Lowell City Council Meeting: June 14, 2016

TIF for Kronos. Expected to relocate to Cross Point with 1300 employees by next summer. TIF requires an additional 400 employees over next five years. Kronos coming here is evidence that we are an innovation hub. Representatives of Kronos appear before council to give overview of Kronos. Kronos has been in the area for 40 years. Contacts with city thus far have been “fantastic.” Kronos is a “global workforce management” software company. This software does time and attendance, scheduling, forecasting, skills management, absence management software for vacation and leave, analytics engine to help with decision making, hiring and payroll solutions. That’s fundamentally the business. Almost every business in every sector has a need for this type of software so it’s a huge market with a global customer base. Manager Murphy congratulates City Hall staff and Kronos reps for getting this done. Council votes unanimously for the Kronos TIF.

Councilor Elliott moves to suspend the rules to take out of order motions related to the Perkins Property since a number of people are registered to speak.

Speaker #1 – asks council to stand with residents against the sale to UMass Lowell because the building contains “the very people you are seeking to attract to the city.” Says most tenants hoped to remain longterm so they specifically asked the landlord before moving in whether there were any plans to sell. They were told no; that the only plans under consideration were to convert to condos. Speaker says landlord consciously deceived tenants. Says it is unethical for UMass to purchase this complex. University’s growth “should never come at the expense of people already living here in the city.” Asks council to speak out against this purchase. Asks what message not standing up for Perkins residents will send to potential future residents of Lowell.

Speaker #2 – Moved here from Washington DC. Has a startup business. Planned to live here for next 5 to 10 years. Doesn’t know what he’ll do now. Says he’s an example of the kind of people who are being displaced.

Speaker #3 – All the tenants are devoted to city of Lowell but with 230 apartments, there won’t be enough comparable rental housing in Lowell to accommodate all of the current Perkins residents. Points out that all of these apartments are market rate and residents have annual income of close to $100K.

Speaker #4 – (IDs self as Town manager of Salem, NH). Talks of finding a letter last Friday saying they would be evicted within the next year. Criticizes UMass Lowell for not showing more innovative thought in finding additional housing. Says he doesn’t think there is a true partnership with UMass Lowell. He understands the city can’t stop the sale (although there might be some state procurement law issues involved).

Speaker #5 – (spouse of previous speaker) – chose Lowell even though could afford to live elsewhere. Got negative pushback from friends after decision to Lowell but now she is an enthusiastic ambassador for the city.

Speaker #6 – Says it just doesn’t feel right for a city to see it as OK to displace so many residents with a “secret deal.” What is to prevent the University from taking over the next place we live?

Speaker #7 – Thanks council for listening to them. Says this is a beautiful city. They want to continue being part of it. Asks council to help find a way to make that happen.

Councilor Mercier says the speakers “broke my heart.” We would like to have the University “expand to some degree” but to displace 230 residents “is not right at all.” Asks City Manager to sit down with University and show them a video of these speakers and ask if they really want to do this. She asks Adam Baacke (from UML who is in the audience) to bring that message back to the chancellor. She says the University wants to “get to the top by stepping on people.” Again asks Manager to tell University that this is not right; to find another way. She understands “we can’t tell the University to not do it.” Says her heart is broken for these people.

Councilor Leahy thanks speakers but says he doesn’t know what the city can do. Suggests they offer to buy the units as condos as an alternative for the owner to selling to UML. Someone from the city should talk to the company that’s selling (as well as to the University). Says we don’t want any of them to leave the city but urges them to make an alternate offer for the building.

Councilor Belanger agrees with colleagues that we have to retain these residents at all costs. Acknowledges that this is a “private deal that the city manager and city council did not know anything about.” Says “these are the people who help our downtown economy, young professionals with disposable income.” Says “market rate housing is the way we have to go from here on.” Mentions the Vision development as being a possible option for these people. Urges Manager to meet with Chancellor even though this sale might be inevitable.

Council Samaras says the speakers would make a perfect advertisement for why people should come to Lowell. Asks Manager “what can we do at this point?” Manager Murphy says he has an upcoming meeting with the Chancellor. “This will be discussed, how to help these people. We don’t have any legal standing but we do have moral standing to try to help these people out.” Samaras says we’re excited about the University expanding but we forget that success can create victims like these people. Says he knows Chancellor Moloney will do everything she can to explore options, but he is concerned about what the building owner will do if the University renegs on the sale. This might be a pyrrhic victory because if the company is intent on selling the building, we have no idea who or what else might be interested in buying it.

Councilor Milinazzo says he’s never heard such speaking from the heart as he did tonight. He’d like to find some kind of balance we can reach with the University. This is clearly a private sale so the council doesn’t have standing to stop it, but we should try to help them somehow. Knowing the people involved in the University, I would not question the ethics or procurement policy followed by those involved. The dilemma is that the tenants are the people we’ve always hoped for in this city so we don’t want to lose them.

