SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 25, 2013

Rooming house is denied license

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — When the owner of the Greycroft Inn appeared before the City Council in November, councilors threatened to close the troubled rooming house if it did not clean up its act.

That did not happen, unless you consider a SWAT team a positive sign.

Two months after that November meeting, police raided the rooming house and arrested a resident on drug and gun charges. The incident proved to be the final straw for city councilors.

Last Monday, the City Council refused to renew the Greycroft Inn’s rooming house license, a decision that could force the relocation of its 20 residents but also, councilors hope, end the problems that have persisted there for years.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing for the residents in this situation is to move forward with a new owner as rapidly as possible,” Councilor Jim Latter said.

The Greycroft Inn’s license will expire on March 31. City Solicitor Roy Gelineau said it’s not clear what will happen to the residents but said the city will assist them in any way it can.

“I’m sure the mayor doesn’t want anybody out on the street,” Gelineau said. “I don’t think anybody wants legitimate, lawful residents to be out on the street.”

The Greycroft Inn, at 68 Dane St., has been in trouble with the city at various stages over the years due to complaints from neighbors about noise, rowdiness and crime.

The City Council, which has the authority to revoke rooming house licenses, granted the Greycroft Inn a temporary three-month extension of its license in December under certain conditions, including hiring a resident manager and conducting criminal background checks of its residents.

On Feb. 6, a SWAT team descended on the house and arrested Roland Masse, 36, on charges of trafficking in cocaine, possession of a firearm without a license, possession of ammunition and other charges. Beverly detectives found powdered and crack cocaine, a .38-caliber revolver with a defaced serial number, and cash from drug sales.

Police said the SWAT team was necessary because Masse kept a large pit bull in his room and because other residents had criminal backgrounds. He was also wanted on four warrants and was identified as an illegal alien by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, according to police.

James Mears, a lawyer representing Greycroft Inn owner Wesley Oprzedek, told councilors that the rooming house is now for sale and requested a 30-day license extension to give time to find a new owner.

Councilors rejected the request, saying Oprzedek has failed to satisfy the conditions set by the council, especially the requirement to conduct criminal background checks.

“He clearly hasn’t done a good job managing the property and making it a safe place,” said Councilor Jason Silva, who lives near the rooming house. “There are countless examples of it.”

“I’d like to be sensitive to the residents there,” Silva said. “I don’t think we ought to just kick them out on the street. I think we ought to help them find housing, but I also do not think this gentleman has earned the right to operate a rooming house in the city.”

Latter said he lived at the Greycroft Inn for two months about 20 years ago and said it was safe and well-run.

“There was a very active owner/manager,” Latter said. “He was a hands-on manager, and he had a residential manager.”

Dane Street resident Robert Schlein, who grew up in the neighborhood and lives next door to the Greycroft, said he has been supportive of the rooming house in the past, but recent activities have caused him to change his mind.

Schlein said his wife does not feel safe in their backyard, from where Greycroft residents can be overheard talking about their experiences in prison.

“I don’t think it’s possible for an operator to fail more miserably than this one has,” he said.

The house, which is located steps from Dane Street Beach, is listed for sale for $995,000. Mears said two of the prospective buyers are rooming house operators.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.