CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — A local businessman who hopes to open a used-car dealership on Route 9 in Spofford was stopped in his tracks by confusion over how the property has been regulated in the past.
During a Zoning Board of Administration meeting in Chesterfield Town Hall Tuesday night, Mark Lanoue asked for a variance to allow him to run an Internet-sales used-car lot in a parking lot behind the building that now houses Manny's TV & Appliances. Manny's currently occupies about 4,000 square feet of the building. Lanoue would like to utilize a vacant space that is about 1,000 square feet and store up to 65 cars at least 75 feet back from the roadway.
However, noted members of the Zoning Board, the parcel has been subject to a number of variances since at least 1974, when a Mercedes dealership occupied the spot. Over the years, the location has hosted an Isuzu dealership, boat storage and a wood furniture store.
"We should get some guidance from our attorneys," said Burt Riendeau, chairman of the Zoning Board, who noted "the laundry list of variances" issued over the years might have an affect on the current usage of the property. What affect they might have on Lanoue's proposal, was unknown without a thorough records review, he said.
The property is currently zoned office/retail space/service. To allow for a used-car dealership, Lanoue needs to get a variance or go before the town voters and ask for the lot to be rezoned to commercial. The abutting lot was reclassified by town voters as commercial to allow for Hunter North Security Services to operate an office and sell vehicles there.
This fact was noted by Steve Bonnett, Lanoue's attorney, who reminded the board that while Hunter North conducts sales and service and has cars lined up along Route 9, Lanoue's business model is not based on drive-by customers.
"Ninety percent of his vehicles are sold on the Internet," said Bonnette. Lanoue would do some minor work on the cars in a single bay inside the building, he added.
Zoning Board member Lucky Evans said it would be appropriate to let town voters have their say.
"I would feel more comfortable if this went before the town for rezoning. If he wants to be like the lot next door, he should go to Town Meeting."
"My gut is this should go before town voters," agreed Riendeau.
John Koopman, a member of the Chesterfield Board of Selectmen, also agreed.
"It should be dealt with in a similar manner as the abutting property," he said.
Lanoue told the Zoning Board that he operated an Internet-sales business in Brattleboro on Route 5 for nearly 20 years and only a handful of his customers were from drive-by traffic.
"It's hard to predict, but we do very little local advertising."
Lanoue's request was put on hold to allow research to be conducted on the variances already issued to the property and what affect they might have on the proposal.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext.160.