SAUGUS — Saugus Auto Repair Inc. has been part of the landscape on Hamilton Street for more than five decades. But now the town wants the owner of the business to file for a special permit to continue operations.
The shop was grandfathered in as a gas station as the business’ principal use and two garage bays as an “assessors use to the gas station,” according to a letter from Building Commissioner Fred Varone. But the gas pumps have since been removed.
“The repair garage has had a business certificate for repairs in the past, but because the use has changed and the gasoline pumps no longer exist, I feel as the zoning officer that the principal use automotive repair requires a S-2 (special) permit.”
Zalam Daaboul has owned the shop for nine months. The property is owned by 74 Hamilton Street LLC, an entity managed by Satchi Selliah, who operated the business in the past.
In May, Daaboul petitioned the Board of Selectmen for an auto dealer’s license to add selling cars to his list of services. But neighbors and selectmen were not all on board. They believe the property is an eyesore and argue that the town already has enough car dealerships.
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.
Selectman Jeff Cicolini suggested the panel approve the license in May as a way to have some jurisdiction over the property.
“If this sale doesn’t go through, we’re kind of stuck with what we know doesn’t work,” said Cicolini.
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.”
But after a site visit on May 28 and a meeting between Varone, Town Manager Scott Crabtree, and Town Counsel John Vasapolli, said that a special permit is needed to sell cars at the location, according to a letter to Daaboul from Wendy Reed, clerk for the Board of Selectmen.
A second letter from Varone indicated that Daabul would additionally have to apply for a special permit to continue operating as an auto repair shop.
Attorney Alfred Paul Farese Jr., who represents Daabul, said his client has no intention of filing a special permit.
“Our interpretation is that we are not required to file a special permit to get that used car license,” said Farese. “That property has been grandfathered in for 40 or 50 years and they’ve never had to file for an S-2.”
The gas pumps were removed long before Daabul purchased the business, he said.
“He gets his renewal every year automatically,” said Farese. “This year, because he’s looking for a used car license for three to five cars, they’re trying to make him jump through hoops.”
Daabul will go before the Board of Selectmen in August for his application for an auto dealer’s license. If it is denied, he will appeal the decision, said Farese.