By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — On the advice of Town Counsel Thomas Mullen, the Zoning Board of Appeals will send a Cease and Desist letter to Steven MacNeill of MacNeill’s Auto Repair (363-369 North Ave.) in an effort to get the business to meet the conditions that were agreed to in a ZBA decision issued over a year ago.
In hearings starting on Feb. 27, 2013, MacNeill sought zoning relief from the ZBA in order to remove the old underground gas tanks and canopy from the former gas station, rearrange parking and add a third bay door to the garage. MacNeill also sought a Special Permit to allow the display and lease or sale of used vehicles.
ZBA member Chip Tarbell admitted that at the time he saw MacNeil’s application as “an opportunity to clean up the corner.”
After several hearings involving negotiations between MacNeill (represented by attorney Brian McGrail) and the board, a decision was filed on May 23, 2013.
Among others, outstanding issues of concern to the board include the number of vehicles parked on the site. In the decision it was agreed that the number would not exceed 12, but members said last night that they consistently see in excess of 20 vehicles parked on the site.
There was also an issue of striping the lot for parking which has not been completed. MacNeill was also supposed to install posts and chains around the circumference of the lot to prevent parked cars from encroaching on to the sidewalk. There were also conditions related to lighting that the board said have not yet been met. An agreed upon new sign for the top of the pole on the corner of the site has also not been installed.
The board noted that issues related to MacNeill’s noncompliance with the ZBA decision have resulted in letters to the editor and posts on social media accusing the ZBA of being heavy handed.
“A lot if not everything that he’s complained about were things that were negotiated,” said board member Michael Pierce, “and some were even suggested to us by him or his counsel.”
ZBA member Chip Tarbell agreed.
“He’s the one who came up with the plan as we asked him questions,” Tarbell said. “We didn’t force him to do anything. The letters to the editor were mostly factually inaccurate.”
Chairman David Hatfield said that he had communicated with Town Counsel Thomas Mullen several months back and Mullen had recommended a Cease and Desist letter giving MacNeill a set period of time to meet the conditions he had agreed to or the business would be shut down.
But board member Jim McBain this week said that he favored a “softer, friendlier” approach. He wanted to have MacNeill and his attorney come back before the board again and explain why he has not complied and to try to come to an agreement on a schedule to get the work done. McBain pointed out that the board had not set specific time limits in the decision for meeting the various conditions.
But Tarbell said that even though the board did not impose time limits, it was expected that progress would be made in a reasonable amount of time.
“It’s been over a year,” Tarbell said. “He’s had ample time.”
Hatfield agreed. “Everything was negotiated and agreed to,” he said. Hatfield said that he was reluctant to call MacNeill back before the board because he did not want to give the impression that the board was issuing an invitation to renegotiate the decision.
Board member Michael Pierce favored the Cease and Desist letter.
“Take Town Counsel’s suggestion,” Pierce advised. “We’re in a position of strength. We have the decision. It was agreed to. File the Cease and Desist order. That’s where we start. If he or his counsel wants to come in and make a request modify something they are certainly free to do so. We don’t have to do it, or we can listen to it.”
Pierce suggested giving MacNeill a reasonable amount of time to comply with the decision. Tarbell advocated giving MacNeill until Dec. 1. “Give him a real period of time,” Tarbell urged, “because he’s got a lot of work to do.”
Hatfield said that he would speak to Mullen and ask him to draft the Cease and Desist letter.
In other business this week, the Board of Appeals:
Made determinations and findings that will allow Gaetano Schiavone to add a mudroom to his house at 29 Warren Ave. by building out from the home’s front entrance.
Made findings that will allow Sprint Spectrum to upgrade its existing wireless antenna equipment at 894 Main St. by adding three new antennas, three remote radio heads and one hybrid fiber cable.
Agreed that a change from asphalt to concrete curbing related to ongoing work at Greenwood Plaza constituted a minor modification of the board’s earlier decision.
Referred a complaint about signage at the Richmond Vista apartment complex on Hopkins Street to the Building Department for enforcement.