Embattled homeowner’s property going up for auction in Greenfield

  • Western Housing Court Judge Robert G. Fields has authorized Witman Properties, of Holyoke, to auction off Douglas Sky Wight’s property at 237 Conway St. in Greenfield in order to satisfy the priority lien against it. The house was placed into receivership in August 2020 so Witman Properties could resolve the house’s numerous safety violations. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer
Published: 5/3/2021 3:05:13 PM

GREENFIELD — A Western Housing Court judge has authorized the property manager of 237 Conway St. to put the house up for auction, likely setting up the final chapter of a 1½-year saga involving a landlord who bills himself as an advocate for the poor and homeless.

Judge Robert G. Fields gave the nod to Witman Properties to sell the house to satisfy its priority lien. The Holyoke company started managing Douglas Sky Wight’s property in August 2020, when Fields ordered the house into receivership in an attempt to have its numerous safety violations resolved. Wight has been entwined in a legal battle with the Greenfield Health Department since late 2019.

Anthony Witman, owner and president of Witman Properties, explained the auction will be advertised in a newspaper and likely held in early June, with a professional auctioneer. Witman was tasked with collecting tenants’ rent and ensuring all necessary repairs were made.

“We made the improvements … but Doug has not made any movement to pay us off,” he said, adding that he is owed at least $29,000 for the work, utilities and legal fees. “It’s Doug’s job as the owner to present reasons for why it shouldn’t be auctioned.”

Wight said he has not received any itemized bill from Witman. Wight is indebted to UMassFive College Federal Credit Union for his first mortgage on the house. He told the Greenfield Recorder he wants to sell the house or donate it to the Unitarian Universalist Church, though Witman and attorney Roger Reid, who is representing Greenfield, have said that is not a possibility for Wight because of the receiver’s property lien and the statutory municipal liens against the house.

Reid explained the house will go up for auction and Witman Properties will get “the first bite” of the winning bid, UMassFive will get “the second bite,” and the balance will go to Wight, who can use the money to pay Witman Properties what he owes.

“I don’t want this to go up for auction. They’re stealing my home,” said Wight, who closed on the property on May 15, 2015. “I’d sooner burn it down than have them get it.”

He has also expressed desire to move to Vermont. Wight has previously said he rents out rooms to the poor and homeless due to a desire to help them, having lived out of the back of a pickup truck for 10 years.

This matter first went to court in December 2019. Wight, who had two attic tenants, received a cease-and-desist letter from Greenfield Building Inspector Mark Snow in October to inform him the attic was not approved for living or sleeping and those tenants could no longer be there. Also, 10 people were residing in the structure, though only four unrelated people can legally live in a single-family dwelling in the Urban Residential zoning district. The letter also reminded Wight there had been a similar issue in 2017. But Wight told the court and the Greenfield Recorder those tenants would not leave.

At the time, Fields ordered Wight to pay to lodge his two attic tenants in a hotel or motel with cooking facilities until Dec. 20. Wight was also ordered to make certain repairs, such as removing the extension cords from the basement, using approved materials to seal an opening around a chimney thimble, getting the house’s smoke alarms to work in unison, and removing a bed frame and mattress from the attic. Wight was one of the seven people living in the house by this time.

On Jan. 3, 2020, Fields ordered Wight to continue paying for the two prior attic tenants to stay in a hotel, giving the couple $75 a day as a food stipend if the room lacked cooking facilities, until Jan. 13. This order was repeated later in the month, when Fields warned Wight against being found in contempt of court. Reid informed Fields the two tenants had been living in a car the prior couple of weeks, a claim Wight rebutted. Wight had booked a room at the Red Roof PLUS+ in South Deerfield, though he later canceled the reservation because he learned the rooms did not have cooking facilities and he could not afford both the room and the daily stipend.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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