Town Takes Murray’s Auto Recycling to Court Over Lack of Compliance

The Town of Londonderry has filed a petition for declaratory judgment, injunctive relief and enforcement of statutory penalties against Ed Dudek and Murray’s Auto Recycling due to ongoing compliance difficulties they have had with the salvage yard.

Town Manager Kevin Smith said Dudek failed to comply with multiple conditions in his 2014 license agreement with the Town.

Dudek, who began operating the salvage yard in 1998, said he did not wish to comment on the petition at this time.

The Town filed the petition in Rockingham Superior Court on Jan. 28, just one day before the salvage yard burned down in a two-alarm fire, which re-ignited hours after firefighters extinguished the initial blaze and left the scene.

Code Enforcement Officer Richard Canuel said the Town petitioned to revoke the auto salvage’s license after numerous written notices of violation and a lawsuit against the business owner to compel him to install fencing, as required by his license.

“The petition asked the court to order Dudek to stop what he’s doing and comply with the conditions of his license and give the Town the authority to revoke his license, if necessary,” Canuel said.

Having had an established history as a commercial junkyard located in an area of Londonderry zoned exclusively for residential use, Murray’s was considered by the Town since at least 1987 to be a “nonconforming use” under its Zoning Ordinance.

Each year, Dudek is required to go before the Council for a public hearing on the renewal of his junkyard license, which has a long history of being contested by his neighbors.

The Council may impose reasonable conditions on the licenses and is authorized to initiate proceedings for the enforcement of state and local junkyard regulations against violators, including obtaining a mandatory injunction to end the violations.

Since acquiring the salvage yard, Dudek has been the subject of dozens of citizens’ complaints, many of which have resulted in official Notices of Violations and action by Canuel, according to the petition.

Additionally, multiple lawsuits have been filed against Dudek, including a lawsuit filed by neighbor Gerard Adams of 54 Hall Road against the Town, appealing the Town’s decision to renew Dudek’s license; a lawsuit filed by the Town against Dudek to enforce fencing requirements, zoning restrictions and previous court-ordered settlement terms; and a lawsuit filed by Dudek against the Town appealing the Council’s denial of his 2002 license renewal because of concerns about alleged groundwater pollution on the site, and for stacking automobiles higher than the yard’s 6-foot fencing requirement.

In April 2014, the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed a federal lawsuit against the salvage yard alleging violations of the Clean Water Act. Murray’s Auto Recycling recently reached a negotiated agreement with the CLF, which requires the salvage yard to develop and regularly update a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP); as well as hire a qualified engineering consultant to develop the SWPPP, to install and implement control measures, to pay five installment payments totaling $23,000 to the New Hampshire Rivers Council for environment restoration of or other benefit to the Merrimack Watershed, and to pay CLF’s legal fees and costs, which total $33,000.

As a condition for the 2014 renewal of Dudek’s license, the Town required Dudek to install fencing to conceal the salvage yard and cars stacked on the property; and to follow an “anti-stacking” provision limiting the height of piles of stacked cars on the property so that they aren’t visible above the fence.

“Any failure to comply with any condition shall be grounds for the Town Council to consider revocation of the license,” according to the license conditions.

After the Town renewed Dudek’s license in October, Canuel periodically observed operations at the salvage yard and observed that vehicles were stacked high enough to render them visible from outside the property, and that fabric had not been installed on top of the fence near the front gate, as required by the license.

Canuel delivered a Notice of Violation on Nov. 3, warning Dudek that if the salvage yard were to violate the anti-stacking provision prior to being renewed in 2015, the Town would use the repeat violation as a basis for denial.

Dudek’s non-compliance continued through December, prompting neighbors to complain at several Town Council meetings of the violations, particularly that stacked cars were visible above the fence.

On Jan. 15, town personnel observed that the stacked cars covered by tarps remained plainly visible from outside the junkyard; and on Jan. 21, Canuel issued to Dudek a second Notice of Violation.

In its petition, the Town requested the Court declare that the Town Council may revoke Dudek’s license to operate Murray’s Auto Recycling due to the violation of the “anti-stacking” condition and fencing requirements of his 2014 junkyard license; as well as order Dudek to cease and desist all business operations until he complies with the license conditions, the statutory fencing requirements and the Town’s Zoning Ordinances.

Additionally, the Town petitioned the Court to declare Murray’s Auto Recycling a nuisance for its failure to comply with license conditions and fencing requirements of the junkyard statute, subjecting the salvage yard to abatement; and to order Dudek and Murray’s Auto Recycling to pay the Town statutory penalties in the amounts of $275 for the first offense and $550 for each subsequent offense.

When asked if the Town plans to revoke Dudek’s license to operate at his 55 Hall Road salvage yard, Canuel said that will be a decision for the Town Council.

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