James Dickey, who has been feuding with the city of Boston for more than 10 years over his three-decker at 97 Mt. Ida Rd., is now fighting a city attempt to do something about all the rats that nearby residents say have taken up occupancy there.
ISD last Friday asked a Boston Housing Court judge to give it permission to hire contractors to kill the rats and seal their burrows and to clean up the property - and to then attach a lien to the property for the costs, which would mean Dickey could not sell it without paying the city first.
ISD filed the request after it says Dickey failed to comply with a March ISD demand that he hire a pest-control company to deal with the rats, trim overgrown weeds and shrubs and remove "trash and debris" from the property. ISD says Dickey ignored its March "public-health nuisance" declaration and had prohibited the city and its contractors from entering the property and fixing the problems that neighbors have been filing complaints about for some four years now.
A housing-court judge granted the city's request the same day it was requested. Dickey responded this week first by suing the city - claiming it had some nerve covering the decaying building's windows with plywood and allegedly barring him from his own property - then by seeking to have the city's housing-court action moved to federal court.
Dickey, acting as his own attorney, claims the matter deserves federal attention because the city attempt to "seize and destroy" his property in a non-emergency situation violates his constitutional due-process rights. A federal judge promptly denied his request to issue a temporary restraining order against the city that would have blocked any cleanup efforts. If a judge agrees to consider the due-process issues, the city would have the chance to respond first before the judge makes a ruling, a process that could take months.
The inside of 97 Mt. Ida Rd. has been exposed to the elements since 2011, when a fire heavily damaged it, but Dickey's feud goes back further, to when ISD battled him over conditions for tenants in the building. In 2015, Dickey said he was awaiting an insurance check so that he could rebuild from the 2011 fire.
Dickey even once sued a former tenant who testified against him - a case he ultimately lost when the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled the tenant had his own rights under the First Amendment and that even if he did make a mistake about one particular problem, all the other problems inside the property meant Dickey was not harmed by that statement.
Dickey has had similar court battles with ISD over a property he owned on East 4 Street in South Boston.
State housing-court complaint against Dickey (2.5M PDF).
Dickey's request to have case moved to federal court (135k PDF).
Dickey's complaint against ISD (306k PDF).