Trucks can’t use Concord’s back roads to reach Webster, judge rules
The city of Concord can ticket large-truck drivers that travel on back roads to reach a storage yard in Webster, a judge ruled this week.
Copart of Connecticut Inc. sued the city in May over the use of back roads to deliver vehicles to its Webster property, where it keeps salvaged cars it auctions online. Its truck drivers were using roads that aren’t on Concord’s truck route to reach Deer Meadow Road in Webster. City officials said the roads weren’t designed to hold large trucks and would suffer greater wear and tear if Copart continued using them.
In its lawsuit, Copart argued that using Bog, Horse Hill and Blackwater roads through Concord was the fastest and safest route for its drivers.
The lawsuit hinged on one exception in the city’s trucking ordinance: It allows heavy trucks to leave the designated truck route if necessary to conduct business as long as the trucks detour off the route as close as possible to their final destination.
Copart had argued that its destination point should be considered the Webster town line; its storage yard is less than a mile from Concord. But Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara ruled against Copart.
He said that because Copart drivers can take an alternate route to the company’s storage yard, they must.
“If Copart’s interpretation were correct, it would lead to an absurd result,” McNamara wrote in his order.
Under the company’s broad interpretation of the ordinance, McNamara said any business could avoid the truck ordinance “by simply locating on a street on which through trucking is not permitted, and then announcing that trucking is necessary for its business.”
Deputy City Solicitor Danielle Pacik said the city is pleased with McNamara’s decision.
“The outcome is also important because we have received complaints from local residents about trucks using the roads,” she said. “And we were also concerned about the deterioration that would have occurred if trucks were allowed to use Bog Road to reach Copart.”
McNamara’s ruling only denied the company’s request for a temporary injunction. Mark Puffer, Copart’s attorney, said yesterday that he couldn’t comment on how he’ll proceed because he hasn’t discussed the order with his clients.
Nonetheless, the city is taking steps to change its trucking ordinance. Next month, the city council will hold a public hearing and vote on a revision that would allow trucks on back roads only if their destination point is within Concord. City Manager Tom Aspell said the revised ordinance would clarify its intention.
“We did not think the ordinance is ambiguous, but we decided to submit the proposed amendment to make it abundantly clear and to avoid any other issues in the future,” Pacik said.
Copart opened on Deer Meadow Road in Webster last September. The California-based business has facilities across the Northeast, and it auctions its salvaged cars over the internet, according to court documents. Independently contracted drivers began traveling up Interstate 93 to Exit 15, and then along North State Street before turning onto Bog Road. In April, Concord police officers began ticketing the drivers, according to court documents. The city said it had received resident complaints about large trucks in the residential area.
Drivers now take Interstate 89 to Exit 7 in Warner and use state routes 103 and 127 to Clothespin Bridge Road and Deer Meadow Road in Webster. While that path keeps to Concord’s truck route, Copart complained that it was longer and more dangerous than its preferred route through Concord.
The town of Webster agreed to let the company use its back roads as long as it paid for necessary road improvements. That had an estimated cost of $43,000, according to selectmen’s meeting minutes. The repairs were on hold as the company awaited a court order in the lawsuit against Concord.