This week, we'll take a look at each article in the Special Town Meeting Warrant. The Special Town Meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Oliver Ames High School auditorium. Today we'll take a look at Article 1 and tomorrow we'll take a look at Articles 2 and 3.
The Easton Board of Selectmen and the Easton Finance Committee have both recommended that the townspeople approve Article 1, of the Special Town Meeting Warrant, which would create a Rent Control Board in the Town of Easton, once the State Legislature approves Easton's request.
"They’re basically acting as mediator," Town Administrator David Colton said of the proposed board. "If there’s a rent increase proposed by the owner and people live there, they think that’s excessive so the rent board will look at the facts."
The article is proposed after Town Meeting last May, when residents overwhelmingly approved a citizens petition that initiated the process. The bylaw, as proposed, would allow Selectmen to act as the Rent Control Board or appoint their own members to the board.
Colton said citizens of the Mobile Home Park in Easton have limited options if rent is increased beyond what they think is reasonable.
"If you rent an apartment and the landlord raises your rent beyond what you pay, you can go rent another apartment," he said. "It might not be as big and it might not be as nice of a neighborhood but you can try to find a lower rent. If you own this mobile home and the owner of the park raises the rent for the land that your home sits on, you either sell your mobile home to someone else, which is very difficult to do, or you pick it up and move it somewhere. The people in the mobile home park have very limited options."
During Monday's Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectman Sean Noonan voiced concerns that a struggle over a small increase could cause the owner to spend more money on legal fees that could take away from capital improvements to the park.
Town Counsel Jay Talerman acknowleged Noonan's concerns, but added that it is rare to see a small increase in rent come before a Rent Control Board.
"You want to do what's right," he said. "At the same time, you don’t want to make it overly expensive for a park owner."
Selectman Dan Murphy added that the company that controls Easton Mobile Home Park, Morgan Management LLC, owns parks in communities that have rent control boards.
In addition to Easton, the company owns parks in Cheshire, Ludlow, Middleboro, North Adams, Pittsfield, and Williamstown, according to their website. Aside from Easton, there is a Rent Control Board in each municipality.
"There are sometimes when you really just have to step up for a group of citizens who have struggled and struggled," Board of Selectmen Chair Colleen Corona.