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Car lot sent to Planning Board.

Byline: Michael Kane

WEST BOYLSTON - The Board of Selectmen sided with the Building Inspector, not the Zoning Board Wednesday, sending a used car dealer to the Planning Board and Conservation Commission before deciding whether it will grant him a class II license to sell vehicles.

Chris Goodnow, owner of Chris Goodnow Auto Sales, is seeking permission to relocate his existing dealership at 1181 West Boylston St., on the Worcester line, to 174-181 West Boylston St., across from Keepers Pub. In previous meetings, Goodnow has told selectmen and ZBA members that he is being put out of his tenant-at-will lease to make way for a convenience store and gas station, and is seeking a new home.

In June, Goodnow met with selectmen seeking a 40-car license for late-model used cars, although he said he typically does not keep 40 cars on the lot, except at peak times of the year. Selectmen deferred a vote, even a provisional approval, until Goodnow met with the Zoning Board for a special permit. After twice meeting with the Zoning Board, Goodnow received his special permit. However, some selectmen are now questioning Goodnow's response to a May 4 letter from Building Inspector Mark Brodeur.

In a letter dated May 4, Brodeur responded to an inquiry about moving the business to the proposed location. The letter cites three steps Goodnow would have to take to open a car dealership on the site.

In addition to obtaining a special permit from the Zoning Board, Brodeur wrote that the property is in an area protected under the Cohen watershed protection bill, requiring approval from the Conservation Commission and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Brodeur also noted that the project would require a full site plan review by the Planning Board. The Planning Board agreed in a letter to the Zoning Board and in verbal testimony given to the Zoning Board by planner Patricia Halpin.

The issue of site plan review was discussed at two meetings by the Zoning Board, including input from Halpin, on June 3 and 10. During those meetings, Goodnow's attorney Edwin Attella argued that the town's parking bylaws, as written, did not require site plan review. He was supported by Zoning Board Chairman Philippe Chevalier, who argued that the thresholds set in the zoning bylaws were not reached by the project.

On June 10, Halpin referred to a different section of bylaw, saying the project should be considered new construction, based on the fact that water and sewage disposal would be connected to the planned office trailer. Chevalier noted that the bylaw had to be considered in its entirety, and that, again, thresholds were not met by the scope of the project.

In response to the need for a Conservation Commission review, Attella provided detailed maps showing the work would not fall within restricted areas, as well as a letter from the Conservation Commission from a previous proposal for the site saying the area of work did not fall within restricted areas.

The Zoning Board held only a cursory discussion on meeting DCR regulations, noting those issues were outside the scope of the board's responsibility and that the DCR and MassHighway would review the project on their own.

The Zoning Board ultimately approved the special permit, after requiring detailed information on parking and sale car placement, trailer placement and lighting, among others.

While the special permit will allow Goodnow to open the business, he is required to get a license to sell cars from selectmen. Last week, Selectman Allen Phillips said he wanted the site plan review and a letter from the Conservation Commission about the current project. Phillips told Goodnow he went through the process in reverse and that the Planning Board, not the Zoning Board needs to decide if site plan review is necessary.

"You need to have all your ducks in a row (before a special permit can be issued)," Phillips said. "I don't believe it is up to the Zoning Board to make that determination."

Goodnow said he had been verbally told by the Building Inspector to go to the Zoning Board as a first step, prompting Phillips to say he did not hold Goodnow at fault, but that somewhere, there was a "breakdown" in the process.

Selectman Christopher Rucho, who attended both Zoning Board hearings, said Brodeur is the town's zoning enforcement officer and that Goodnow had circumvented the steps in the letter.

"It tells you step-by-step what to do," Rucho said, later adding: "I think we need to have the other steps before we make our decision."

Responding to a question about whether the plan met with the town's Master Plan, which calls for the beautification of Route 12, Selectman Kevin McCormick, owner of the abutting Finders Pub and Keepers Pub, repeated a point he had made at the Zoning Board hearings when speaking in favor of the special permit. McCormick said the lot is now empty and overgrown, as it has been for years. A car lot, he told the Zoning Board, would be no worse.

"The master plan calls for big office buildings and beautiful fountains," McCormick said. "That lot has been empty ... as long as I have been alive, and there's no great push to put anything on it."

Goodnow said he had an informal meeting scheduled with the Planning Board for June 23, after The Banner went to press. He is scheduled to be back before selectmen on July 7.



CUTLINE: The Zoning Board approved a used car permit for West Boylston Street, but selectmen asked for more information last week before issuing a seller's license.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jun 24, 2010
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