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'Key Question' for Mike's is Whether Used Cars Have to Be In a 'Salesroom'

Hamilton officials are grappling with the question of whether the town's zoning byalws require used cars to be sold from inside a "salesroom."

Do Hamilton’s zoning bylaws require used car lots to sell all the cars from inside a salesroom?

That’s one of the important questions that member of the Hamilton Zoning Board of Appeals are grappling with as they consider an application from to sell used cars at the downtown Hamilton business.

“I do think it is going to be a key question,” said Bill Bowler, chairman of the ZBA as the board was hearing on Wednesday night about plans to sell used cars at Mike’s. It is the second time – a review that began last month.

“What constitutes a salesroom under Hamilton zoning bylaws?” Bowler asked, noting it is an auto salesroom that is allowed with a special permit in the downtown business district. It’s that special permit that Mike’s is seeking.

“Like many issues, it is not totally clear,” Bowler said.

The application to the ZBA came after town officials informed Mike’s . It is not allowed under zoning with the special permit and the Class 2 used car license issued by the Board of Selectmen . The board ordered that all used car sales stop and used cars be moved from the property or it could move to revoke the license. As of last week’s deadline, .

No decision was made by the ZBA on Wednesday. The board instead decided to conduct a site visit on Tuesday, July 24 at 2 p.m. It is an open, public meeting of the board, Bowler said.

Mike’s Auto owner Michael Holland looked on during the nearly hour-long hearing, which will continue when the board meets again in August.

“There isn’t a car dealership in the world that doesn’t have outdoor storage areas for cars that are for sale,” Jim Kroesser, a Hamilton attorney that represents Mike’s.

Based on “common parlance,” a used car salesroom would mean that cars are kept inside and a used car lot would mean that cars are kept outside, Bowler said.

But Kroesser said case law provided by Town Counsel Donna Brewer and an search of case law at the Salem Superior Court library has not yielded any cases that define auto salesroom. There is no definition in Hamilton zoning bylaw, even though it is an allowed use – with a special permit – in the downtown area.

"There isn’t a car dealer anywhere that has all the cars for sale inside a salesroom,” Kroesser said. “It just doesn’t make any sense; It flies in the face of logic.”

And the latest discussion is not the first time the issue of used car sales in the downtown has been discussed.

In fact, in March 1987, the Board of Selectmen asked the Planning Board to draft zoning bylaws to regulate outdoor used car sales. At that time, there was concern that outdoor used car sales were violating zoning.

The then-Town Administrator Candace Wheeler wrote that a salesroom meant car were sold indoors.

That year, a zoning amendment went to Town Meeting that would have allowed outdoor used car lots and it did not pass.

“At least in 1997 some people in town thought there was a clear distinction between an inside salesroom and an outdoor sales lot,” Bowler said.

Also at issue for the ZBA, previously, was a plan presented to the board showing the proposed layout of used cars on the site. The board said it wanted plans drawn by a professional engineer.

The board said a plan drawn by hand by Kroesser was not good enough. On Wednesday, Kroesser brought a plan drawn by Peter Kane.

The plan showed seven spaces along the front – one fewer than the previous plan – and three spaces along the side of the building, one fewer than the previous plan.

“There’s a lot of detail on this – it’s great,” said board member John Rodenhizer.
After the survey, planters along the front of the property were moved by a few inches of and out of the road right-of-way, Kroesser said.

“The plan is pretty much the same, otherwise,” he said.

Customers can park behind the building or along Route 1A, Kroesser said. Parking for the two or three employees was not outlined on the plan.

“It looks a little tight,” said Jane Lyman, one of three board members.

