7, book 14607, page 13; lot 8 book 14607, page 16; lot 9 , book 14607, page 10; lot 10, book 14607, page 7; lot 11, book 14607, page 4.
The variances were issued to circumvent the zoning bylaw in order to maximize the profits of Cormier, a clear violation of the Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.), c.40A, s.10. Remember the definition of corruption? “An act done with the intent to give some advantage inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others.” The ZBA has the duty to enforce the zoning bylaws and issue variances consistent with M.G.L. A variance is only appropriate in extreme circumstances to a private owner of a particular lot to prevent a substantial hardship. The courts consistently found that the requirement to issue a variance “would involve substantial hardship,” and that this mandate is not satisfied in a situation whereby a developer creates the hardship himself and then uses a variance as vehicle to maximize personal profits. The ZBA had not the right to issue even just one variance but granted seven. Here an excerpt from a decision of the Appeals Court of the Commonwealth: “The issue on appeal is whether the hardship alleged by Brolly has been ‘self-created.’ Our starting point is the well-established principle in our cases prohibiting self-imposed hardships as a basis for obtaining a variance.” Adams v. Brolly, 46 Mass.App.Ct. 1, 702 N.E.2d 400 (1998). The defendant Brolly was not even a developer, Brolly was just a private landowner. As in the analysis of the Johnson land-gate case, I was again unable to find case law that is similar or even comes close to the egregious corrupt conduct of the involved town officials.
The lots were created by Cormier himself utilizing the ANR procedure. The ANR plan was endorsed by the PBH on 10-19-2004 and signed by Lynn Arnold and two other defendants, Earl Johnson and Debra Benveniste, see Registry of Deeds, book of plans 335, page 18.
Andre J. Cormier and Lynn Arnold’s ways crossed again. This time Cormier Jr. had an opportunity to help out Lynn Arnold. During a public hearing on 1-17-2006, Andre J. Cormier Jr. presented an application for a special permit on behalf of Lynn Arnold to the ZBA to more than double the footprint of her nonconforming preexisting dwelling located on Hamilton Reservoir. The permit that is in violation of the zoning bylaws was issued and Escape Estate Inc. built thereafter the proposed new dwelling. Lately, the name Andre Cormier is mentioned in connection with purchasing land for the proposed regional elementary school. In these desperate times, selectman Wettlaufer is willing to buy land at a time property prices are declining. Is Wettlaufer afraid we will get the property for less if the town waits? I do want to point out that I do not accuse Andre j. Cormier or Estate Escape of any wrongdoing. It is up to the town officials to issue permits that are in conformance with the laws.
A note to the owners of the properties mentioned in this report. The variances granted to Escape Estates Inc. do restrict your rights in the future. Your dwellings were never conforming, as such they will never be grandfathered. Only a structure that was once conforming can become preexisting-nonconforming pursuant c.40A, s.6, this is one of the findings in Mendes v. Bd. of Appeals of Barnstable, 28 Mass.App.Ct. 527, 552 N.E.2d 604 (1990), see also Hall v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Edgartown, 28 Mass. App. Ct. 249, 258-259, 549 N.E.2d 433 (1990).Peter Frei
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