Changes to 'Junk Car' Bylaw A Lightning Rod For Protest At Town Meeting [with video]
The town's amended Unregistered Vehicle Bylaws will now prohibit residents from storing their unregistered vehicles by covering them with a tarp or by hiding them "behind shrubs and fences" and in fact these vehicles must be "concealed" meaning that "no visible evidence [is] discernable at the boundaries of the property." Essentially an unregistered vehicle cannot be in view from the front, sides or rear of the property by abutters or from a public way.
Spring town meeting voters approved these amendments to the Unregistered Vehicle Bylaw by a vote of 102 in favor and 59 opposed. This amendment also included the conditions of permissible storage; the methods of enforcement; and the penalties for failure to comply.
Town Clerk Mike Bouchard, who chaired the Bylaw Review Committee explained the new changes to the bylaw. The amendment states that unregistered motor vehicles or parts thereof shall be concealed after 30 days. There is a provision to offer "permits in the event that the conditions cannot be met." This amendment does not include farm vehicles, and does not apply to automotive or trucking enterprises or persons holding licenses granted under MGL Chapter 140.
In the past, the process for the dealing with the bylaw was not viewed as enforceable. This amendment now clearly spells out that this bylaw will be enforced by the Police Department, the Building Commissioner or a designee of the Board of Selectmen. The bylaw does not authorize "entering the property without permission;" but the property may be inspected from a public way. Bouchard stressed that officials would "need the [owners] permission to enter a property.
Violations are subject to penalties starting 14 days after the owner received notification. The schedule of penalties starts with a $25 per day for seven days; followed by $50 per day from the 8th to the 14th day and $100.00 per day thereafter. Each unregistered vehicle in violation is a separate violation.
Bouchard stressed that there are three ways to keep vehicles on the property; register them; conceal them; or request a $25 permit from the Board of Selectmen.
It was clear that there were a number of residents who strongly opposed this amendment, citing a myriad of reasons why they could not comply, from having vehicles "that are landlocked" to a restoration project covered by a tarp on the edge of a cliff. One resident of the Lost Lake area pointed out that he was working with his son on a restoration project in their yard, and objected to having to have to pay $25.00 for a permit when his son was a student at Nashoba Tech and was trying to learn about fixing cars.
Bouchard took time to explain each section and reiterated the three options available to unregistered car owners. However, some opponents to the amendment became argumentative, repeating their unhappiness with the amendment and one resident generated warnings from Town Moderator Jason Kauppi to watch his language after making comments that included highly inappropriate language,including the 'F-Bomb.'
In the end, the amendment was passed by voters by a wide margin.