One observer may see an old car that should have been sold for scrap metal years ago. Another, looking at the same vehicle, would see a classic from the days of automotive beauty.
The owners of Rust Free Motors, at the intersection of Route 9W and Simmons Drive in Saugerties, see their business as the restoration and sale of classic, and some not-so-classic vehicles, while others see it as a junkyard. Saugerties residents holding opposing points of view clashed at a Town of Saugerties Planning Board public hearing on a site plan and special-use permit for the business.
The building is on the site is the former Curry Brothers repair shop, said co-owner Brian Morris. The site is still used in conjunction with the repair shop and for the display of restored vehicles. A fence to screen vehicles from view has been added to the plan, Morris said. The fence would be eight-feet wide and six-feet tall and would screen the property. Paddock fencing along Route 9W would allow a selection of restored classic cars to be visible.
Chris Mayonne, a neighbor, said she has known Morris and King for many years and if they say they will do something, they will do it. Give them a chance.” Another neighbor said the lot and repair building on it look better now than when previous owners had it. Another praised the owners for adding a fence to the plan to block the view of the cars.
“The fencing will completely block the view from your lot of our back lot,” co-owner Steve King told one questioner.
Recognizing that some neighbors were uncomfortable with the unrepaired cars, the partners have a lot in Malden for storage, Morris said. Cars would be brought to the Simmons Street location for final repair and sale.
Sue Rinaldi criticized the planned shrubbery, saying that it appeared there would be gaps that left the view of the cars on the lot open. Morris said that the shrubbery along Route 9w would be touching, with 23 shrubs to completely screen that side. He also suggested that the sooner they could get started, the sooner they could offer Rinaldi an attractive vista.
Michael Catalinotto said the site plan is deficient in that the application to the board shows the owners as Brian Morris and Stephen King, but only Morris’s name appears on the certification on the application. “The application is faulty.”
King said the owner has since signed the application and the required certification is in the file.
Brian Beale said he has seen many businesses in town that have closed and some may never reopen. The community should encourage new businesses. “Everyone is trying to knock them down; I just don’t see it,” he said.
Catalinotto contended that the operation is a junkyard, which is prohibited in the general business district. “I happen to have been an attorney for the Town in 1979 when the first attempt was made to establish a zoning law. The purpose at that time was that there were so many junkyards around the Town that the Town Board became concerned about the appearance of the town.” The result was an attempt to enact a zoning law, which took ten years to accomplish, Catalinotto said. “The purpose was to enhance the beauty of the Town, and I don’t believe anyone would say that that junkyard enhances the attractiveness of the gateway into the Town.”
The definition of a junkyard includes the dismantling of cars that are not going back on the road, Morris said. “We are not doing that. There’s a ’58 Oldsmobile outside that I got running in four weeks, and that car is roadworthy and is a beautiful classic. I understand Mike doesn’t like cars, or old cars, and I get that, but that’s his opinion. We’re trying to put a fence up and clean our lot up and make it look as nice as possible. Mike is trying to derail us by citing some law from 1942.” The aim is not to dismantle cars and sell the parts, as junkyards do, but to refurbish them and sell them as restored, running vehicles. He pointed out that Catalinotto is a lawyer and is sitting next to someone who has spoken in opposition to the business. “We’re not a junkyard; we don’t dismantle cars, we take them apart and put them back together again rust free.”
After some back-and-forth discussion about the definition of a junkyard, Planning Board Chairman Howard Post suggested that the question of what constitutes a junkyard in Saugerties Town law should be referred to an attorney.
Planning Board member Len Bourne said the question of whether this is a junkyard was first raised when the application was presented at a previous meeting. The board decided at that time that it was not a junkyard because the vehicles are registered and offered for sale as working vehicles, not broken up for parts.
Max Stach, the board’s planning consultant, looked up the law and noted that it specifies unregistered vehicles “no longer intended for use on the highway.” Morris said the vehicles on his lot are registered and are intended to be repaired and returned to service, not broken up for parts or scrap metal.
In response to a question, Morris said the plan for the lot is to line up the most attractive classic cars in the front, with those being worked on further back. Altogether the lot could hold about 35 cars, spaced out so the doors would open, as people come by and want to see how the restored classic cars would look inside.
Morris and King recently acquired a picture of the old Curry Brothers station on the site, which they intend to use to refurbish the existing building to its historic look, Morris said.
“I have known Brian and Steve for some time and having seen them in action, I have to agree with the people who said before that they do what they say they intend,” said Brendan Amodio. “I have called Brian at 7 a.m. and I’ve called him at midnight and he always has an answer to a simple question, or anything car related.” Amodio emphasized the difficulty in getting parts for some older vehicles and the amount of work it takes to restore an older car in poor conditions to like-new condition. If the partners say they will restore the site to a beautiful condition, they will do it, Amodio said.
Jack Rinaldi of Tennessee, Susan Rinaldi’s brother, said his mother lives across the street from the lot.
“I’ve got to tell you, it’s really ugly,” he said. “Something was said a few minutes ago that raised my anger a little bit. Fifteen cars in the front of the building by 9W? The cars that come in there are ugly as sin. You’re going to have 15 of them out front? I have a problem with that.”
Morris responded that while different people may have different standards of beauty, he is proposing a fence that will completely block the view from Rinaldi’s mother’s house.
While board members had questions about whether to close the public hearing before receiving an opinion from the Town’s attorney or the building inspector as to whether the operation is a junkyard, Morris pointed out that if the determination is that it is a junkyard, the current application would be moot and the business would have to start a new approval process, so a new public hearing would have to be held, while the discussion on the existing application was extensive and all the relevant points seem to have been covered.
The hearing ended with the board agreeing to check with the building inspector on whether the planned use could be considered a junkyard, the addition of several relatively small changes. Rust Free Motors will return at the next meeting on February 15 at 7:30 p.m.