Arguments heard in lawsuit against Concord over truck travel on back roads
Large trucks need to use Concord’s back roads to deliver damaged cars to a storage yard in Webster, an attorney argued in court yesterday. But, the city argued, trucks are only allowed to use back roads if their destination is on that road. Using Concord roads to reach Webster is prohibited, a city attorney said.
Copart of Connecticut Inc. sued the city last month, arguing that its truck drivers shouldn’t be ticketed for driving on Concord roads to its storage yard less than a mile away in Webster. Copart auctions wrecked cars and has storage facilities across the Northeast.
After hearing from both sides at a hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court yesterday, Judge Richard McNamara said the outcome hinges on one exception in Concord’s trucking ordinance. That ordinance only permits truck travel on a designated route, except “where necessary to the conduct of business at a destination point.”
The question before the court, McNamara said yesterday, is: “What does ‘necessary’ mean?”
Copart’s use of Bog Road, Horse Hill Road and Blackwater Road is the safest and most direct way to reach its property on Deer Meadow Road in Webster, said attorney Mark Puffer.
Deputy City Solicitor Danielle Pacik said there are other routes to Webster.
Large trucks began carrying damaged cars through Concord to Copart’s property in Webster last September. This spring, Pacik said, the truck drivers were ticketed by the Concord police after residents began to complain about the trucks.
Until they received tickets, the truck drivers took Interstate 93 to Exit 15 in Concord and traveled on North State Street until Bog Road. To avoid tickets, the trucks now take Interstate 89 to Exit 7 in Warner, then take state routes 103 and 107 to Clothespin Bridge Road and Deer Meadow Road in Webster. That route is 10.7 miles longer than using back roads in Concord, Puffer said, and it’s more dangerous.
Puffer acknowledged that the trucks are large, weighing more than 18,000 pounds. But Copart’s trucking contractors charge more money to take the longer route, and some have threatened to stop deliveries if the route through Concord is eliminated.
“The Bog Road route is the safest and the shortest and the most reasonable way to get there,” Puffer said. “If you’re south of Concord and you GPS 11 Deer Meadow Road in Webster, that’s where it’s going to take you.”
Pacik said regular truck travel on the roads would come with costly repairs for the city. It’s a residential area, she said, with few businesses. Murray Farms Greenhouse on River Road has about a dozen deliveries per year, she said, and Riverhill Market on Carter Hill Road has even fewer.
“The way this (ordinance) has always been interpreted and applied . . . you can use the street so long as it’s for an operation on that street of destination,” Pacik said. “And so Riverhill, Murray Farms can use that street.”
For interpretation of the ordinance, Puffer said, “our destination is the Webster town line.” He argued that if Copart were in Concord instead of a half-mile over the Webster town line, its trucks would be allowed on the roads.
But that area of Concord isn’t zoned for businesses like Copart, Pacik said, so it’s not a valid comparison.
Pacik said the truck restrictions have been in place for decades, and signs are posted on the roads to prohibit truck travel. Copart should have known of the truck regulations before it purchased the property in Webster, she said.
The city has dealt with a similar problem in the past, Pacik said; trucks were traveling on the same roads to reach Hopkinton’s transfer station. The city posted signs prohibiting trucks, and the garbage trucks found another road. The issue did not go to court.
But Puffer maintained that Copart’s use of the road fits an exception in the city’s ordinance. He said he is not questioning the city’s right to limit truck travel.
“We simply say that we come squarely within the language of the exception contained in the city’s own ordinance,” he said. “That’s all we’re claiming.”
Both sides were given additional time yesterday to file arguments to McNamara, who will then rule whether the trucks can travel on the roads.