HALLOWELL — The city has given a car mechanic working in a sleepy neighborhood near Interstate 95 until the end of March to leave, citing zoning issues.
P.L.R. Automotive, a one-man company owned by Augusta mechanic Dexter Fawcett, has been operating in a one-bay garage at the Mayflower Road building owned by Families Matter, Inc., a nonprofit company that provides services for adults with special needs, since May 2012.
In November, Fawcett, 47, got a letter from Hallowell Code Enforcement Officer Maureen AuCoin saying the building he works in isn’t allowed to house an auto sales or service shop. She said the nonprofit is allowed to have vehicles at the location because of a grandfathered allowance dating back decades at the property, which housed a now-defunct construction company until the 1980s.
Fawcett said he does vehicle work for Families Matter, which has a fleet of about 30 vehicles to pick clients up from home and take them to activities around the region. The nonprofit operates in five other communities besides Hallowell — Farmingdale, South China, Waterville, Farmington and Skowhegan.
He said he took his business from his home to the Mayflower Road building in 2012 in part to make it easier for the company to maintain its vehicles. However, Fawcett said he also was allowed to do other work there, and he said his 200 regular customers followed him to Hallowell, where he paid rent to the nonprofit.
“I was here a year and a half,” Fawcett said. “Nobody ever complained. Nobody ever said nothing, you know? And all of a sudden, one day I get a note in the mail.”
AuCoin said she didn’t know about Fawcett’s business until recently and looked into it after neighbors asked the city about it. At a December meeting of the Planning Board,, owners of two nearby homes cited noise and the number of vehicles on the property as problems caused by Fawcett’s business.
One of those homeowners, James Doyle, whose property on Hillcrest Street abuts the land where the garage is, said Wednesday that the noise “wasn’t anything to really get up in arms about, but if you could reduce it, it’d be nice.”
At the Planning Board meeting, minutes say, John McNaughton, president of Families Matter, offered to plant trees or limit the number of vehicles in order to find common ground with neighbors. Earlier in December, McNaughton’s father, Edward, the nonprofit’s executive director, submitted an application to the city that would have allowed Fawcett’s business to stay. But at the next Planning Board meeting in January, AuCoin told board members that the application had been withdrawn.
The McNaughtons didn’t return phone messages Wednesday seeking comment for this story, but Fawcett said the application was pulled because he decided to leave rather than go through the hassle of re-zoning the property. Now, he said, he’ll operate from home again.
“It just wasn’t worth it to me to put up the fight, so I decided to step away,” Fawcett said.
Editor’s note: Staff Writer Michael Shepherd’s late grandfather was the owner of Shepherd Brothers Construction, a now-defunct company that operated at the Mayflower Road building.