Selectmen Could Scrap Salvage Yard Business

April 18, 2014

Staff Photo by S. Aaron Shamshoyan Neighbors have filed multiple complaints against Rocco’s Used Auto Parts on Park Avenue saying the business is a neighborhood nuisance.

by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

A local business is being called a neighborhood nuisance by some living in the area, leaving the business’s future in the hands of selectmen.

Multiple complaints against Rocco’s Used Auto Parts, one of several names of the business operating at 55 Park Avenue, has captured the Salem Board of Selectmen’s attention, prompting members to question if operations should continue on the site.

Assistant Town Manager Leon Goodwin informed the board Monday of complaints filed by neighbors, but said the license for a salvage yard on the property could only be revoked if it was a common law nuisance.

The salvage yard license is renewed annually by the town, and Rocco’s has operated for more than 45 years.

A variance was granted in the sixties allowing for the salvage yard to operate in the residential neighborhood, Goodwin said.

But neighbors continue to file complaints against current owner Michael McClellan, citing off-hours operations, excessive noise, ground contamination, and non-permitted uses.

Deborah Smith of Granite Avenue, a direct abutter, said work at the facility continues until 8 p.m. and later, past the 5 p.m. required closing time.

She said operation hours were even recently extended, causing more noise in the neighborhood.

“I went complaining about the hours of operation, and they have gained three and a half work hours,” she said.

Smith added cars were being dropped off overnight causing excessive noise when the business was supposed to be closed.

“It’s located in a residential neighborhood, not an industrial park,” she said.

Walter Williams of Granite Avenue said the business had grown from when it was originally approved.

“It’s completely gotten out of hand,” Williams said.  “This Saturday they were working until three or four o’clock.”

Williams raised concerns over McClellan’s expanded operation in the yard saying cars are being sold and repairs are being conducted outside of the salvage yard variance.  He also feared his property and the nearby wetlands were being contaminated with toxic fluids.

Williams added an unauthorized paint booth was established on the site, and fumes made their way through the neighborhood.

McClellan said he purchased the property nine years ago, and has been struggling to operate it.

“The business revenue now is lower than it was when he owned it,” McClellan said referring to the previous owner.  “If there’s problems we’re willing to fix it.”

McClellan said expanses to the business had been necessary to survive, and said he even obtained a dealership license for the property and at one point had over 450 cars on the lot.

He said the complaints from neighbors are not new.  “Why would you buy a house in the area?” he asked, adding there was a mobile home park and repair shop nearby.

But McClellan said he was not contaminating the ground, spending more than$15,000 to install a mat 26 inches below the ground to contain any fluid spills.

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Service issued a press release in 2009 praising Park Avenue Auto Parts and awarding them a New Hampshire Green Yard Certification, noting the mat installed on the property.

“Mr. McClellan has taken action to run a clean facility and prevent pollution that can result from such operations, including having a site investigation conducted to test for contaminants, hiring a consultant to develop a stormwater pollution plan and having an environmental mat installed in the yard,” DES officials said.

Health Inspector Brian Lockhart said tests conducted by the state on the property haven’t showed signs of contamination.

“They do meet the environmental concerns,” Lockhart said, noting that work was supposed to be done on concrete pads to guard the ground from fluid.

But repeated complaints and reports of zoning violations are causing selectmen to debate whether the business should continue to operate.

“I am moved by the plight of the neighborhood,” Selectman Michael Lyons said to a large audience of locals.

Goodwin said multiple notices had been sent to McClellan regarding violations and complaints by neighbors.

McClellan said he wasn’t currently operating the yard but had allowed Anthony Licclardi of Londonderry to manage the property.  He admitted Licclardi was operating a paint booth without permission and told him to cease operation.

Board members were concerned whether denying the renewal of the salvage yard permit would result in a lawsuit.  The board voted to continue the public forum during the May 5 meeting.

McClellan’s salvage yard license has currently expired with the town according to Goodwin, but is allowed to continue operations while the matter is discussed.  Goodwin explained car sales were permitted on the lot as part of an ancillary use of a salvage yard, but less than the 25 to 30 vehicles McClellan said were currently there.

The nearly two-acre property is assessed at $284,600 according to the town’s database and is owned by Rockingham Auto Metal Recyclers of Salem.

Other business names for Rocco’s Used Auto Parts include Rockingham Auto Metal Recyclers of Salem, Park Ave. Used Auto Parts, and McClellan’s Used Auto Sales.