East Bethel gives short-term extension of vehicle sales permit

The East Bethel City Council May 7 approved the six-month extension of an individual-use permit for Valder Motors to continue doing Internet-based vehicle sales. It first questioned owner Jordan Valder about whether his business has conformed to guidelines of the permit issued two years ago.

It stipulates that 95 percent of the business’ sales must be initiated on the Internet, that the lot may have no more than 20 cars at a time and that vehicles must move at least every 45 days.

Mayor Bob DeRoche echoed other members’ thoughts in saying the city had been clear it did not want a car lot yet the business resembles one. DeRoche said the city was trying to recruit new development to the area. Valder had provided a report of sales for 2013 and 2014, but a few council members said the report did not demonstrate that sales originated on the Internet.

The owner defended his growing business, saying he’s been “very successful at that location” and has gravitated to dealing mainly in trucks. He explained that other requirements ensure that he never has a vehicle longer than 30 days. He said he worked hard making improvements to the substandard building and had kept the site nice and neat.

It doesn’t have big banners or signage, Valder said, and the vehicles don’t have prices on them like at a dealership. He said customers coming to pick up a vehicle sometimes can’t find it because it looks nothing like a car lot.

“I take pride in my spot,” he said, pointing out that not all businesses do.

He said when he started the new business two years ago, he was young, still learning and didn’t know how it would go. DeRoche expressed disappointment over hearing what he said sounded like “an excuse.” The city attorney said the spot isn’t right for the business since the permit restricts storage of presale inventory.

“That’s why I’m looking for a new spot,” Valder said.

Asked where he’s been looking, he said Cambridge. Before voting, the council members discussed how not granting the permit extension would prohibit business operation and how the situation would be resolved soon anyway when Valder Motors moves to a new location.