Upham's Corner Online

Buttonwood Street Abutters & ATS Equipment

Posted: February 22, 2011     Nancy J Conrad

Buttonwood residents have been living with the expressway and industry in their backyards for many years.  As viewed from their backyards, there have been three businesses visible. 
  1. To the left and somewhat hidden behind trees and one very tall fence is ATS Equipment which stores/moves large pieces of construction equipment.  Note:  Prior to ATS was Olde Bostonian, later moving to Von Hillern St.  They were quiet and never created problems (according to one of the abutters)
  2. Directly behind them was always Boston Edison which became NStar.  This property consisted of an open flat gravel yard with an electrical substation (transformer) in the center of that property.  For the most part this "industrial" use was quiet and benign - no day-to-day impact on the abutters.
  3. To the right is the Bricklayers union building where training takes place.  This building also had no impact on the Buttonwood residents.
The current issue stems from a month-to-month lease agreement made by NStar with ATS Equipment in October or November 2010.  The lease allows ATS to expand its operations to make use of the land that was surrounding the substation.  The agreement with NStar is that ATS would make sure there were no issues with the abutters before any use of the land occurred.

ATS NEVER contacted the abutters, either before or after they signed the lease with NStar. 

ATS (Steve Connolly) did contact the McCormack Association Executive Board (E-Board) who then set up a meeting (after the lease was in effect) where Steve spoke for ATS and the abutters learned how ATS would be using the NStar land. 

Starting in November and running for several meetings including the monthly association meetings, the issue was discussed with the abutters presenting their position and with ATS (Steve Connolly) maintaining his rights (based on zoning).  As of the February 15, 2011 meeting, all parties were still at odds.
Buttonwood Abutters & ATS Equipment
NStar yard prior to leasing use to ATS - clean and neat
like a small park.  Transformer is to the far right.
Buttonwood Abutters & ATS Equipment

Dramatic change after ATS started moving its equipment in.  
The site no longer looks like a park.
ATS Construction Equipment Storage
The amount of equipment being stored has grown.
ATS Construction Equipment Storage
Buttonwood Abutters & ATS Equipment
View from one of Ed MacDonald's neighbor's backyard.

Buttonwood Abutters & ATS Equipment
View from Ed MacDonald's kitchen window.
ATS Construction Equipment Storage
Poolside view of ATS machinery
ATS Construction Equipment Storage
Closeup view of construction equipment - poolside
ATS Construction Equipment Storage
More views of large construction equipment
ATS Construction Equipment Storage
Looking closeup at the same equipment.
The company ATS Equipment, Inc is located at 33 Locust St in Dorchester and is registered with the Secretary of State's office as a corportation.  ATS Equipment is associated with a total of four organizations registered with the Commonwealth:

  • ATS Equipment of Auburn, Inc
  • ATS Equipment of New Hampshire, Inc
  • ATS Equipment Trust
  • ATS Equipment, Inc
According to the Secretary of State's Registry of Deeds, the land now used by ATS was acquired by the Locust Street Trust and leased to ATS.  However, the parties are all the same (the "Connolly's") with legal entities and relationships formally separated via trusts and corporations.

2/9/1995 Edward Seferian of Dorchester sold land to John N. Connolly, Trustee of the Locust Street Realty Trust.  Note:  This appears to be the same as 33 Locust Street.

John N. Connolly, Trustee of the Locust Streeet Realty Trust executed a lease with ATS Eqipment, Inc for 20 years commencing 4/1/1995.  Note that John N. Connolly is President of the ATS Equipment, Inc corporation.  This was recorded on 8/29/1995.

33 Locust Area ZoningAccording to BRA maps, the land in back of the Buttonwood homes is zoned "LI".  This is indicated on the 5A/5BB Dorchester zoning map, a piece of which is shown below. 

The zoning appears to be "LI" which we assume means "light industrial."  This is the term that Steve Connolly used at the McCormack Neighborhood Association on 2/15/11.

The Boston Zoning Code and Enabling Act is a complete page of all documents associated with the zoning code. 

Article 36 is entitled Light Manufacturing District (LM) which, we assume, is the replacement for "LI" or "light industrial."

One of the allowed uses under Light Manufacturing is:  Construction equipment and products.

Article 12 covers Transitional Zoning.  It states the following:

SECTION 12-3. Lots in Business or Industrial Districts Adjacent to Residential District. Where a lot in a business or industrial district abuts a lot in a residential district, the lot in the business or industrial district shall have along each line abutting a residential district a yard equal in width or depth to that required in the residential district.

Where land on one side of a street between two intersecting streets is zoned partly as residential and partly as business or industrial, the front yard depth in so much of the business or industrial district as lies within one hundred feet (measured along the street line) from the boundary line dividing the two districts shall be equal to the front yard depth required by this code in the S, R or H district.

;As amended on August 30, 1988, February 1, 1989, and April 27, 1990  ARTICLE 12

Ed MacDonald (111 Buttonwood) summarized the chronology of dealing with ATS spokesperson Steve Connolly.
  1. Based on comments made by the NStar representative at the 2/15/11 McCormack neighborhood association, Ed understands that NStar placed the onus on ATS to make sure there were no issues with the abutters BEFORE entering into the lease agreement.

  2. However, ATS signed the lease agreement with NStar, then went to the E-Board (hereinafter meaning Executive Board, McCormack Assn).  Abutters were asked to attend this first meeting with the E-Board and ATS.  No understanding was reached.  The abutters do not want to look out from their backyard and see ATS equipment (period).  They do not want the increased noise and diesel fumes. 

    Note:  NStar land previously was a substation is a single building and flat land covered with gravel - no equipment.  (See photo)

  3. Within a week or two after the second meeting, ATS had put a fence around the transformer.  It would appear that ATS is assuming they will prevail in using the land according to its zoning status regardless of what the abutters think.

  4. More meetings were held with no agreement except for a few concessions such as privacy mesh and mature trees  (evergreens) to obscure vision.  No trees have been planted due to time of year. 

  5. At the February 15, 2011 meeting, all of the abutters were very angry, some showing their anger hotly and others less so.  In response to the abutters, Steve Connolly's only comment was that he could use the land according to how it is zoned (period). 

  6. The neighborhood association took a vote of the paid members on a motion to write a letter to NStar to withdraw the lease from ATS.  It passed 14-2.
Mike O'Connor (121 Buttonwood) says that around 2003 ATS began moving heavier equipment into their yard and running the equipment longer.  He knows for sure that it's generating more pollution.  He has a pool which he used to clean it only once a month.  Since then he has had to clean the pool more frequently.  Ed states that every time ATS starts up a piece of equipment, it belches out a big plume of black smoke.  They also let the equipment run idle for 10 minutes or more as a warm-up period.

There are six abutters and five are homeowners.  There is also a seventh home adjacent but not abuttig.  Two of the families (Vietnamese) raise vegetables in their backyards. With the proximity of the ATS large equipment activity, it is clear that the soil and the growing vegetables are getting covered with the fine particulate matter generated by the diesel equipment
One additional issue was raised by Mike O'Connor, abutter and fire fighter.  The electrical substation is still active and could catch fire.  That has happened 2-3 times in the past and NStar employees were injured.  While getting into the yard where the transformer is located has not changed, with the compressors packed into the yard, this is a potential fire hazard. 

Mike wonders if the Fire Department has approved of how equipment is being stored on the NStar land.

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