A local property owner and entrepreneur will have to park his tractor-trailer rig elsewhere until he appeals a decision by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Shawn Moreau, owner of a home at 60 Fordway, appeared before the board at its April 2 meeting as a continuance of a hearing from the March 19 meeting. At that time, the board determined that all the abutters had not been notified due to contact information for the Bunker Estates condominiums that had not been updated, and the hearing was continued until the abutters could be notified.
After hearing from the abutters and Moreau, the board voted against granting a special exception for a home business.
The property is PID 24011 and is zoned Mixed High Density Residential.
In the continued hearing Moreau stated that he could park the truck at 33 Londonderry Road, a parcel owned by fellow trucking professional Bob Cook, but there isn’t room right now because of the snow.
Abutters have complained about the noise from the truck, and Moreau said in both the first and second hearing that he lets it run for 15 minutes before he leaves the house, to warm it up, and he is gone from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. He is a contractor working with the Port Authority in Boston and the Federal government.
Chairman Lynn Perkins said parking the truck at the house came under accessory use for a home business. Moreau said he didn’t have a home office, just a file cabinet and copier, and Perkins said, “If Mr. Moreau gets a file cabinet and says he has office space, I’m fine with that.”
In his prepared statement, Moreau said he was a college graduate, having put himself through school, and had lived in Derry for six years. He bought cheaper properties and flipped them until he could afford the house he has now. He moved in last August and bought the property this past February.
The first complaint came from his blocking the stop sign, Moreau said. He moved the unit into the driveway and the complaint stopped.
Two months later he received the second complaint about the “noise, smell and look” of the vehicle through the Code Enforcement Office, and was told to cease and desist. He was also told he could file for a special exception for a home office.
In the previous hearing, Moreau had said that the truck was noisy when he first began bringing it home because it needed mechanical work; he said he had the work done and it was quieter. Abutter Richard Murphy said in that hearing that while Moreau originally parked the truck on the street, he had begun parking it in the driveway and from Murphy’s perspective, it was a lot less noise.
Moreau said Fordway is a high-traffic area, with other trucks including town maintenance vehicles. “There are fumes and noise seven days a week,” he contended.
Moreau also said he went inside the lobby of the first Bunker Estates building and shut the door behind him. “You can’t smell or hear anything,” he said. Also, he said, he’s seen commercial vehicles in the complex parking lot, including box trucks and a school bus.
He produced a map of Derry and said, “There is not one street in this town that does not have commercial vehicles.” He said he wanted to look at a map or a list of home businesses in Derry.
There are other options for his property that could be worse, he said. “I have a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. What if I did a ‘toy run’?” he said, referring to the popular outings by motorcycle clubs to collect toys for underprivileged children. “What if someone chose to build a halfway house for drugs and alcohol?” Even the garage he’s contemplating building, a 35×40-square-foot steel building, would change the neighborhood in some way, he pointed out.
Moreau said he’s just trying to establish the American dream for himself and his family. “What are we saying to people who want to move here – that you can’t park your truck?” he asked.
He said he was willing to work with people.
But Perkins wasn’t so sure. “Your testimony,” he told Moreau, “sounds vindictive. You don’t need to go this way. The defining point here is the style and size of the apparatus you have. It has raised points with other citizens.”
Moreau said he had seen other large vehicles, including tractor-trailer units and cherry pickers, parked at house lots within a mile of his home.
In the public comment portion, abutters Bev and Ivan Nault said they had no problem with Moreau parking the truck at home. “We don’t hear it,” Bev Nault said. And Ivan Nault said, “The only time we see it is when Shawn drives by.”
Robert Cook, a fellow transportation professional, said he’s “known Shawn a while. I understand people’s frustration. They want to live in quiet, but that’s not real life today.”
But residents of Bunker Estates, a mostly senior complex, disagreed.
