After a long and at times contentious procedure, Murray’s Auto Recycling at 55 Hall Road received a new license to operate from the Town Council. The junkyard, owned and operated by Edward Dudek Jr. , has been seeking its annual license, and for the past several months has been under fire by several neighbors who complain that the cars crushed and stacked before removal are stored higher than the fence surrounding the property, which they say is in violation of a 2009 agreement. The abutters also claim that Dudek has been operating outside the business hours set forth in the agreement and that the fence, which is supposed to be where the office trailer is located, is missing and therefore also a violation of the agreement.
Building Inspector and Code Enforcement Officer Richard Canuel told the Council Monday night that there were three options for the town. “Here we are, two months and three hearings later and certainly well beyond the renewal date for Mr. Dudek’s license,” Canuel said. “The council has heard testimony from all parties involved and as directed by the council, negotiations to craft a new agreement were not successful. We are no closer to a resolution than we were at the first hearing.”
Canuel said he has had discussions with town attorney Matt Serge, who said the council had three options. The first is for the council to renew the license as is, the second is for the council to deny the license outright, and third is for the council to grant the renewal of the license with recommendations.
Canuel said he recommended the third option.
“Basically I’m proposing that the existing conditions be amended, simply because some of those conditions Mr. Dudek has already complied with and are no longer applicable, and secondly to clarify those conditions so that we have distinct criteria, so that from an enforcement standpoint Mr. Dudek has guidance as to what his responsibilities are, and my office has distinct criteria to apply code enforcement and is not left with arguable interpretation,” Canuel said.
Canuel said there were two primary issues to be clarified – the stacked vehicles rising above the top of the fence, and the hours of operation. Councilor Joe Green said he didn’t understand how the Town Council could overturn a ruling by a judge. Former Acting Town Manager William Hart said the stipulation reached by the parties in court was separate from the licensing authority of the town.
“So there are two different things going on – the legal action adjudicated by the court, which is an agreement by the parties, and the second is the annual licensing function of the town,” Hart said. He said what Serge was referring to is that the council is dealing with the licensing function only. Council Chairman John Farrell asked the lawyers representing the three parties involved to use an adjoining room to try to reach agreement. The town is represented by Michael Ramsdell, abutters Gerard and Claudette Adams of 54 Hall Road are represented by Jonathan Boutin, and Dan Corley represents Dudek.
“We will be taking a vote on this tonight and I suggest the parties try to work something out,” Farrell said.
The attorneys went into the Woodmont Conference Room to discuss the matter. Upon returning, the attorneys said an agreement had been reached.
Dudek, who said that he had not been in the room during the lawyers’ conversations, told the council he could not agree to the hours of operations, including the arrival of his employees’ trucks, as they sometimes arrived from deliveries after 5 p.m. to return the trucks and pick up their personal vehicles to leave for the day.
“I’m not responsible for the world,” Dudek said.
He said he couldn’t control traffic and road conditions that might prevent his drivers from getting in before the 5 p.m. deadline. “It’s only a minute,” he said. “They come in, unlock the gate, drop off the truck, lock the gate behind them and drive out in their own cars. I don’t understand the problem.”
Lee LeBlanc of 58 Hall Road said he’s been an abutter for 35 years and that the situation is “ludicrous,” as he sees no problem with the salvage yard.
The council voted unanimously to grant the license renewal on the condition that the crushed cars not exceed the height of the perimeter fence and the hours of operation not exceed 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.