Robert Foringer July 12, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Amazing how the town steps on the little guy trying to make a buck in these tough times. He has remove the cars complied with the original complaint and lets throw on "HE has to sale them inside" imagine if the Black Cow never opens again..we would really have a small town atomsphere it already looks dead with plenty of parking. Were making hard for new business to come to Hamilton.
Bob Gray July 12, 2012 at 12:11 PM
What Mike is trying to do here is completly change the use of the property. It's pretty clear the the zoning bylaws do not want a full blown used car lot smack in the middle of the downtown. Mike wants to put 13 used cars on that tiny lot.... can't do that safely and have room for regular customers and his help! Mike did not do this in a smart way. If he had just put 2 or 3 used cars out there I'm sure no one would have even cared but to squeeze all those cars with flags, etc on them into that small area was like raising a big red flag. No one wants to discourage businesses from expanding but a used car lot is not what most people want to see in our downtown.
Nancy July 12, 2012 at 01:21 PM
I have never had a problem with Mike's. Always looked like cars parked in a lot to me. Blended in with the cars parking along the street. Asbury Street Motors (much as I like that business) makes it hard to see coming out of Willow Street cause they have cars parked every which way. That needs to be addressed sooner than Mike's. Asbury has places on the side to park like a lot, it is when they park near the train tracks that it blocks your line of sight. Many near accidents there.
Concerned July 12, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Good God who cares?!?! Are there no other pressing issues? If not then let it go already.
Robert Foringer July 12, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Lets go find some more money hidden in the school budget...lol
Michelle Bailey July 13, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Hamilton looked a lot like Route 1 tonight at 7pm. All the cars are just passing through and not a person to be seen walking to any of the shops. At least when Mike had the used cars it looked like people actually were shopping here.
Anne Sweeney July 13, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Get rid of all the cars parked at Hamilton Plaza, The Train Station and at the High School when School is in session, at the Post Office, along town streets, that huge eyesore of a parking lot in front of the Fire and Police Stations and the Winthrop School during an election. Cars are a hazard and an eyesore, especially all those Beemers, Volvos, Saabs, Porche Cayennes' and SUV's Hamilton is known for. In fact get rid of that big Diesel Train, that monstrosity which runs through our sweet town of Plainville, spewing out all of those nasty Hydrocarbons, Soot and nasty black smoke ! Make Hamilton a Pedestrian Mall, like Down Town Salem, Gloucester and Rockport. Hey, "What about that Gulf Station" Right On the Corner in Plain view ? With all their Used Cars on the corner for sale ? That whole corner looks just what Michelle is talking about, Rte. 1 near the fair grounds ! What about that eye sore ? If we had the same zoning as they have in Delray Beach Florida, we wouldn't have all these ridiculous but true comments. Because in Delray, the town government is competent and up with zoning regulations, laws and how to present a quality town to it's visitors from the North ?
Carlial Rollendo July 13, 2012 at 11:15 AM
I agree. It's not like the lot is going to be unsightly or cause any traffic issues like the "line of sight" issues mentioned.
Richard July 13, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Anne - You should run for Selectman! Well said. I just hope Bob Gray realizes your comments are sarcastic, or you just gave him ten more places to try and shut down, not that he wants to discourage business!
Anne Sweeney July 14, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Thank you Richard, I am sure my sarcasm is quite obvious to all. Running for Selectman would be a stretch. I would have more of a problem with women voters than with the guys. I was in Hamilton Plaza today and was cut off by a Deluxe Beemer SUV, the soccer mom was not wearing her seat belt, kids jumping all around the back, She was drinking a newly purchased super sized Dunkin Mocha Chocolate smoothy, trying to lick the cream from the cover, while juggling her Cell phone and steering with her knee. I don't know if I am qualified for selectman as I am not a skilled multi-tasker as this lady was :-). Maybe tomorrow I'll see if I can succeed at trying that juggling act. I hope the Hamilton Police won't be watching. They're too busy writing up tickets, their contribution to our struggling budget. Like Clint Eastwood once stated, "A man has to realize his limitations". I am sure this applies to women as well. I think I'll be a spectator for awhile like Jay Burnham. Jay like myself should stick to our day jobs. But thanks for the suggestion and enjoy this wonderful summer :-)
