Conway ZBA rejects appeal for auto body shop | Local News


CONWAY – A Center Conway couple who ran an auto body shop from their home until the Zoning Board of Adjustment shut them down last week said it would reopen at a new location in Fryeburg, Maine .

Jason and Tracy Leavitt of 408 Henderson Road, whose company specializes in rust and collision repair, walked past the ZBA to ask Conway Building Inspector David Pandora why he said their company, J&T Autobody, did not meet the criteria for a permit.

Shawn Bergeron of Bergeron Technical Services, representing the Leavitts, said they applied for a permit on July 6.

But Pandora ruled on July 8 that auto repair was not allowed. He also informed the Leavittes of several complaints about their business.

Bergeron argued that auto services are not licensed as stand-alone businesses, but would be licensed as home occupations. He said there is a nine part test to qualify as a home business. “David didn’t tell us where we failed the nine-part test,” Bergeron said. “So we are in a conundrum. “

The criteria are: the occupation must be exercised by the people who live there; occupancy must be in the dwelling unit or an approved accessory structure; outdoor storage of vehicles, materials and equipment is prohibited; the occupation must not create unreasonable sound vibrations, smoke, dust, electrical disturbances, odor, heat, glare or other nuisances; off-street parking must be provided; no excessive traffic; a change of use permit is granted before the start of operations; retail and wholesaling permitted only for items raised or manufactured locally; the occupation must not detract from the character of the district.

Bergeron said he could just ask the ZBA to cancel Pandora, but felt it would be more appropriate to ask the board to ask Pandora to reconsider the request.

ZBA member Luigi Bartolomeo had no argument from Bergeron.

“Maybe (Pandora) didn’t pass the nine-point test because you failed the home occupancy definition right out of the box,” said Bartolomeo, who went on to say that the ordinance suggests that permitted domestic uses are as quiet as construction. nesting boxes, quilting or rigging fishing lures.

Leavitt said Pandora told him if he met all nine criteria the permit would pass and the only ones that might fail are noise and dust, but they’ve never gone that far. Leavitt and Bergeron also admitted that Leavitt was operating the facility even after the city issued cease and desist letters on April 16 and June 30.

City engineer Paul DegliAngeli said the zoning ordinance states that auto services are not permitted in the residential / agricultural area where the house is located.

During public comments. William Marvel, who lives up the hill, said he believed the business had been operating for years without a license.

“A change-of-use permit to operate a home occupancy is required before the start of operation,” said Marvel, whose home on Davis Hill Road is about three-quarters of a mile from the Leavitts.

“Apparently that was not a problem. But operations had been going on for at least two and a half years, at least according to the company’s advertisement on Yelp.

Leavitt said he had only been working from home since December. In a follow-up interview on Monday, his wife said they have an auto body shop business on Main Street in Conway Center.

She said they designed and built their home in a rural area with the understanding that body repairs would be allowed. “It’s our livelihood,” Tracy said. whose two children Logan Dupree, 21, and Haley Dupree, 15, live at the house.

“We have a $ 30,000 spray booth in our garage,” said Tracy Leavitt. “I’m just living on it, and I can’t smell a thing.”

Marvel told the ZBA the company was violating other parts of the nine-part test. For example, he said there were broken cars on the property as well as auto parts behind the building.

Marvel also mentioned the rule prohibiting “unreasonable noise, vibrations, smoke, dust, electrical disturbances, odors, heat reflections or any other nuisance or threat to the health of the stops.” He said that during a walk on Henderson Road he noticed a strong smell coming from the business.

“When I walked right past the exhaust fan it was… I won’t say I was overwhelmed with it, but I was sickened by the smell,” Marvel said.

Tracy Leavitt said on Monday that her home security system had captured footage of Marvel standing outside the house on multiple occasions and found it disturbing.

Virginia Greenway, who said she resides part-time in Henderson and is the nearest neighbor, said she was not bothered by any noise or smell.

John Cryan of David Hill Road said he did not “understand” how a commercial building could be stuck in a residential area. “

Dave Greenslit wondered why auto repair as a stand-alone business wouldn’t be allowed but as a home-based business.

“What difference does it make if someone makes a living from this business? Said Greenslit. “If it does not belong to a residential area, it does not belong to a residential area.

Later, DegliAnglei brought the discussion back to the nine-part test. “Our response letter will probably be a lot like what Mr. Marvel had to say,” DegliAngeli said.

Bartolomeo made a motion to confirm Pandora’s decision.

The motion passed 4-1 with Steven Steiner in the minority. Andrew Chalmers, Bartolomeo, Richard Pierce and deputy Phyllis Sherman voted by majority. President John Colbath was absent.

“We have a candidate who deliberately defied Pandora’s two letters on stopping until you got the right permit, sort of thumbing his nose at the zoning ordinance,” Bartolomeo said. find it a bit difficult to swallow.

The Leavitt’s had 30 days to appeal.

On August 20, the Leavittes announced their plans on the J&T Autobody Facebook page.

“So the Town of Conway decided to listen to the lying neighbors who fabricated a lot of lies about us and they denied us our home occupancy permit, so we will be temporarily closed and not accepting new appointments. -you. A new location is underway in Fryeburg, Maine. Stay tuned, we’ll let everyone know once we get back up and running, ”the post said.

Editor-in-chief Margaret McKenzie contributed to this article.

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