John Moore, president of the condo association, said one of the issues has been Moreau’s driving through the Bunker Estates parking lot. “He has driven through our parking lot to get to his driveway, with no permission and no notification,” he said. “We’ve asked people doing drugs to leave, we’ve asked people who park here so they can go shopping to leave.”
Moore also charged that while Moreau said he only ran the truck for 15 minutes to warm up every morning, the hours varied. “If I’m on my deck I can hear the noise even though I don’t face 60 Broadway,” Moore said.
Eileen Leonard, also a member of the complex, disputed Moreau’s statement that he only warmed up for 15 minutes. “We can hear him revving his engine on and off for hours,” she said. “One day it was from 5:40 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.”
Leonard also expressed concern about Moreau’s backing out the 16-wheeler onto Fordway. “He can’t do it without backing up traffic,” she said, or cutting through her complex.
Leonard said one episode this winter involved Moreau’s pulling out a flatbed trailer and cars not being able to see him because of the snowbanks. Moreau later disputed the claim, saying he’s never had a flatbed at the house.
Nora Kish read a letter from her neighbor Collette Jolie in which Jolie disputed the 15-minute warmup time. “He needs to get a timer,” Kish read. “It’s been up to an hour and a half.”
Jolie also echoed other abutters’ concerns about their property values.
Resident Barbara Henderson said her unit was toward the back, so she didn’t hear the noise. But she was concerned about the visual effects, pointing out that the tractor-trailer had ripped up some of Moreau’s lawn. “It looks like it has been massacred,” she said.
Moreau countered that the damage was done by the person he had hired to plow this winter, and he was planning to re-landscape the yard. “Give me time, and I’ll have the best-looking place on the block,” he said, adding that his previous fixer-uppers had been successful.
Debbie Desrochers of Londonderry spoke for her mother, Elizabeth Bernard, who is housebound. Desrochers read a letter from Bernard in which she contended that housing the truck at a home does not fall under any of the permitted uses for a home business; that the presence of the truck is “injurious, noxious and offensive;” and that keeping it there will change the residential character of the property.
In the previous hearing Moreau said he liked to park the truck at home to cut down on vandalism, but board member Donald Burgess said that doesn’t always follow. A resident of High Street, he said, “I’ve had tires stolen off the back of my vehicle. I’ve had boulders thrown through the window. It can happen anywhere.”
In response to the complaint that he had used the Bunker Estates driveway, Moreau said he hadn’t done “it in some time.”
The board discussed the issue after the public hearing, with member Steve Coppolo saying he had several concerns. “I’m concerned about the intrusion on the neighboring condos,” he said. “I’m concerned about the noise. The use of his airhorn is not consistent with a residential area – but it’s part of what he does.”
There is no way to be subtle about a tractor-trailer, Perkins observed. He’s driven past the home and wondered how Moreau managed pulling out, he said.
Burgess expressed concern about the dust, vibration and noise. Trucks and other heavy equipment pass his home on High Street, he said, but they are a momentary disturbance.
“Trucks going by are not in our purview,” Vice-Chair Allan Virr said.
The board drafted a motion with the following conditions:
• The truck is only in operation from 6:45 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays;
• There will be no more than 15 minutes of warm-up during the operating hours;
• Moreau is limited to one tractor and one trailer at any time;
• The trailer is not to be detached; and
• Violations of the conditions would void the special exception.
Perkins took a roll-call vote. Everyone was opposed to the request. Virr said he had a “laundry list” of reasons, including the “odor, fumes, smoke and noise” and the alteration of the residential character of Moreau’s property. Virr and Dana Naurez said they voted no for the same reasons. Coppolo said he was sympathetic, noting, “The applicant is just trying to make a living.” But Coppolo voted no because he said the special exception would violate #3 of the conditions, that the business would not be “Injurious, noxious or offensive.” It’s a home business that isn’t really conducted out of the home, Coppolo said, and it will change the residential character of Moreau’s home.
Perkins also voted no, and told Moreau he has 30 days to appeal.