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Wakefield ZBA grants variance for auto repair shop


October 18, 2012
WAKEFIELD — Despite opposition from one neighbor, Wakefield Zoning Board of Adjustment voted to grant a variance that will allow an application for resurrecting an auto repair garage and salvage yard to move on to the town's planning board for site plan review.

David Silcocks leases the property at 2517 Wakefield Road (Route 153) from Kenneth Neily, so it was Silcocks who came to the ZBA, with attorney Stan Hawthorne, to ask for permission to operate the business on a property that is now zoned agricultural.

It was neighbor Anita Muise who was most opposed to the idea of bringing the business back to life. Her property is just two doors down and she told the ZBA that she "strenuously objects" to the proposed activity, adding that it will threaten the quality of her air, contaminate the drinking water of her shallow dug well, create blight that will lower her property value, alter the character of the neighborhood, and potentially pollute the wetlands.

David Fairchild, who said he lives one-third of a mile from the Neily property and jogs by there regularly had a different take on what the rejuvenation of the business will bring to the neighborhood. "I may hear noise, I may smell stuff but I am excited about that prospect. In this economy instead of 'I don't like this' or 'I don't like that' we should instead be trying to find a way to make this work," Fairchild said.

Wakefield resident Jerry O'Connor concurred. He was in support of Silcocks' application because, he said, "Another young person may be making it and doing something for himself here in town."

Hawthorne said the plan is to restore the garage to what it was in the 1950s. While it may have been a booming business at one time, as according to Hawthorne it is the site of the second oldest Ford dealership in the state, over the years it became a site where buildings partially collapsed and salvage cars accumulated over the years behind a rickety fence. Over the past five years, he said, Silcocks and Neily have worked to move more than 100 of those cars off the property in their quest to clean things up. Several people, including some of the dozen folks who attended the hearing, board members, and the town's zoning officer agreed the work done so far is an improvement.

Hawthorne said his client plans to repair the fencing, convert the one-bay garage to two bays without changing the footprint of the building, expand the parking lot in front from its current 100 feet by 42 feet size to 100 feet by 90 feet, and sell suitable and reasonable used cars.

When concerns were raised over possible contaminants already on the site, Hawthorne said the "person in charge of inspecting salvage yards for the State" did a site visit found only minor violations that have since been corrected and no major violations.

Hawthorne said his client, is granted the variance, would be agreeable to the ZBA adding conditions to the approval including:

• Wall or fence to be constructed to separate the parking area from the salvage area so the salvage area is not visible from the road

• Only vehicles conducive for sale will be placed in the parking area

• All vehicles to be displayed to be clean and in orderly fashion at all times

• Approved uses subject to all state and federal regulations and the owner to maintain current licenses and permits at all times

• All waste oil, petroleum and hazardous materials to be contained, handled and disposed of in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.

"Whether or not we like Uncle Sam regulating our lives and businesses, he does. You can't operate a use we are suggesting without doing it the right way," said Hawthorne.

The ZBA not only included Hawthorne's conditions but also added a few of their own to the variance approval. The salvage yard is to remain no less than 30 feet from the wetlands that make up the back part of the property, no additional salvage for parts vehicles can be brought to the site and Silcocks has 10 years to part out the antique vehicles that are already in the salvage yard and remove what remains.

"Water is the biggest resource for Wakefield. We as a town need to protect it," said alternate member Steve Brown who was promoted to a regular voting member for the purpose of the hearing after John Crowell, owner of a towing service and auto repair shop on Route 16 opted to recuse himself from the hearing.

After about an hour and the application had been presented, the ZBA asked questions and heard public comment, they entered into deliberation to vote on five criteria outlined in the variance checklist.

They found that the surrounding property values would not diminish but would likely improve. "The place has been a mess for many, many years and will probably continue to improve," said ZBA Chairman George Frothingham.

The five voting members also agreed that granting the variance would not be contrary to public interest, granting the variance will do substantial justice to the property owner, the use is not contrary to the spirit of the zoning ordinance, and that not approving the variance would create unnecessary hardship for the applicant.

Frothingham said the public has 30 days to appeal the ZBA's decision before it becomes final. However, he said, anyone wanting an appeal hearing must be willing and able to present facts that might have caused the ZBA to come to a different decision had they heard those facts Oct. 15 if they want the ZBA to even consider their appeal.

The next step for the applicant is going through the planning board's site plan review process and that application is already in the works. No date has yet been set for the site plan review hearing.

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