Bob’s Tire is one step closer to obtaining the necessary licensing and permitting to operate – but the journey there is far from complete.
At its January 23 meeting, the Rochester Board of Selectmen approved a Class III license for the company to operate at 35 County Road – but only if it and Murphy’s Auto Salvage receive a new or modify an existing Special Permit through the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The decision came after Town Counsel Blair Bailey confirmed that two businesses with two distinct Class III licenses can operate on the same property – a legal point he had sought clarity on during previous hearings.
However, Atty. Bailey said the very fact that the business operations at the property are expanding warrants a trip to the ZBA.
“My issue is the fact that you need a Special Permit to operate a business on a property that is a non-conforming use,” he said, noting that the businesses are in a residential district. “Any expansion of that use brings into question the permit.”
In addition to these issues, he said a recent ZBA denial of a trucking company at the property is pending at the Superior Court, although the trucking company has since relocated to New Bedford.
Bob’s Tire shares a space with Murphy’s Auto Salvage, which siphoned off its tire-selling business to the company.
For years, Murphy’s Auto Salvage has been the subject of complaints by neighbors who say it failed to clear out debris and junk from its previous home at 19 County St. – as required in a 1985 Special Permit. At the Selectmen’s December 6, 2011, meeting, the board gave the company 45 days to clean up the site.
At the Selectmen meeting, Michael Murphy announced that the clean up job is complete.
“We’ve accomplished everything you’ve wanted done. It is basically 100 percent done…. It was at great expense to us, but we had no problem,” said Michael Murphy, expressing his interest in achieving compliance.
Mr. Murphy said he showed Selectman Naida Parker the results of the clean up work, and she confirmed that now there are only two registered vehicles and some boats, which do not require registration, at 19 County Road.
“He’s cleaned that all out. There are not as many vehicles as in the past,” she said. “He has made a substantial effort to straighten out the facility.”
In addition to clearing out debris, Mr. Murphy said he installed a 225-foot fence around 19 County Rd. to improve the aesthetics of the property to outsiders and to discourage trespassers.
“We are not here to try to make life miserable. We are here to service the community. We do the best we can. If people have suggestions, we do them,” said Mr. Murphy. However, some Wareham and Rochester residents came out to express concerns from traffic to the impact of an expanded business.
Complaints notwithstanding, Atty. Bailey said despite the clean up, the companies need clearance from the ZBA to operate in the residential area.
“There is an issue of whether Murphy’s is in compliance and whether the addition of Bob’s Tire expands the use of the property beyond the existing Special Permit,” he said.
As such, the Selectmen agreed to approve the license – but the companies must go through the necessary processes with the ZBA first. The Class III license, which requires an annual renewal, will expire on December 31, 2012.
In other business, Town Administrator Richard LaCamera said to expect cuts in staff and services due to lack of economic growth in the town and no projected increases in state aid. He said Rochester is not expected to see any increases in state aid, with the only silver lining being that Rochester’s health insurance rates will remain the same next year.
The town learned about the lack of state aid from the Lt. Governor during a recent Massachusetts Municipal Association meeting, he said.
Rochester’s budget woes are shared with other Massachusetts towns, Mr. LaCamera noted.
“I don’t think we are alone… There were a lot of unhappy people in the audience after the Lt. Governor meeting,” he said. “This is the fifth year we’ve had no additional state funding.”
In related business, Mr. LaCamera said he is bringing in an outside auditor to review Old Rochester Regional’s financial documents. He said the state gave him an incorrect figure for the district’s surplus – or E&D – monies; it is not $1 million, but around $533,000, he said.
The school project will end up being about $725,000 less than anticipated, Mr. LaCamera also reported. He said the town is still challenging several items, which it believes state unfairly denied reimbursement.
By Laura Fedak Pedulli