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Auto shop proposed at former bus depot

Antrim resident Scott MacKenzie wants to turn this building along Route 202 in Peterborough into a repair business.

(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

Antrim resident Scott MacKenzie wants to turn this building along Route 202 in Peterborough into a repair business. (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

PETERBOROUGH — An Antrim man wants to open an auto repair business in the former Conelec building on Route 202 across from Scott Mitchell Road. The building, which is currently for sale, was most recently used as the bus depot for Laidlaw Transportation when that company had the ConVal school bus contract.

Scott MacKenzie told the members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Monday that he’d like to use one of the three bays in the building to do auto repair work and use the rest of the building for warehousing or to repair and sell equipment such as chain saws, lawnmowers and snowblowers. He also runs a towing business and a mobile repair truck and would use the building as a base for those operations.

MacKenzie emphasized that he is not planning to open a gas station, saying his focus would be on repairs.

“I don’t want to get into this building with my hands tied,” MacKenzie told the board. “I want to be able to repair everything.”

MacKenzie said he’s also hoping to sell used or repaired vehicles at the site and he’d like to have the option to rent some of the space for other business purposes.

“I had a landscaper interested, but I don’t have anyone lined up,” he said.

The property is in the Rural District, abutting land in the Commerce Park district on the west side of the state highway. It has been vacant in recent years, although real estate agent Andy Peterson of Peterborough, who is marketing the land and building for the current owner, John Loeb of Amherst, said the site had approved as a bus depot by earlier decisions of the ZBA and had been leased for that purpose until August 2012.

“Allowing this use would not be at variance with what is happening in the neighborhood,” said MacKenzie’s attorney, Silas Little of Peterborough, during his presentation to the board. “It was developed for industrial use. The zoning has changed and the building is now a non-conforming use. We think it meets all the criteria for a special exception.”

Loeb said the building, which was originally built to house a circuit board manufacturing business, has a sealed floor and self-contained recycling system to keep any spilled contaminants contained.

“Laidlaw was extremely cognizant of environmental issues,” Loeb said.

According to Loeb, the above-ground fuel tank behind the building has been closed, now that buses are no longer using the site.

“It’s there, but I’m not intending to use it,” MacKenzie said about the tank.

Francie Von Mertens, who owns land across the street from the site, where a community garden is located, said she was neither for nor against the proposal, but still had questions about what MacKenzie was planning.

“I envision a storefront, selling chainsaws and snowblowers. The retail component is the biggest change that I see. It’s almost the tail wagging the dog. Having retail there is a significant change,” Von Mertens said.

Little said the proposed uses would generate far less traffic than the previously approved use as a bus depot.

“I’m not arguing with the existing level of use,” Von Mertens said. “I hear this as being very open-ended.”

Board members decided to continue the public hearing on the application, first to April 9, when they plan to do a site visit at 4:45 p.m., and then to April 15, when they will take additional public comment prior to any deliberation on the request.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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