Councilor Leary says this episode shows why it is important for us to have more discussion with the University about strategic planning and vision. Says pressing issue is what to do now to help these people.

Councilor Rourke says these tenants “got screwed.” The councilors all seem to share concerns for the residents.

Councilor Elliott says this doesn’t sit well with any of us here. What troubles me is the developer who came to this council and took advantage of historic tax credits which required 100% market rate housing. Says “the buck stops here. We have to take that message to the developer. We should find a way to stop this deal. We want them here. There’s got to be some legal standing for these people. We’ve got to take a stand legally and not just say ‘good luck.’” Acknowledges that historic tax credits can expire, but you shouldn’t be able to just bail out as soon as the minimum legal obligation ends. Wants to amend the motion to request city manager to approach the developer and propose that the developer sell the units to residents as condos.

Mayor Kennedy commends speakers for their stirring testimony. He says if we’re going to be honest there isn’t a lot that this council can do. Says Leahy had the best suggestion about a counter offer for a condo buyout. Also speculates developer has already thought of that and evidently found the University’s deal more attractive. Says we shouldn’t have high hopes for that but it’s at least worth exploring. Says this city has enjoyed a good relationship with the University “but over the past week that’s broken down.” Says UML’s PR in announcing this “was poor; could have been better managed.” Says Chancellor’s suggestion to meet with the city to formulate a master plan is a good idea. Says this council has to be concerned with every other development in this city because every one of them is at risk of being bought up by UML. “Everyone is happy to see UML grow and many call it a college town but it’s not a college town yet; it’s still mostly a commuter school.” Then mentions Winn and Hamilton Canal as creating a risk of the University “gobbling it up for student housing. We don’t want to stop that growth but we have to be very careful about how it occurs.” Says council’s objective is to expand the tax base but university’s acquisition of property goes counter to that. Says this deal is a lot cheaper for UML because this is a turnkey deal and there are plenty of other properties in the city that could fit the same model “to the detriment of the city’s tax base.”

Councilor Mercier says that’s exactly what she wanted to say. She says “the university didn’t have the authority to generate tax credits that the developer did back when the project was done.” “I always had a funny feeling that this could turn into dormitories.” “We have to be careful of this.” Criticizes planning board for rejecting Manager Murphy’s suggestion that some kind of recapture of PILOT on the Vision development (private dorm) in the event it is sold to University. Says she is “disappointed and disgusted with planning board.” Says she is disgusted. Notini’s, now this. Is it ever going to cease? Questions an easement on Marginal Street on the agenda tonight, suggests it should be defeated. Manager Murphy says he feels her frustration but says the easement is good for the city so asks the council not to reject it. Councilor Mercier urges the Manager to fight for the taxpayers as hard as Marty Meehan fights for the University.

Councilor Samaras says the Manager can tell the Chancellor “there was no grandstanding by the city council.” Says there have been some “bumps in the road with UML but we’ll get beyond that.” Says what we see tonight is almost like Pat Mogan’s dream of what the city could be. There’s the growth of UML, the city’s growth with Kronos, but the purpose of that is to make the city a better place for citizens like those who came before us tonight. They have their personal master plans. We and UML have to recognize and respect that.

Councilor Leahy says that UML has grown so fast that “they’ve lost their way on this.” UML should think about what’s best for the city, not just what’s best for UML.

Councilor Leary says we should look into why the developer is selling.

Manager Murphy says he had several conversations with President Meehan over the weekend. He also has a meeting with Chancellor Moloney coming up in the next few weeks. He says he’s already sent a draft agreement regarding the ICC and the Lower Locks Garage. He says the proposed agreement will be good for the city and for UML.

Councilor Milinazzo says he understands UML plans to use this for graduate and faculty housing. He says it is a private sale and criticizes Councilor Mercier for proposing we defeat an unrelated agreement (the Marginal Street easement) out of spite.


Markley Group to store diesel fuel. (about 200,000 gallons). Markley reps speak in favor. A neighbor speaks in opposition. Says he’s been troubled by the entire process. These fuel tanks will be right behind his house. Is concerned that with related street closure, fire department will have difficulty getting there. Second home owner concurs.  Councilor Rourke asks about the fire department’s input; Manager Murphy says the fire chief has “signed off” on this plan.

[Had to step away from meeting for 15 minutes so I missed a few items].

Easement between UML and the city on Marginal Street for sewer relief project. Passes 9-0.


Councilor Elliott request City Manager look into LED bulletin board at Lord Overpass to replace current plastic banners and future use following realignment of overpass. Says Organizations post banners announcing upcoming events on the railings of Lord Overpass but they look shabby after a time. Wants to investigate a technological solution that looks better and earns some revenue for the city. Councilor Samaras suggests that the study of this issue should also includes similar LED boards on other gateways into the city.

