Zoning board allows Hadley garage renovations to proceed

  • Hadley Town Hall  GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/10/2020 11:53:33 AM

HADLEY — A building permit issued for renovating a commercial garage into a new auto repair and detailing shop will not be rescinded by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The board Thursday voted 3-0 to uphold the permit issued to the owners of Exotic Auto Repair so they could complete a series of improvements to the building at 371 River Drive begun last year.

The decision means the permit is still valid and that the ZBA will not issue a finding, which had been requested by Mark Tanner, an attorney with Bacon Wilson PC. Tanner represents Philip Ciccarelli, a Comins Road neighbor who filed a Hampshire Superior Court lawsuit last year aiming to stop the project.

If the Zoning Board of Appeals had rescinded the permit, Tanner said, the project could then legally go to the Planning Board for review.

But Building Commissioner Timothy Neyhart told the board that he determined the former North Hadley Auto site was a continuous nonconforming use and that Exotic  Auto Repair owners Paul Narus and Davinder Kaur would be within their rights to seek site plan review by the Planning Board. The project included raising the height of the building by 4 feet to accommodate a new vehicle lift.

Neyhart said his decision was based on making the building safer and practical for the business, and that the Class 2 license for what opened as Lesko’s Garage in 1946 had never lapsed.

Tanner, though, said it remained inappropriate for the Planning Board to review plans before the ZBA issued a finding. He cited a section of the town bylaws that states “preexisting nonconforming structures or uses may be extended, altered or changed, provided that no such extension, change or alteration shall be permitted unless the Board of Appeals makes a finding that such change, extension or alteration is not substantially more detrimental than the existing nonconforming use to the neighborhood.”

While acknowledging this section of the bylaw, Neyhart said he has made most decisions on when a finding is needed related to a preexisting nonconforming use. With 900 building permits issued in 2019, up to 85% might have to come before the ZBA for an interpretation if the bylaw’s language is taken literally.

Before the decision, Michael Pill, a lawyer with Green, Miles, Lipton LP of Northampton, representing Exotic’s owners, told the ZBA it might be wise to get an opinion from town attorney KP Law before rendering a decision.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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