WOBURN - A longtime auto body shop owner hopes to lure a few classic car enthusiasts to his newest post-retirement venture off of Fowle Street, where he will sell personally-repaired antique vehicles over the Internet.
During the most recent meeting of the City Council, local attorney Joseph Tarby detailed plans by longtime Keane's Auto Body proprietor Tom Keane to take over a portion of an South End industrial site that was previously home to Patriots Plastics.
The council, noting the new business will be far less detrimental than the previous manufacturing operation, unanimously okayed the special permit request on the grounds that the change will improve the quality-of-life for neighbors residing in the mixed-use neighborhood,
Keane, who for the past 35 years managed Keane's Auto Body off of Bedford Road, intends to pass the family-owned business off to his children. But in order to keep himself occupied, the city resident decided to start a new small business focussed on classic and antique vehicle sales.
"Mr. Keane is looking to do something with his spare time and would like to start a small business on this property," said Tarby of the .22-acre lot at 13 Fowle St., where a 5,000 square foot warehouse building is situated by the old Boston & Maine Railroad line that runs towards Winchester.
"There will be no vehicle repairs taking place outside the [building], nor will there be any outside storage of vehicles. What you see is what you get. He would sell vehicles over the Internet. He'd like to find a classic car, repair it, and then get it ready to sell," added the local attorney.
Keane had to appear before the City Council because the Fowle Street property, which to the rear abuts the parking lot for Conn Street's Dole & Bailey site, is non-conforming with regards to zoning regulations for lot size, lot area, and front and side setbacks.
Like many other lots in the area, which contains a heavy mix of traditional residential homes and industrial businesses, the property also has few on-site parking spaces.
Tarby pointed out that industrial uses on the lot date back to 1959, when a sheet metal fabrication shop was situated in the singe-story warehouse building. Beginning in 1978, Patriot Plastics took over the property and a much larger factory building across the street.
"The most recent use of the property was Patriot Plastics. They operated on the property until February of 2019," the lawyer said. "That involved the manufacture of precision cut plastic materials and assembly of those parts."
In contrast to the previous tenant, which had a significant workforce traveling to and from the site each day, the new classic car sales business was unlikely to ever require more than the four on-site parking spaces being provided by the petitioner, the applicant claimed.
The petitioner also indicated all vehicle inventory would be stored indoors.
"We're looking for approval to store up to three vehicles, so they'l be no outside display [to attract potential customers]…I think we have more than sufficient parking to satisfy the requirement. This is not going to be a high-volume use."
According to Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately, whose district includes Fowle Street, though he never had any personal issues with Patriot Plastics, the new use would clearly generate significantly less traffic and other negative neighborhood impacts.
"We're trying to clean that whole area up with [traffic] up there. This will be good for the area. They'll be 100 percent less traffic. They'll be no major trucking going in and out of there, like when the plastics company was there. And they [Patriots Plastics] had a ton of employees," the South End official remarked.