Ms. Get Your Facts Straight July 16, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Bob, his help??? It's just him. Why don't you go and get a biz in downtown and then I could be all over you to shut you down. Red flag? You are the only red flag in this town for ignorance....
Ms. Get Your Facts Straight July 16, 2012 at 05:57 AM
Hey Anne....its a good idea.....you seem to get it..
Ms. Get Your Facts Straight July 16, 2012 at 06:03 AM
hey Bob remember your publication of "Enough is Enough?" enough already........stop your negativity about EVERYTHING...............go pull your lobster pots in Ipswich and leave Hamilton alone....
Jay Burnham July 16, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Hi Anne... I'm sure you can multi-task in a more rewarding manner. And you don't have to give up your day job to serve.. That said, however, after more than 12 combined years on Hamilton's Planning Board and Housing Authority I can attest to the fact that it's equally rewarding to sit on the other side of the table and participate in the discussion, knowing perhaps just a little bit more than those who have not held an elected or appointed position. Either way, a spectator you clearly are not. You are a participant and that's a good thing...regardless of whether or not others agree with you.
Anne Sweeney July 17, 2012 at 07:00 AM
Jay, thank you for your years of service. I don't know if I could stay in the Fray that long. You must have a lot of patience, of which I have little. Once my Irish temper reaches a boil, there would be no holding back. I am good at arguing and giving a good toungue lashing if I am on a role. I will however own up to when I am wrong. But I doubt I would win friends and influence people in the way they would like. Maybe Jay, you should run for Town Manager, have it an elected position. I do believe that they could have come up with a better way to diplomatically change the configuration and the way in which Mike's presents their business. They have been there for years and paid taxes to the town, which should earn them a Mulligan or two. If Hamilton/Wenham were managed in the way Wayne Marquis has done for Danvers, we would be a lot further down the road and not arguing such nonsense :-)
Ron Powell July 17, 2012 at 01:39 PM
It is against the law for the town manager to be an elected office in Massachusetts.
Anne Sweeney July 18, 2012 at 06:40 AM
And there in lies the problem
Hamiltonite July 18, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Give the guy a break, he's trying to make a living and he's employing people. What's the alternative - a boarded up, non-paying, vacant lot doing nothing for the downtown? He's probably realized by now that the # of cars, flags, etc. need to be reasonable in quantity. OK - lesson taught, MOVE ON!
Ron Powell July 19, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Anne, totally off topic, but you wouldn't happen to be "An Englishman In Seminary" over at The Informed Hamilton, would you?
Anne Sweeney July 19, 2012 at 07:16 AM
@Ron, Your answer: No, Do I look like an Englishman ? I get the feeling that both pastor and mistress have had illicit relationships before, so they both know how the game is played. To me, it's the eloquent symbolism of everything that is wrong with the Town of Hamilton; but to the Town and that church, it will be just be just another Sunday. This is why churches and all non-profits should pay real estate taxes equally as all other corporations, colleges, schools and universities. If everyone paid real-estate taxes equally, we all would be taxed less, all share in the tax burden and have more funding for our towns.
Ms. Get Your Facts Straight July 20, 2012 at 04:25 AM
to the "hamiltonite" no they are still messing with mike...couldn't get enough of their power.....sad day for the independent business man...thank you!
Ms. Get Your Facts Straight July 20, 2012 at 04:30 AM
hey Michelle, weren't you the one who caught on to the planning board breaking the "open meeting law?" just a question.
Michelle Bailey July 20, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Yes, and they reviewed the requirements of the law at their June 5 meeting so as to avoid future concerns.
Anne Sweeney July 22, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Ms. Get Your Facts Straight, No, not a sad day for Hamilton, a Sad day for America. When a small independent business cannot receive support from the town in which it serves. The little town of Mayberry received the support of all it's towns people and in return all the towns people supported all of the businesses of Mayberry. The Socialism and over regulation in this country is getting so bad I am afraid drastic times call for drastic measures. However no one will come in defense of anyone, until we all realize how much freedom we really gave away over the past three decades in this country. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16K6m3Ua2nw&feature=youtu.be

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