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Will Corruption Flood the town of Belmont, Massachusetts?
by Ellen Mass
added to website March 31, 2007

There are many reasons to deny the Uplands Housing Project to J. Brian O'Neill Properties, but there is another special reason, not yet addressed until the present. Before proceeding further, we must ask the question to our town officials, who J. Brian O'Neill Senior is, that we are entrusting our waterfront to, in order to scrutinize his business history. This matter has been put on the back burner for us because we have desired to remain compliant with town wishes and state permitting process, despite irregularities and lack of information from the owner's design firms.

We have learned that despite the questionable practices of the Firm, they are able to hold the municipalities under control by streamlining permitting steps, and preventing due process, and creating their own set of judges, which we have also noticed here in Belmont with process, including the Order of Conditions rapid track, preventing substantial and professional input , and removing the process from town agencies and those elected to protect and govern the town.

However, the last scandal in which Brian O'Neill Senior has been involved with was the last straw to break the camel's back (us) and our previous silence. We have been reluctant to engage in personal investigation desiring to keep the process as legitimate and fair as possible, respecting the town process, with loyalty to the honesty and progress we continue to make in town governance. We do this for the sake of our families, beliefs and high regard for our community. However, at this late date in the zoning Board process, we must open Pandora's Box and tell you of our concerns based on public scandals concerning J. Brian O'Neill Senior throughout the country. We are very frightened that we are leaving our homes and watershed open for his judgement.

Ethics Conflicts and Local Government

Although the owner of the Uplands is still walking among us and not yet charged by federal or state authorities for wrong-doing, we take heed in the investigations of noted journalists in different states. Noted Philadelphia Inquirer, Jeff Shields, in his March 05 article, "Ethics, Conflicts and Local Government", is about O'Neill and his nefarious connections with Counselman.who is the point person for waterfront revitalization: Those implicated in the 600 million dollar Millenium building development along the Pa. Schuylkill waterfront with apartments and offices. Full text (may no longer be available):

"100 Crowd to Hear Development Plan"

We take heed by the Series of articles of the Providence Journal of staff writer Steve Peoples, who covered the proceedings at the Town Council in March 2005, "100 Crowd to Hear Development Plan", A packed Town Council house brought out the submission of a Bill (5688) which would have stripped the Town Council of power to over see the Portsmouth waterfront. The Commission would have been entitled "Portsmouth Waterfront Economic Development District" packed with O'Neill connections. Former Aide to House Majority Leader Fox, Anthony Marcella and Chief of Staff of Patrick Kennedy (US House of Representatives) came on O'Neill's staff during this period, in charge of O'Neill public relations- opening a lobbying firm, as O'Neill has done in Massachusetts for this property and others. According to Steve People's article, "Ex Fox Aide (House Majority Leader) Ties to O'Neill Marina" on 3/20/05, Fox was part of the future Commission tour along the waterfront which promises to be one of the largest yacht marinas in New England (1500 slips) according to the article. This project is planned for over 100 million dollars according to the press. When trying to pass the Bill that would have created the new Commission, head of the Council said to the paper, "I think they have one heck of a nerve going over Town Councils head."

Once the scandal broke, the Bill was immediately withdrawn, with plans to resubmit at a later date. O'Neill is moving ahead without final approved plans. Colleagues of O'Neill note that he works in a "morass of regulatory problems" as the basis of streamlining so as to assure municipal governance that 'it will not take years' to complete.

In 2002, President Bush came to Conshohocken Pa. to praise O'Neill for his work, and to present a change or reducing of the US EPA standards for brown field remediation, noting that previous very expensive standards discouraged revitalization of these parcels. J. Brian O'Neill was given the praise and entrepreneur encouragement to purchase. As a result, he is the largest purchaser of Brown Fiends in the U.S. today.
In February, the Rhode Island state legislature changed the House rules. They had removed many regulations that require careful scrutiny of town bills and the requirement of plenty of public notice. Committee process of killing and passing bills was also streamlined, rather than careful preceding process, wrote former state rep., Rod Driver Rod Driver in his editorial ( entitled "Rhode Island House: Back to the Bad '80s", making it much easier for bills to be passed without previous due process.