Board: Scrap the scrap

Pomfret zoning panel denies permit to auto parts business

OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford The Pomfret Zoning Board of Appeals denied Andy Harris a special use permit for an auto parts recycling business at this site on North Road.

A proposed automobile parts recycling business on North Road has to take a detour after the Pomfret Zoning Board of Appeals denied it a special use permit last week.

“I have the DBA (Doing Business As permit), and the forms from the DMV and the DEC for a scrap license and a dismantling license,” said Andy Harris, who wants to operate the business.

However, he doesn’t actually have the licenses yet, which gave pause to board members. Board Chairman Dave Fridmann noted the operation came to their attention as a zoning enforcement violation, which forced Harris to seek the special use permit.

“I visited the proposed operation March 1st, which already appears to be in operation,” Fredonia Fire Chief Ryan Walker wrote in a letter to the board. He stated that he saw the DBA on a wall. Harris was not there, but a worker assured him the business was getting the required permits. Walker added that he advised the worker a 10-foot-wide driveway was needed at a business of that type for fire department access.

Board member Michaelene Comerford was concerned that Harris is still in the process of buying the property. “My reservation is that you are really not the recorded owner until you make the very last payment. What happens one month, two months into it if you decide, ‘I’m not doing this anymore?'” she wondered. “It’s too risky when you talk about the type of business you’re going into.”

Comerford also had an issue with possible contamination of the ground from automobile fluids, and asked who would be required to clean up junked cars left behind if he had to close the business. Harris said he would be required to clean it up, according to the terms of the land contract. Board member Bob Reuther asked who would enforce that, and Harris replied the person selling the land to him would.

“I think unfortunately it’s incumbent on us to say that it’s a little too forward to say, ‘If you do X, Y and Z by this date, you can do this,'” Fridmann said. A motion to approve the business with conditions would mean “we’d have to spend a lot of time chasing things down,” he continued, so a clean motion to approve with no conditions would be the proper course of action.

“This will give Mr. Harris a chance to shut down the business, regroup and make sure this is a viable business model,” Fridmann said. He later added, “As it stands, I feel pretty strongly we should not move forward on approving this.”

After the board voted 4-0 to deny the permit, Fridmann told Harris, “Hopefully you can get this in a better shape to move forward with. It’s just a bridge too far on the property at this time. I know you were led to believe otherwise. … I’m not happy about having to tell you this.”

Outside after the meeting, Harris called the board’s decision “ridiculous.” He said there are other auto dismantlers in Pomfret that do not have the proper licenses, but are not bothered.

Asked about his next step, he replied, “I’m going to clean the place up and we’ll see what happens from there, is all I’m gonna say. People gotta make a living.”