SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 14, 2012

Rooming house drawing complaints

Beverly: Neighbors say Greycroft Inn residents treat it like 'frat house'

BY PAUL LEIGHTON STAFF WRITER
The Salem News

---- — City councilors last night threatened to revoke the license of a rooming house on Dane Street unless the owner addresses complaints about noise and rowdiness.

Neighbors told the City Council’s Legal Affairs Committee that residents have turned the Greycroft Inn into a “frat house” with their drinking, swearing and loud music.

“It’s a disorderly house, and it’s got to stop,” said Robin Gauthier, who lives next door.

The Greycroft Inn is a 20-room rooming house in a residential neighborhood near Dane Street Beach. Four years ago, the City Council imposed a list of rules governing conduct there after neighbors complained about loud parties and fistfights in the street.

The house changed ownership three years ago, but neighbors said some of the problems persist.

“We’ve lived there for more than 20 years, and this keeps rearing its ugly head,” said Laura Bell, who lives across the street. “It probably doesn’t belong in the neighborhood.”

Greycroft Inn owner Wesley Oprzedek said he was unaware of neighbors’ complaints. He said he has made several physical improvements to the building and said all of the accusations make him feel like a “victim.”

“This property was falling apart,” he said. “It was a nightmare in there. There were holes in the wall, the steps were falling apart, there was no respect for the neighbors. The city really benefited by me buying this property and putting all of that effort into it.”

Rob Schlein, who grew up in the neighborhood and lives next door to the Greycroft, agreed that Oprzedek has improved the building and admitted that he felt “conflicted” about what should be done.

“It reached its nadir three years ago,” Schlein said. “There was fighting in the streets, record arrests. Things are much better than they were three years ago.”

But Gauthier, who has lived on Bay Street directly behind the building for 15 years, said the last year and a half have been a “nightmare,” with rooming house residents drinking and swearing in the backyard.

“I’m upset because this is my home,” she said. “I have nothing against somebody down and out trying to improve their lives. But the fact that I have to come here asking for peace, it’s not right.”

Councilors told Oprzedek that he must improve communication with neighbors and enforce the house rules that the City Council approved in 2008.

Wes Slate, the chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee, told Oprzedek that the City Council can revoke his lodging license at any time. Slate suggested that Oprzedek hire a manager who also lives at the property. The current manager does not.

“I don’t see how you can expect somebody who doesn’t live there to effectively supervise it,” Slate said.

Councilor Scott Houseman said he considers Oprzedek to be essentially “on probation.” If the problems are not resolved, Houseman said, “I think it’s the council’s responsibility to revoke the license.”

Slate instructed Oprzedek to provide the committee with a copy of the house rules and the contract that residents sign to live there. The committee voted to hold the matter and bring it up at its next meeting.

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