Did you hear this one?
Payback in zoning dispute
Official must shut home business
Text size By Calvin Hennick
Globe Correspondent / December 23, 2007
A longtime Norfolk zoning official, forced to shut down his home-based masonry business last week because of zoning violations reported by disgruntled citizens, says he doesn't know whether he'll ever reopen.
"This is a tough stage of your life to start over again," said Bruce Simpson, a Zoning Board of Appeals member who will turn 65 in February.
Building Inspector Robert Bullock ordered Simpson - a member of the zoning board since 1984 and a former chairman - to cease operations at E.A. Simpson & Sons, based at his Rockwood Road home, after investigating the complaints.
Bullock found that Simpson had a commercial barn and that he stored more than one commercial vehicle and employed more than one person on the property, none of which are allowed under the zoning bylaws for the residential area.
Simpson said that a previous zoning officer had approved his operation in 1983, and that any nonconforming uses should be grandfathered. Although his employees picked up vehicles and equipment each workday, no work is done on the site, he said.
The three men who filed the complaints that brought the violations to light have a "personal vendetta" against him, Simpson said.
"They're not going to be satisfied until I'm a burning ember out in the middle of the road," Simpson said. "They're going to stop at nothing."
"He's done this to himself," said local developer Jack Scott, one of the three who filed the complaint. Scott has accused Simpson and his wife, Marie, of blocking him from developing land that he owns.
"He thinks he's above the law because of his position. He hurt me, and he hurt my business and my family, and I did the same to him. You want to call it personal? Absolutely."
Scott and the two others - Peter Chipman, the town's Board of Health chairman, and Gregory Kay, who owns Shady Tree Landscaping, now based in Walpole - all acknowledge they are unhappy with Simpson's past handling of their businesses and projects. But, they said, Simpson shouldn't have meddled in other people's affairs while he was flouting regulations himself.
"All I did was file a complaint saying he's running a business out of his house," said Kay, who contends that Simpson was instrumental in forcing his landscaping business out of town over a zoning issue. "Whether it's personal or not, he's violating the law."
Chipman said he was incensed when Simpson wrote a letter to the Planning Board that advised against approval for his request to close off an access point to his property on Main Street, where Chipman plans to develop a mixed-use building.
"My complaint was, here I am following the rules, and here's a guy who is basically openly and grossly violating them and has the nerve to step in my way," Chipman said. "He's a hypocrite."
Simpson said that complaining to the town and getting his business shut down was "over the top."
"You don't like somebody, you talk to them," he said. "But you don't annihilate them."
Bullock said it doesn't matter whether the complaints were personally motivated, but whether Simpson is in violation of the town's bylaws. Simpson may have a case that the barn should be grandfathered, he said, since it was built before the bylaw that prohibits it went into effect, but the bylaws concerning the number of commercial vehicles and employees predate Simpson's masonry operation at his home.
Norfolk's building inspector said that Simpson has two options if he wants to reopen his business. He can either take his case to the Zoning Board of Appeals - recusing himself from the proceedings - or he can find another site for his vehicles and employees.
"It's pretty much black and white," Bullock said.