The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 15, 1999


Board of appeals approves new building for auto body shop

The Carlisle Auto Body Company was the only item on the agenda at the January 7 board of appeals meeting. Owner Bill Luther kept the board members and audience enthralled as he spent the better part of an hour describing the planned complete teardown and replacement of the former carriage house in which they presently work. He also responded to concerns from abutters that the site might become the location of a cellular phone tower.

Luther displayed several recent photographs of his auto body shop at 673 Bedford Road. "The 75-year-old building is in disrepair," he explained. "The roof leaks, there's water damage to the ceiling, and some of the roof rafters and sills have rotted....It won't hold paint anymore." Large photos clearly showed that the sad old carriage house had seen better days.

Luther went on to describe other shortcomings. "We only have single-phase power; we really need three-phase. Parts of the building have been rewired, but there are still some old cloth-covered wires buried in the walls." There was more to Luther's tale of woe. "When the dust level becomes excessive, we have to turn on the exhaust fans. This sucks all the heat out of the building in the winter and defeats the air conditioning in the summer. Also our spray booth is 15 years old."

At this point in Luther's eloquent presentation, he delivered his "coup de grace" to the decrepit facilty. "It would cost me $300,000 to renovate the place and I'd be closed for six months, which I can't afford to do. I'm here to ask the board for permission to replace the old shop with a new building."

The photographs in front of the group were replaced by handsome architectural renderings. Joe March, of Stamski and McNary, smiled proudly as engineering drawings of the new facility were unrolled. The drawings depicted a colonial-style structure oriented much the same as the present building. Gone, however, were the multiple garage doors and mismatched side building. In its place was a unified structure with four dormers along the front and a single garage door in the middle. A small 12-by-25-foot office space is attached to the Bedford Road side of the main building.

"The garage door in front is an emergency door only," said Luther. "We'll use the main doors in back to enter and exit. We've extended the building by 14 feet in front where the old garage doors were located. This will accommodate diagonal repair bays and a modern air filtration system. The new building will have windows placed eight feet high so the neighbors can't see in. Outside walls will be white vinyl siding, natural stone will run four feet up the sides, and the roof will be gray. A hand-carved wooden sign like Kimball's will announce our name, but it won't look like an auto body shop."

The new building features a clean-air purification system that constantly filters the air. The new spray booth will be totally filtered and utilizes three-phase power to support a heater for paint drying.

Although the new building has been extended by 14 feet, Luther explained that the actual square footage is less. The present building contains 4,595 square feet, including the second floor. The new building will have 4,474 square feet, no second floor and will feature a cathedral ceiling to allow interior light from the dormers.


Chair Midge Eliasson asked about parking accommodations. Building code specifies 6.6 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet, thus requiring 30 parking spaces. "We have 31 spaces, including six inside," replied Luther. "In the past, the maximum we've ever used outside is 19, but now we'll have one more than required anyway." Luther plans on removing the old turnaround, now blocked by barrels, and replacing it with a green belt of trees.

The final question from the board before accepting questions from the audience was how constructing a new building versus refurbishing the old would reduce the time the business would be closed. Luther described the hoped for scenario. "We'll put in new footings in front while we're still working. Then we'll take down the entire building, saving the other footings. Everything for the new building will be purchased and ready to assemble prior to construction. We'll be back in business in three months,

Dave Murphy, a Bedford Road neighbor on the other side of the Bluejay recording studio, was concerned about the height of the new building. Luther answered that the building will be 31 feet high, three feet higher than the present building.

No cell tower

Then Murphy asked the question that echoed the concerns of many in the room. "Do you have any plans to construct a cell tower?" Luther quickly responded, "No! We allowed the cell phone people to use our site, one of several around town, to test reception. That's all." Hearing a collective sigh of relief around the room, Luther reiterated, "No, I have no intention of constructing a cell tower."

Bob Harvey from Stoney Gate voiced everyone's reaction to the news. "You have been a good neighbor and you do good work. As long as there's no cell tower, I'm happy." Jim Keefe, of 27 Maple Street, seconded the opinion. "You're a great neighbor. I would like to see a provision that the new building isn't used for additional businessesthat it be maintained as a single business." Luther explained that, in addition to body work, he does some associated mechanical repairs and police towing. "I wouldn't want to be curtailed in those areas," he said. Keefe indicated that he had no problem with that type of additional use of the building.

Paul Saraceno, who lives next door to the shop, was obviously comfortable with the new building plans and provided words of support throughout the meeting. He did have one concern, however. "What kind of hazardous waste do you handle, and how do you dispose of it?" Luther responded, "With the new facility, all paint supplies will be stored in explosion-proof cabinets. All unused liquid is poured into a 55-gallon drum. Clean Harbors comes around every six months and sucks it out." Luther explained that they no longer end up with dozens of half-empty paint cans. "Nowadays, we can mix up a thimbleful of paint as we need it." Eliasson emphasized that the auto body shop must meet all of the state's requirements for hazardous waste disposal.

Terry Herndon devised his own clean-air test by asking Saraceno if he ever smelled anything, "Occasionally, replied Saraceno. "That's why I'm 100 percent behind the new building.

Canterbury Court resident Cindy Nock added one last endorsement before the hearing closed, by saying, "This looks like an improvement. We appreciate your efforts regarding hazardous waste control."

Board members had one last question, "When will you start?" Luther replied that Carlisle drivers keep him busy in the winter and spring. "Summer is the slowest season. I'll probably start around the end of spring."

The board meeting concluded with a unanimous vote to approve the project.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito