Mott seeking location for impound business

Appeals violations for using his own property
Thu, 10/31/2019 - 6:30pm
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Resident Peter Mott, who has operated a towing and repair business on Block Island for 35 years, is caught “between a rock and a hard place,” as his attorney Bob Fallon said during the Oct. 23 Zoning Board of Review meeting. Fallon was representing Mott in his appeal of a notice of violation, and cease and desist letter issued by New Shoreham Building Official Marc Tillson on August 23.

Mott receives requests from the Town of New Shoreham and the Police Department to remove illegally parked or abandoned vehicles, but since his lease ended at the Block Island Boat Basin, he has no place to store them other than on his own residential property. The problem is it’s against the town’s zoning ordinance to store more than two junked vehicles on private property.

Tillson, who testified during the public hearing, requested that the Zoning Board “uphold the notice of violation,” after explaining that his office “received complaints” regarding Mott’s accumulation of vehicles, as well as an assortment of junk, and debris, on his West Side Road residential property. Tillson said Mott also installed a horse shelter on his property without obtaining a building permit.

Tillson noted in the notice of violation that he inspected Mott’s property on Aug. 21 “after receiving several citizen complaints.” Tillson said he “found 23 junked vehicles on the property” and “seven vehicles” that were being repaired next to West Side Road.” Per the zoning ordinance, no more than two dismantled, junk or abandoned vehicles are permitted on private property on the island. The notice said that Mott had 10 days to remove the vehicles and the horse shelter.

Fallon argued the appeal on Mott’s behalf, calling it “selective enforcement,” while noting that his client tows vehicles, at the behest of the town and police, that are parked illegally or junked and abandoned. He noted that Mott doesn’t have a place to store the vehicles while the incidents are being adjudicated. 

Fallon also noted that Mott’s business was displaced after the new owners of the Block Island Boat Basin ended his lease. Mott has been seeking a new place to operate ever since.

Another problem Mott is facing is from abutters, who are not happy about his auto repair operation on the property, which they feel could be harmful to the ground water in the area.

Paul Longo, an abutter to Mott’s property, said, “I just came to say I don’t like the cars being there. I realize he’s up against something. I talked to him about it last year. He said he’s trying to find another place. So, I’ve tolerated it so far. I realize he’s in a bind, but the cars shouldn’t be there. Perhaps the town can help him find a place. He said he’s trying to find a location that is zoned for it.”

“I’m worried that the cars being there — a bunch of wrecks, junks and older vehicles” sitting on the property, and decomposing, will lead to chemicals running into the ground water, said Longo. “We have pristine water where we are. All the wells in the area are good. So, we can’t tolerate that. I just wanted to go on record saying that.”

After the public hearing was closed, the Zoning Board discussed the matter. Vice Chair Kate Butcher, serving in the absence of chair Elizabeth Connor, asked the board to weigh in with how they felt about Mott’s appeal.

“We can’t change the zoning on his property,” said Robert Lamoureux.

“No. We can’t change the zoning,” said Butcher.

“I think we have to uphold the violations,” said Josh Redd.

“We can uphold the notice of violation, and he can come into compliance. He is going to have to,” said Butcher, noting that after Mott comes into compliance the notice of violation would be released.

In order for Mott to come into compliance, Tillson told The Times after the meeting that “Mott has to call for a compliance inspection.” That’s the first step. Then, “I will inspect the property to ensure that all of the junk, debris, cars, etc. have been removed from the property. Mott can either remove the unlawful horse shelter or obtain a building permit for it. Then the town will release the notice of violation.”

The Zoning Board will render its decision at its next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 21 at 5 p.m.

The Barn appeals denied

The Zoning Board, with Butcher recused, denied the two appeals of Island Enterprises, Inc. for work commenced on The Barn without obtaining a building permit and inspection prior to construction. The board denied the appeal of permitting ADA compliant construction and expansion to the physical structure of The Barn.