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January 21, 2008

'Home occupation permit' may stall over language

SALEM - An attempt to change the rules for commercial-style trucks in residential neighborhoods might stall over what some have called an obscure legal issue.

Selectman Patrick Hargreaves for months led an effort to allow commercial trucks and vans to park overnight outside their owners' homes.

Hargreaves, who owns a commercial van for his locksmith business, has been advocating on behalf of business owners who want to drive their commercial vehicles home after work at night.

But the remedy Hargreaves proposed - allowing vehicles weighing less than 10,001 pounds if the drivers get a "home occupation permit" - might not fix the problem, some Planning Board members worry.

"For the most part, the things that involve commercial-type vehicles are not eligible to be treated as home occupations," said Planning Board member Robert Campbell.

Home occupation means at least 25 percent of the business must take place inside the home. An electrician who drives his van home at night, for instance, might not do any work inside his home.

But it's too late to drop the home occupation language. The proposed change was presented as a citizens petition, and the deadline to change it this year has passed. The question will appear on the March ballot in its current form, but it isn't clear if it will have the recommendation of the Planning Board.

Also, Hargreaves wants drivers of commercial vehicles to actually demonstrate a need for them. He doesn't want a proliferation of big trucks and vans in neighborhoods throughout Salem.

"We're trying to figure out exactly what's going on in town," he said.

That's something everyone seems to agree on.

"I don't know if you would solve problems by taking it out (of the "home occupation" ordinance). You might create more problems," said Planning Director Ross Moldoff.

Campbell, of the Planning Board, also said he doesn't like the idea of large trucks and vans parking throughout residential neighborhoods.

"You have to look at it not from the point of view of the person who wants the truck, but you have to look at it from the point of view of a person in a 100-foot-wide lot who wants his neighborhood to look like (a residential area)," he said.

Campbell said he hasn't yet made a decision about the proposed ordinance.

The Planning Board will have a public hearing Tuesday, Jan. 29 to discuss the issue, and officials will get the opinion of the town's lawyer then.

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