Orange Selectboard members looking into status of used auto dealers

  • Orange Town Hall at 6 Prospect St. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/20/2020 2:47:42 PM
Modified: 12/20/2020 2:47:40 PM

ORANGE — Two Selectboard members have been tasked with conducting research and consulting with town counsel after one of them raised questions about blindly renewing Class II automobile licenses when some applicants don’t appear to be legitimate used auto sales businesses, and instead might be considered unlicensed junkyards.

Vice Chair Jane Peirce and member Pat Lussier will investigate the operational status of 14 locations and report back to their colleagues at the next meeting, slated for Wednesday, Dec. 23. Peirce suggested she and Lussier take on the responsibility during last week’s meeting held via the online video conferencing platform Zoom, after Lussier expressed concern about some of the businesses on the list of standard license renewals.

“I went out today to attempt to locate and sort of have a look-see at some of these used auto sales (businesses) that are asking to have their licenses renewed,” Lussier said. “And what I found is that a number of them do not appear to be in business at all. And others don’t have road-worthy vehicles for sale and they appear to just be growing into the weeds and rotting.”

She mentioned the license renewal application’s seventh question pertains to the active operation of a used auto sales business. But, she said, some of the lots she observed are dormant.

“So my question is, why would we renew these licenses?” Lussier said. “Because my fear would be that down the road, whoever is holding one of these licenses could simply reopen without any Planning Board scrutiny, or any scrutiny whatsoever, because they already have a license.

“I think we need to talk about the fact that some of these that are licensed to be used car dealers, as I said before, have nothing on their property but very old, very dead automobiles that should not even be sitting there,” she continued. “And they are actually growing unlicensed junkyards. And I, for one, would like to put an end to Orange being a never-ending row of junkyards, in certain areas. And that’s literally what we’re having.”

Lussier also noted two of the places that have licenses are nothing more than a shed-type building with a sign on it.

Selectboard Chair Ryan Mailloux said this issue is a first for him, and Town Administrator Gabriele Voelker chimed in to encourage Selectboard members to ask Building Inspector Phil Harris to address Lussier’s questions and to visit each business and speak with the owners.

Voelker recommended the Selectboard approve the renewals that night.

“Not renewing them tonight, I think, would be awkward and tough,” Voelker said during last week’s meeting. “We do have a lot of people here that are on this list that are legitimate. I hope that you consider renewing those and naming out the ones that you’re concerned about so that we don’t jeopardize the livelihood of the good ones that are on this list.”

Town Clerk Nancy Blackmer said she does not know the licensure requirements but mentioned an East Main Street business she became familiar with about 10 years ago. She said a semi-retired man regularly went to car auctions to shop for customers.

“So he had no cars on his lot, but without that license he can’t go to an auction,” Blackmer explained. “I don’t know which businesses you’re talking about … but it’s possible that that’s why you’re not seeing anything on the lots, is because they go and buy at an auction whatever a person is looking for and not actually have them on their lot.”

Mailloux said he wanted answers before moving forward on the issue and Voelker urged the Selectboard to hear from her administrative assistant, Leanna Dennis. Dennis said this is her first year dealing with licensures, but she noted that the Selectboard had approved the original licenses of the 14 listed businesses.

“So I’m not sure that you could deny them for their renewals. They’ve submitted all the proper paperwork and paid their fees,” she said. “I don’t know if this is more, like Gabe said, a zoning issue, where Phil may have to go out and do the enforcement. I just don’t know how you could deny them their permits.”

Selectboard member Tom Smith mentioned he has noticed a particular lot where the vehicles on site never move, and Dennis added that many lots have Planning Board conditions attached to their licenses that they must follow to stay licensed.

Mailloux stressed his hesitation is not meant to punish businesses.

“But the businesses that act within the capacity and the regulations and guidelines that are set forth by the town and the state deserve the respect of knowing we’re treating all of them the exact same way and they’re all being looked at the same way, and that, to me, is really what it is,” Mailloux said.

The Selectboard’s next meeting, to involve more discussion on the operational status of 14 businesses in question, is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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