By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — The issues between MacNeill’s Auto Repair and the Zoning Board of Appeals appear to be on the road to resolution, after the parties met Wednesday night at a Town Hall hearing.
“I appreciate your coming in,” Appeals Board chairman David Hatfield told Steven MacNeill at the start of the hearing on MacNeill’s appeal of the Building Inspector’s Sept. 15 Cease and Desist Order. “It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this. We didn’t want to see it happen.”
In the Cease and Desist Order, Building Inspector Jack Roberto outlined several areas of non-compliance with a Special Permit issued by the ZBA to MacNeill on May 23, 2013. Those violations included: Vehicles in excess of the 12 allowed parked overnight on the premises; lack of striping to delineate parking spaces on the lot; failure to remove non-conforming signs and to submit a detailed final sign plan, and failure to install planters and a post and chain fence around a section of the parking lot.
MacNeill was represented at this week’s hearing by Attorney Brian McGrail, who pointed out that his client is “a well-respected businessman and an asset to the town.”
McGrail further noted that when the original Special Permit was issued, MacNeill did not own the property at the corner of North Avenue and Church Street, but was merely leasing after having relocated his business from his previous location on the corner of Albion Street and North Avenue to the current site. MacNeill did not actually purchase the property until November of 2013, McGrail said.
McGrail pointed out that MacNeill has already made a substantial financial investment in the property, citing the removal of the old gas station canopy as a significant improvement to the site.
“As a small businessman, financial planning sometimes becomes difficult,” McGrail said by way of explaining the delay in implementing some to the Special Permit requirements. He maintained, however, that there was “not much left to do” and asked the board to “work with us” and give MacNeill sufficient time to accomplish the remaining work.
McGrail said that all of the old signs have been removed but MacNeill did not like the new signs that are now on the building and would like to meet with the board to change the signage design and colors. McGrail said that a sign company has already been hired to work on a new design. MacNeill is expected to present a new signage plan at the ZBA’s Dec. 10 meeting.
McGrail said the planters have been installed but added that MacNeill would like to install low-maintenance plantings rather than seasonal flowers. The board made several suggestions for evergreen options. The parties also discussed plantings around the free-standing sign on the corner. ZBA member Chip Tarbell will meet with MacNeill on the site next week to discuss the landscaping.
McGrail asked that board give MacNeill until June 1, 2015 to install the required post and chain fencing along part of the site.
McGrail also asked if MacNeill could have until May 1, 2015 to stripe the parking lot.
ZBA members acknowledged that the situation involving the number of cars parked overnight on the site has improved. McGrail agreed that the matter has been under much better control over the last few weeks. Board members said that the number of cars on the site during the business day was not an issue but encouraged MacNeill to continue to keep a lid on the number of cars parked overnight.
Board members appeared open to considering the spring dates for the fencing and the landscaping but indicated that they would like the lot striped for parking sooner. MacNeill agreed to have the striping done by Dec. 1.
Regarding deadlines for the other requirements, the parties agreed to postpone setting exact dates until their December meeting when MacNeill will have a better idea of costs.
MacNeill said that a lot of the reasons for the delay in implementing the conditions in the Special Permit have been financial.
“I want to apologize for the time it’s taken,” MacNeill said. “It’s been very tough financially.” MacNeill said that staffing issues had also contributed to having more cars on the lot at night than are allowed.
Tarbell told MacNeill that the board meant him no harm.
“Our intent was never to hurt you financially,” Tarbell said. He said that the highly visible corner had been “horrendous” looking forever. “You have a chance to make it ‘MacNeill’s Corner’ by doing these few things,” Tarbell added. “We just need to work together to get it done.”
The board met with project manager Matt McCafferty to discuss Santander Bank’s plans to reconfigure their ATM and the parking area in the rear of their building. The plan includes restriping of the parking lot. The hearing was continued to Nov. 12.
The ZBA met with owner Michael Casoli regarding ongoing work at Greenwood Plaza. Casoli and his Attorney Brian McGrail suggested that the work, including the construction of a wall not on the original plans constituted a minor modification. But the board disagreed and said that Casoli will need to file for a new hearing.