HOLYOKE — A former city councilor questioned whether a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday (March 31) on a bid for an auto dealership on Whiting Farms Road can proceed because she said the city failed to notify as many as four abutters about the hearing.
It would be illegal to continue with the planned public hearing since four abutting property owners didn’t receive the required notices of the hearing by mail, said Helen F. Norris, former Ward 3 councilor.
“It’s a direct violation of the law,” Norris said Monday.
But Rebecca Lisi, chairwoman of the City Council Ordinance Committee, said she spoke with a lawyer in the city Law Department and was told the hearing can proceed as long as the unnotified abutters get to participate in the hearing at some point.
“This is what legal told me about how to proceed,” Lisi said.
The Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board are set to hold the public hearing at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall on a petition for a zone change from Gary Rome Hyundai.
The company has a deal to buy the vacant 18.7-acre site — previously eyed by Walmart and Lowe’s Home Improvement — from the Holyoke Gas and Electric Department (HGE) for $2,050,000.
But the sale is contingent on Rome succeeding in a petition to change the zoning designation of the property to Business Highway, which would allow an auto dealership, from the current Business General, which prohibits such a business. Gary Rome Hyundai currently is at 1000 Main St. here.
Neighbors and others who belong to a group called HolyokeFirst have said they oppose a auto dealership on the property because the street already is busy with traffic and such a business would be intrusive.
The site is on the part of Whiting Farms Road across from Autumn and Lynch drives near the Holyoke Mall at Ingleside and Barnes & Noble.
Some of the residents also fought the Walmart plan in 2013 and the one from Lowe’s in 2009. Both companies eventually withdrew their plans.