Massachusetts Taxpayer Group Fails to Block Fire District Vote

A group of ten Massachusetts residents have failed in their efforts to block an election to approve a fire district’s new $19.8 million fire station.

John Julius and nine other plaintiffs filed suit in February seeking to block an election scheduled for Wednesday to approve funding the Hyannis Fire District’s proposed new fire station.

The suit is based on Massachusetts’ infamous Proposition 2½, which according to Julius’ pleadings states:  “the total taxes assessed WITHIN any city or town under the provisions of this chapter shall not exceed two and one-half per cent of the full and fair cash valuation in said city or town in any fiscal year”.

Last week Barnstable Superior Court Judge Christopher Muse ruled against Julius finding that Proposition 2 ½ does not apply to fire districts, only cities or towns.

Julius also argued that holding the election during a fire district meeting in the off-season disadvantaged residents and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because absentee ballots would not be available. Hyannis is on Cape Code and has a large seasonal influx during the summer months. Judge Muse concluded that the taxpayer group failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits, and declined to enjoin the election.

The new fire station is intended to replace one that is 50 years old. Voters previously approved the purchase of the land. The total cost of the entire project is $23.2 million. Julius believes a smaller station would be adequate.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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