Published in the October 19, 2017 edition


NORTH READING — The owner of Route 28 Motors, 137 Main St., was brought before the Selectmen Monday night to review compliance issues related to storing more cars than allowed on the premises.

Prior to the discussion, two selectmen recused themselves from the discussion. Selectman Andrew Schultz, an attorney, recused himself because he said he had represented the dealer in the past. Selectman Steve O’Leary recused himself because he has a brother who holds a Class II license in town.

The annual Class II used car dealer’s license to buy and sell second-hand motor vehicles was issued to Hajir “Harry” Vakili last December and expires January 1, 2018. The permit allows Vakili to have a maximum of 26 vehicles for sale, 24 parked outdoors and two parked inside the garage. The number of cars allowed on the lot does not apply to customer vehicles, the license states.

Following up on complaints made to Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto, he requested Building Inspector James DeCola inspect the premises, which was done on Tuesday, October 10 at 7 p.m. when he counted 36.

In a memo issued to Gilleberto, DeCola stated: “The owner was present and agreed to move the excess cars by the end of this week. I received a call on October 11, the following day, that he had removed the extra vehicles and is now at the required 26 vehicles, as stated on the license.” DeCola added he scheduled another inspection for October 12.

Gilleberto referenced a restriction on the license that had noted of those 26 vehicles only 16 could be listed for sale “at any one time,” based on documents dating back to 2013 prior to his appointment as T.A.

“I believe the building inspector conducted a preliminary inspection a couple of weeks prior and counted 35 vehicles, and as recently as today, the building department observed 29 vehicles on the property and the police department observed 31 vehicles at a different point in the day, so we got some concerns observed by others. Our concerns were only heightened when we looked at the website, which indicated 50 vehicles are for sale,” Gilleberto said.

Vakili said he has been “in the auto business for 15 years and at Route 28 Motors for about three years.”

“It used to be 16 (vehicles) and when we had the meeting two to three years back they bumped it upon to 26 cars for sale, 24 outside and two inside,” Vakili said.

Upon re-examining the records on file in Gilleberto’s office, it was confirmed that in 2016 the Board of Selectmen had approved increasing the number of vehicles that could be advertised for sale at any one time on the premises to 26 when renewing Vakili’s license.

Selectman Kathryn Manupelli said she did not recall that change being made to the license.

Vakili explained that the reason he had 36 cars on the lot recently was due to the fact that he had to abruptly remove 10 cars he previously stored at another business down the street when that property owner decided to rent the spaces to another business owner who was willing to pay twice the price.

Chairman Michael Prisco said whether the license says 26 or 16 vehicles can be sold at one time on the premises was moot when the owner was keeping an extra 10 vehicles  above the number allowed on the current license.

“It doesn’t matter. The license is the license. I’ve been here a long time and I’ve had you in front of us with this problem before and it continues to be a problem,” Prisco said.

Vakili said when it was 16 that created a problem and they increased it to 26. “I have another storage in Reading, which I moved the cars down. It is down to the number that it should be. I try to keep it even one less. Cars come and go. As far as cars on the website, we don’t have to have all the cars on site for sale. We have cars that go to the auction or the storage in Reading.”

“I do do good business. I have not had any complaints with the customers, to my knowledge. I do my best to keep it at the number. As any business, the traffic comes in and goes; it may go one or two over, but we do move it,” Vakili said. “And I improved the property to make it look better. I always maintain it.”

Manupelli asked if he had only access to storage in Reading or a license to sell as well. Vakili said he has a Class II license in Reading for just over 30 cars.

Gilleberto said he had spoken with the police chief Monday afternoon who he said had recognized “that you did need to move a number of vehicles and you did move them in a short period of time, which doesn’t go unnoticed. But you have a maximum at 26 and you need to manage to that maximum, which means if you get a delivery of three, then three got to go. It didn’t help things when we went by for two inspections today and you were still above 26. It wasn’t by one vehicle; it was by three and five vehicles, respectively.”

Prisco said, “You are incorrect about the complaints. Former Selectman Foti used to come in to the board and complain constantly about your location. It seems every time we get close to renewing your license, you clean up the lot. Several days after we approve the license, your lot gets loaded up again.”

Speaking for himself, Prisco said, “Your license is coming up for renewal in two months and I can tell you how I am going to vote. It has been a constant issue. I have spoken to the police chief myself. It is all lip service, as far as I am concerned. A license is not an entitlement, it’s a privilege and you have certainly handled it like it is an entitlement. This discussion is over.”

Selectman Bob Mauceri said he could “appreciate” that Vakili had lost space on short notice last week, but added, “the permit is for 24 plus two and you shouldn’t be exceeding it ever. If there is an emergency, you could notify Town Hall. Emergencies happen, but the trend is, and it has been over the years that you have owned it, it has been an issue.”

Prisco ended the discussion by stating that since it was not a public hearing they would not continue to debate the issue. “We are going to see you in two months and you will have an opportunity to address it at the license renewal. You should prepare for that,” the chairman said.