Group files lawsuit over Kennedy Park Belvedere

Thursday May 24, 2012

LENOX -- The long-simmering controversy over the Kennedy Park memorial constructed last spring to honor the late Dr. Jordan Fieldman of Berkshire Medical Center is back in the legal arena.

As anticipated for the past six months, attorney Robert N. Meltzer of Mountain States Law Group, based in Framingham, filed a lawsuit against the town last week on behalf of 20 local Kennedy Park Belvedere opponents seeking the removal of the granite memorial that some residents have described as far too big.

The lawsuit was filed in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston, according to court officials contacted by The Eagle on Wednesday.

Meltzer was tied up with other cases and was unavailable for comment, according to an aide at his office. But he had put the town on notice last November that his pending lawsuit was based on his belief that construction of the memorial violated the state’s Scenic Mountain Act, which has been adopted as a bylaw by the town, because a permit had not been issued by the Conservation Commission.

However, the commission ruled last January that no violation had occurred, though it ordered some drainage im provements at the site.

Asked why the suit was being filed in Boston, Meltzer told The Eagle that he chose that route because Attorney Gen eral Martha Coakley and the state Department of Con servation and Recreation are "interested parties" to the case.

The citizens group, whose representative and public spokesperson is Sonya Bykof sky, has contended that its efforts to negotiate a compromise have been turned aside by the town. The group has stated it was willing to relocate the plaque and retain other details of the installation if the large, vertical granite memorial was removed and relocated.

Town officials have said they never received a formal proposal in writing.

Bykofsky did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

Suzanne Pelton, another plaintiff, said she would not discuss the lawsuit.

Lenox Town Counsel Fred erica McCarthy was unavailable for comment on the lawsuit. Town Manager Gregory Federspiel and several Select Board members told The Eagle they had not seen the court papers.

A letter to McCarthy from Meltzer, the citizens attorney, laid the groundwork for the suit. He argued that the Kennedy Park site was "structurally disturbed, entirely re-graded and flattened with substantial alteration to the drainage patterns."

He also described the memorial as an "industrial, Brutalist monument with a deep foundation and a re-graded site that fits within the definition of work constituting [according to the Scenic Mountain Act] ‘removal, fill, excavation or alteration of the land within the designated region.’ The notion that this project did not require prior process is simply not credible."

The lawsuit is believed to be the first court case filed under provisions of the Scenic Mountain Act.

The memorial, funded by Dr. Fieldman’s father, Michael, was built last April and May and completed on June 1, when a small ceremony was held. Michael Fieldman, an architect, has said he spent at least $140,000 on the installation and on improvements to the overlook area, which was in disrepair.

Protests from the citizens group emerged last summer. Town officials, anticipating the lawsuit, have said it could take years to resolve.

To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 496-6247.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto


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