WOONSOCKET – The Woonsocket Zoning Board last week reversed course on a request members initially denied last year, granting permission to a local business owner to sell used cars at his Social Street auto repair shop.
Mohamed Shaker, owner of Zippy Car Wash and Auto Repair at 450 Social St., appeared with his lawyer, Richard Pacia, before the board on Monday. Shaker sought a special use permit to sell used cars at the commercially zoned lot.
The board ultimately voted 5-0 in favor of the request, allowing the owner to go forward with the expansion. The approval limits the number of cars that can be sold on the property to eight on display and five in storage behind a fence.
Last February, the Zoning Board denied a similar request after hearing concerns about prior zoning violations at the business. At the time, three board members voted in favor of the expansion and two against, but the city’s zoning ordinance requires a “yes” vote from at least four board members to approve a special use permit.
On Monday, Pacia explained the business had since engaged Edward Pimentel, a consultant and zoning official for the city of East Providence, to review the application. Pimentel spoke in favor of the project on Monday, describing the recommendations he offered to the business owner to make the expansion more palatable to city officials.
“Woonsocket, like every other urbanized community, has its share of vacancies and blights and we’re trying to make a real go of this and add some additional economics that are hopefully a success to the property owner,” Pimentel said.
Among other changes, Pimentel suggested planting shrubbery in front of the lot to make it look similar to surrounding businesses. He also suggested constructing a fence through the lot to hide cars that were in storage or under repair.
“We don’t want this to turn into a junkyard, that is definitely not our intent,” he said.
Shaker assured board members all the cars on the property would be “roadworthy” and no older than 10 years. Car sales, he said, would take place Monday through Saturday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., the same hours as the garage.
The project faced opposition from Roland Michaud, a former Zoning Board member who also spoke out against the application last year. Michaud raised concerns about previous zoning violations that he reported to the city and accused the owner of not following the same rules as everyone else.
Carl Johnson, the city’s zoning official, confirmed the business was cited three years ago for not following zoning regulations but said it has since come into compliance.