Vassalboro planners OK re-opening repair garage

by Mary Grow

After a thorough review and detailed information from applicant Olin C. Charette, Vassalboro Planning Board members unanimously approved his application to reopen his Riverside Drive repair garage, with vehicle sales and a state inspection station.

Charette’s Weeks Mills Garage at 1499 Riverside Drive already has a junkyard permit that Codes Officer Paul Mitnik recommended and selectmen issued in January. A neighbor who attended the March 10 planning board meeting commented that Charette had “done a good job” cleaning up the part of the property visible from the road, as required by junkyard regulations.

The building had previously been a repair garage, but the permit expired while the garage was not operating.

Charette provided information on access, internal traffic movement, screening, lighting, signage and other relevant characteristics of the property.

He said access from Riverside Drive is normally through the north gate; the south gate is opened mostly for tractor-trailers heading behind the building. It is not blocked by parked vehicles, however, so it is available for emergency access. Keeping the south gate clear was the only condition board members attached to their approval.

A paved area in the large front yard will display vehicles for sale; Charette plans to have no more than 10 at a time. There is adequate space for customer parking and for access to the garage doors on the south side.

The back part of the property is screened by earth berms with trees growing on top, the front part by fencing. Charette said there is a motion light on the front of the building. He does not plan to add more lights.

There is a sign on the building and, as required by the state for inspection stations, a small sign listing operating hours by the gate. Charette plans to be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and part of the day Saturdays. He said work will be done inside the garage, and there will be no evening or night work that might bother neighbors.

Charette and board Chairman Ginny Bracket and member Doug Phillips interjected bits of the history of the building, which Brackett said she has reviewed at least twice for prior owners’ permits.

Charette believes the building belonged years ago to a trucking company. He bought the property at auction and was then informed that it was a hazardous waste site and he had become responsible for clean-up.

“I was surprised,” he said.

The clean-up included soil removal, installation of run-off ponds and construction of the berms. It appears to have been successful; Charette said he was surprised again more recently when water from his and the neighbor’s wells tested safe for drinking.

After approving Charette’s permit, board members turned to Mitnik’s recommendation for minor amendments to Vassalboro’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance. They will require voter approval. Later, Mitnik emailed that there is time to get the amendments on the June 1 town meeting warrant, and proposed a public hearing on them at the Tuesday, April 7, planning board meeting.


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