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Auto shop expansion plan concerns Saugus residents

SAUGUS — A car repair shop owner wants to expand his business to include auto sales, but neighbors and selectmen have concerns.

Zalam Daaboul has owned Saugus Auto Repair, Inc., on Hamilton Street for nine months. The property is owned by 74 Hamilton Street LLC, an entity managed by Satchi Selliah.

Daaboul wants to add selling cars to his list of services. But neighbors and selectmen are not all on board.

“I don’t want to see Hamilton Street turn into an auto mile,” said neighbor Rick Smith. “It is a residential neighborhood.”

The site raises public safety concerns, including dumpsters being left open, stray tires rolling down the street, and tow trucks delivering vehicles overnight, said the Hamilton Street resident, who believes the shop is already selling used vehicles.

“Good neighbors respect our public safety, our selectmen and the process,” said Smith.

Jean Bartola, a Town Meeting member, said that while she was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, she counted 23 cars on the lot.

“The place is awful looking,” said Bartola. “It’s such a pretty little neighborhood. I don’t personally think the thing belongs there. I really don’t.”

But a long line of auto service shops on the property predates local zoning, which means it is not subjected to the town’s zoning bylaws for the neighborhood, said Wendy Reed, clerk for the Board of Selectmen.

The property has always had a gas station and repair shop, so there are no written restrictions on the property, she said.

The Saugus Police Department wrote a letter in opposition to the application because of a long history of problems at the establishment, including a number of unlicensed vehicles routinely being parked on and off of the property.

Chairwoman Debra Panetta, who lives in the neighborhood, said she walks her dog past the property at odd hours of the night and witnesses cars being packed into the lot.

Panetta said she has a concern for the lack of public need for another dealership on Hamilton Street.

“Right now, if he walks away, what we’re stuck with doesn’t work,” said Selectman Jeff Cicolini. “If this sale doesn’t go through, we’re kind of stuck with what we know doesn’t work. We have a gentleman who owns the property who, we know, is going to stuff 20-something cars in there and tell us he’s not selling them.”

If the board approves the auto dealer’s license, it will be able to place restrictions on the number of cars on the property, the number of employees, and other factors, he said. It could also be contingent upon Daaboul purchasing the property from Selliah.

“I see it as an opportunity for us to finally have some ability to put restrictions on this property and make it conform to what the residents are hoping it’s going to look like,” said Cicolini. “If we don’t do this, we don’t have the teeth to do that.”

Not everyone is opposed to the idea.

“I just know that this gentleman wants to clean up the property and he wants to do the right thing,” said resident Anthony Cogliano.

The business owner does not have a responsibility to care for the property, but has repainted and completed other projects in recent weeks, said Cogliano. Daaboul said he also paid more than $10,000 in back taxes owed to the town by his landlord.

“The present owner is a hardworking man and an honest guy, and I think he deserves a break,” said Paul Gattozzi, a Hesper Street resident.

“He’s willing to do whatever the town wants to put on him for restrictions,” said attorney Alfred Paul Farese. “He wants to be a good neighbor.”

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