Councilor Elliott request City Manager report on the city’s real estate taxes agreement with UMass Lowell involving Inn & Conference Center and the establishment and use of funds in the community improvement fund. Councilor Samaras interjects substitute motion to bundle together all UML-related motions on the agenda and refer them to the City Manager and to the educational partnership subcommittee. Councilor Elliott suggests two of them be referred instead to Zoning Subcommittee. Councilor Mercier criticizes UML for substituting cost of upgrade of a city water main on North Campus instead of paying the $60,000 annual payment for ICC. She says all tax payers in the city have to pay for such upgrades and don’t get any corresponding credit. She says “taxpayers of the city feel like they are being robbed by the University and I can’t blame them for feeling that way.” She asks “are we all fools?” “Is the word ‘sucker’ written on my face?” She says the “community improvement fund” is just a revolving fund for the benefit of the University. She says students never have to leave the University and don’t benefit downtown Lowell. She says she is hearing this criticism “from everyone.” Councilor Milinazzo says we should show some respect for Chancellor Moloney; says Councilor Mercier’s “tirade” shows disrespect for Chancellor Moloney. Councilor Elliott speaks about the real estate agreement “that was kept secret.” Says that is not how we develop trust with the taxpayers of the city. The taxpayers of the city were here before the University and kept the city going. Our relationship with UML should be open “and on the up and up.” Questions whether the agreement was legal in the first place. “This was a sweetheart deal. We have to make sure that things done in the future are brought to this council. Is there a community improvement fund? I’ve never seen it. Council should have a role in how it is used. Also wants to speak on the Planning Board’s action in eliminating the PILOT contingency language recommended by the City Manager. Mayor Kennedy says he knew about the $60,000 agreement and he knows that other councilors have known about it so he shouldn’t say it was a secret. Elliott says if it was Kennedy’s decision not to tell anyone else about it makes it a secret.

[the following seven motions were addressed by the above substitute motion].

Councilor Elliott request City Manager report on agreement signed in December 2013 for the forgiveness of $300,000 in taxes at the Inn and Conference Center downtown and provide agreement signed in 2014.

Councilor Elliott request City Manager provide report on number of properties zoned to allow construction of dormitories.

Councilor Elliott request City Manager provide information on language to be added to zoning code requiring a PILOT for properties sold to non-profits.

Councilor Mercier request City Council support a freeze on sale of all ta paying properties to UMass Lowell until a fair formula for payment in lieu of taxes is reached between the parties.

Councilors Samaras and Leary, request City Manager invite the Chancellor of UMass Lowell to the Economic Development Subcommittee to discuss our shared vision of economic growth; the city and universities specific needs, and to begin to develop objective criteria in order to measure our shared expectations.

Councilor Leahy request City Manager provide a copy of the TIFF agreement for the Perkins Property as well as an additional information regarding the original sale of the property by the city.

Mayor Kennedy request City Manager and Assessors office report to City Council regarding the potential for taxing the commercial portion of the properties located at 50 Warren Street and 220 Pawtucket Street.

[Resuming the regular agenda . . .]

Councilor Elliott request City Manager work with Board of parks to honor Al Hebert at stone/memorial dedicated to the people of Pawtucketville.

Councilor Mercier request City Manager have Inspectional Services continue to oversee the St. Hilaire Car Wash property at 1682 Middlesex Street for health/safety violations as occurred on the evening of June 4th as well as the removal of the Planet Aid Box on the premises.

Councilor Samaras request City Manager work with the Lowell Police Superintendent to remove vagrants sleeping in the South Common and any other playground in the city.

Councilor Samaras request City Manager work with staff to extract narrative portions of the FY17 Budget Report to be used as an information document for developers.

Councilor Leary request City Manager work with the City Auditor in order to provide a report outlining all contractual financial accounts that are not included within the budget and are not annual or one time grant funds.

Councilor Leahy request City Manager have proper department work with School Department in maintaining school grounds as pertaining to lawn care and trash removal.

Councilor Leahy request City Manager have proper department provide City Council with updates regarding road work on Nesmith Street between Andover and East Merrimack Streets.

Councilor Leahy request proper department update City Council regarding tree plantings for FY17

Councilor Milinazzo request City Manager add Mansion Drive to the paving list.

Councilor Milinazzo request City Manager have the Law Department weigh in on recent decisions rendered by the License Commission regarding a number of violations at downtown bars.

Councilor Belanger request City Manager invite Winn Development to appear before City Council to discuss their vision for the Hamilton Canal District.

Council adjourns at 10 am.

2 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: June 14, 2016

  1. Paul Early says:

    Does anyone know whether or not the Planning Commission even has the authority to place a provision that a piece of property not be sold to a non-profit institution? It seems to me, and I am neither a lawyer nor involved in real estate, that such a provision would be outside their authority.

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