As New Boston plays “Whack-a-Mole” with a commercial property that has been in existence since June 1965 as a repair garage/towing service, now deemed a “junkyard” in order to strip its vested property rights, a few questions pop up. (For background on this story, please click here for story one and here for story two. ~Publius)
“Duke’s Garage,” the business in question, was issued a summons in 1970, by New Boston Police, for having more than two unregistered cars parked there. It turns out the offending vehicles were awaiting insurance company clearance for being towed by Duke’s Garage. Residential properties are restricted form having more than two unregistered vehicles. Grandfathered commercial is not subject to residential zoning even if it is in a residential area.
Oops, the Town lost that argument. And in Duke’s Garage’s favor, a map was drawn in 1970 showing the “offending vehicles.” That is called a “paper trail.”
In 1978, New Boston again took Duke’s Garage to Goffstown District Court for unlicensed vehicle problems. The document I have from that case has an X where it says – Not Guilty.
Oops, egg on Town face. More paper in the paper trail.
Not to be denied an opportunity to create a new policy regarding tow truck operators, a new requirement of liability insurance soon popped up. Duke’s Garage had to give New Boston a certificate of insurance to continue being a towing service and impound lot. Duke’s Garage towed vehicles and impounded them for the Town at the time.
Duke’s Garage has, to this day, a towing service. There is a ramp truck on his property right now unless the Town has taken it away as scrap. All the vehicles used in the business are registered. Duke’s Garage also plows snow for the State of NH. That truck is licensed and registered.
Duke’s Garage has a set of what is known as “Repair Plates” issued by the State for moving vehicles needing repair when they are not inspected. They have been issued to Duke’s Garage for years.
Here is where it gets sticky – for New Boston.
New Boston has a Towing Policy. You can find it here: http://www.newbostonnh.gov/Pages/NewBostonNH_Selectmen/Towing%20Policy.pdf
As with most town policies – it is detailed and pretty specific. That depends of course who you are.
Part of the Towing Policy requires companies towing for the Town of New Boston to have:
- Any towing service with at least one (1) properly equipped wrecker and a storage yard in a properly zoned area, capable of holding ten (10) or more vehicles and doing business within five (5) miles from the New Boston Town borders shall be eligible for the duty wrecker list.
Duke’s Garage has a ramp truck, he has a commercial driver’s license, he has a grandfathered 1.5 acre lot and plenty of room to park up to ten cars. If you look at the 1970 map of his property it is apparent that he had vehicles parked there, all lined up on the left side of his property.
So how does the Town of New Boston circumvent pre-existing, non-conforming uses going back long before zoning was adopted in New Boston?
They can’t – legally, so they insist that this property is an illegal junkyard and use junkyard statutes to strip Duke’s Garage of property rights and the ability to conduct business. No ability to impound cars – no contract to tow. See how it works?
Under the guise of cleaning up “junk” on the property New Boston has ignored their own policy for hiring contractors who have been hauling away such “junk” as the tire changing machine, a compressor, $1,600 in stainless steel sheet stock, and a personal, galvanized boat trailer – license plate still attached.
The Town was supposed to give Duke’s Garage an “inventory list” before it started using an uninsured contractor and container company to haul things away.
They delivered it last week, by hand, long after most of the junk and some of Duke’s personal property was relocated – to an illegal junkyard in Dunbarton.
This is starting to look like New Boston has another policy called – Vexatious and Malicious.
They seem to enforce that one.