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Town Meeting to decide fate of Tesla at Natick Mall

Posted by John Swinconeck  August 20, 2013 04:36 PM

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The future of Tesla Motors in Natick will be decided by voters Oct. 15, after selectmen on Monday approved a Town Meeting warrant that includes an article that amends Natick’s zoning bylaws.

The article is one of 23 on the Fall Annual Town Meeting warrant.

The article would “allow, by special permit, low volume sales of motor vehicles in districts where higher volume, noxious or land-expansive operations are inappropriate,” according to a motion being drafted by the Planning Board.

The article would also create in the town’s bylaws the definition of a “Limited Salesroom for Motor Vehicles,” defined as “having no more than four vehicles on site for sale, test driving or display, with no repair services.“

The amendment would allow automobile sellers to sell in a smaller space, while simultaneously prevent the Natick Mall area from becoming an “auto mile,” Community Development Department director Patrick Reffett said on Tuesday.

“We have a 40-year-old antiquated bylaw. Sometimes you have to change how that works,” Reffett said.

Selectmen voted in July to grant a license that allows Tesla to sell its high-end electric cars out of its Natick Mall showroom.

The town’s zoning bylaws prohibit the sale of automobiles at the Natick Mall. However, the Planning Board on July 17 granted a temporary waiver of the bylaw, and a special permit that expires next March.

Previously, Tesla had been only allowed test drives and sales out of a West Central Street office. It has a service center for its cars on Pleasant Street in Watertown.

Changing the bylaw would require a two-thirds vote by Town Meeting.

Tesla’s presence at the mall has been a controversial one. Massachusetts State Auto Dealers Association sued Tesla last fall in an attempt to prevent it from opening in the mall, but a Norfolk Superior Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the association lacked legal standing to challenge the arrangement since it did not have a dealership affiliated with Tesla.

The association is appealing the ruling.

Contact John Swinconeck at johnswinc@gmail.com. Follow @johnswinc on Twitter.

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