LONDONDERRY — Tempers flared inside Londonderry Town Hall last week, when the owner of a controversial junkyard and several irate neighbors failed to find common ground when it came to resolving an ongoing dispute over the junkyard’s operating practices.
Edward Dudek, owner of Murray’s Auto Recycling, had hoped to have his business license renewed following the July 15 public hearing — a continuance of a hearing that began at last month’s meeting.
But after over an hour of heated discussion involving Dudek, his attorney Daniel Corley, and neighbors Richard Bielinski, 89 Hall Road, and Gerard and Claudet Adams, 54 Hall Road, it became clear no easy resolution was in sight.
The 55 Hall Road junkyard has been a topic of controversy for about six years. Sitting in a residential neighborhood, the decades-old junkyard has been grandfathered into the town’s zoning requirements, much to the dismay of Dudek’s more vocal neighbors.
Following last month’s meeting, where Dudek was granted a temporary business license pending the outcome of the public hearing, Chief Building Inspector Richard Canuel drafted an agreement between Dudek, Bielinski and the Adams’ in hopes of addressing several alleged violations that have proven particularly vexing to the company’s neighbors.
Gerard Adams immediately noted that he couldn’t sign the agreement on the grounds that he’d just received it moments before the July 15 meeting began.
“The fact that I just got this in my hands at 7 p.m. tonight is crap,” Adams told the council. “This town council has been making decisions about our lives with misinformation or no information. I find this incredulous.”
Interim Town Manager Bill Hart warned Adams to refrain from raising his voice.
“Could you lose that tone when you speak to me?” he told Adams. “I don’t use that tone with you.”
Canuel said the most recent agreement attempts to address complaints that Dudek was stacking vehicles to such heights that they are an eyesore, as well as where the property’s office trailer sits.
“Those tend to be the two sticking points,” Canuel said. “There’s been a recurrence over the years of the number of cars visible above fence line. On several occasions during the licensing year they exceed the permitted height.”
Canuel reminded Dudek that complying with the previous licensing agreement stating that “no vehicles are to be above the fence line, period” would be imperative should he wish to retain his business license.
An office trailer on the junkyard grounds remains visible from Hall Road, though Canuel noted that in 1987, Murray’s previous owner had been ordered by the town to keep the trailer within the site’s fenced-in areas.
Dudek bought the junkyard in 1998.
Council Chairman Tom Dolan asked neighbors if they’d be satisfied if the junkyard owner installed a stockade fence, but Dudek said he took issue with installing a fence in front of his office trailer.
“This is very, very discouraging,” said Dudek, who said he’s recently cleaned the trailer’s exterior and he felt putting a fence in front of it “would look very ugly.”
“All I am trying to do is make the place look nicer. I have pride in my building,” he added. ” And I’ve gotten support from everyone except for my own neighbors across the street.”
“Unfortunately, not everyone has the same definition of an attractive façade,” Dolan told him.
“We want a fence,” Gerard Adams replied, crumpling up the drafted agreement in his hands.
Claudet Adams said she took further issue with the junkyard’s operating hours, noting that large delivery trucks often bring cars to the premises earlier than the permitted 8 a.m. operating hour.
After hearing from both sides, Town Councilor Jim Butler suggested the meeting be tabled until a later date.
“It was my understanding last month that all of the parties were supposed to get together and discuss this,” Butler said. “That clearly hasn’t happened.”
Hart agreed to meet with both parties to further address the issues in the coming weeks, though the council warned that a decision would be made next month regardless of whether the two parties could reach an agreement.
“This should be the last opportunity to expect some type of resolution and after that we need to make a decision (on whether or not to renew Dudek’s license),” Councilor Joe Green said.
A resolution will be made during the Aug. 19 meeting.
“In the meantime. I would encourage the parties involved to try to come together and resolve your differences in a neighborly way,” Dolan said. “I would encourage just a bit of compromise.”