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Mike: Used Car Sales Keep Me in Business

The owner of Mike's Auto said on Tuesday that used cars sales in recent years have been a key part of his business' survival.

Mike Holland told the Hamilton Planning Board on Tuesday that he needs to sell used cars to stay in business.

The owner of in downtown Hamilton told the board that “we’d be toast” if he didn’t sell used cars in addition to repairing vehicles.

Things all changed for Holland a few years ago when Volvo started selling new cars with full maintenance coverage – except tires -  for five years or 50,000 miles.

“You know what that did to me? It killed me,” Holland said, adding that 85 percent of his repair business in from Volvos – Mike’s is known as specializing in Volvo repair.

By the admission of both Holland and his attorney, Jim Kroesser of Hamilton, Holland has been storing and selling used cars on the property since 2008. But it was not until about a month ago that , just north of the Wenham town line.

Previously, “there were no flags, no flower pots and no lining up of used cars,” said Planning Board Chairman Peter Clark, who said he fielded several question about it as he worked out at the neighboring .

The board spent about an hour and a half reviewing permits from Holland to allow the sale of used cars on Tuesday night.

Almost exactly 24 hours earlier in the same room at , the Hamilton Board of Selectmen at 17 Bay Road.

While Mike’s has been issued a Class II car dealers license each year since 2008 that allows him to sell used cars, he is not allowed to store them on his property under the terms of the permit. The Selectmen said it could revoke his permit or vote to not renew it if the vehicles are not removed. Under zoning, he is also not permitted to sell used cars from the property.

“Under his Class II license he can sell cars, he just can’t keep them at that location,” said Planning Board member Rick Mitchell.

He is seeking a permit from the zoning board to allow the sale of 12 used cars from the property and will go before the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Hamilton Town Hall to begin that permitting process.

On Tuesday, the Hamilton Planning Board was asked to review the site plan for the used car sales and offer its opinion on the application to the zoning board.

One of the board’s chief criticisms was that it could not answer all of its questions based on the hand drawn site plan that Kroesser submitted to the board. It is part of a series of application documents that have been submitted to town officials and are attached to this story as a PDF.

Kroesser said that while the site plan is hand drawn, it was to scale and based on a survey by Frank Hancock. Kroesser noted that site plan review usually consist of the review of new building, parking lots, driveways and lights, among other things. But in this case, he said, no changes were proposed to the site – only to store and sell used cars from the property.

“I don’t think there’s anyone on this board that wants to put Mike’s out of business,” said Ed Howard, a Planning Board member who later added he is in a conundrum “because Mike has a good reputation in town.”

For example, in March, Mike’s was named one of the in the Best of Patch Readers’ Choice contest.

And one of Mike’s customers, Richard Malabre, said he saw coverage of the issue on Hamilton-Wenham Patch and came in front of the board to express support for Holland asked the board to treat him fairly.

The worst outcome would be to drive Mike’s out of business, he said. That is what has happened in some cases in Marblehead, where he used to live.

“There are numerous vacant storefronts and it looks very bad,” Malabre said.

As he did in an , Bob Gray of Bay Road told the board that the used cars for sale lined up along Route 1A “is really not what I would like to see in the downtown.”

Howard, and later Planning Coordinator Kristine Cheetham, suggested that an offer from Mike to continue the existing sidewalk south from and past Mike’s property as a “form of mitigation” if he were granted zoning permission to sell used cars from the property.

Planning Board members also expressed concerns about how the used car sales may impact an informal agreement Holland reached with Joe Leone, who owns the across the street, for restaurant patrons to park on Mike’s property during the evening.

Clark said the board would want to find out whether the agreement to have Black Cow patrons park at Mike’s in part of the conditions for any of the Black Cow permits. Black Cow is currently closed for renovations and is expected to reopen this fall.

get your facts straight June 08, 2012 at 03:20 AM
are you in the automobile business? I know of dealers (new & used) laying off very talented mechanics on a daily basis. new cars are very easy to get low financing rates of which makes them very affordable with full warranties. maybe the next bank bail out will be all the repo's coming in because of such...it's already happening to. quite possibly it's also why Stutz Volvo after decades in business sold out to a very large group and was moved out of Salem to Danvers........ask yourself about the huge uproar over the right to repair action... it was only to protect people such as yourself...and by the way, when was the last time you noticed a broken down car on the side of a Hamilton street????
get your facts straight June 08, 2012 at 03:28 AM
as you can read by the comments..........its Henderson's creating the mess....why don't they get a "special permit" to advertize on Hamilton property for their business in Wenham. just a question for you Bob. or take down the mess next door creating the line of sight problem. and a sidewalk would eliminate the parking in front of Mike's.....good. no parking on 1A .... let's keep the idea going...I like it.
get your facts straight June 08, 2012 at 03:38 AM
I fully agree with the other comments. Let Wenham worry about the patrons at their own shops. Wenham should install a cross walk...oh that's right...the "dirt" sidewalk and choas in front of a Henderson's place doesn't allow that......too much riff raff of signage and BALLOONS hanging from trees!! isn't that what got Mike's in so much hot water..??? maybe they should ask Mike to borrow some of his flags...
Marc Fortier June 08, 2012 at 04:38 PM
>>“You know what that did to me? It killed me,” Holland said, adding that 85 percent of his repair business in from Volvos<< I'm not so sure it's Volvo's Warranty program that's killing the business. I gave a call to Mike's late last year to get a price for switching over to winter tires. The winter tires were already mounted on rims so it it was just a simple 10 minute job - jack the car up on the lift and swap the wheels. I also indicated that he could pick up the car at his leisure any time of day from from the train station parking lot. The price quoted was vastly higher than any other quote I received. I'm not a miser, I'll pay for convenience, but this struck me as flat out gouging. I think it was ~$90 if I remember correctly. Regarding the permit: It's was conditional for a reason. This isn't the Lynnway, nor should it look like it.
get your facts straight June 09, 2012 at 12:32 AM
yeah Marc, that's why he was voted number 1!

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