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New Auto Dealership Granted Approval

Conditional approval for new Rockingham Toyota, Honda on 402-412 South Broadway.

Plans for were given unanimous conditional approval by the Salem Planning Board Tuesday night.

The plans will combine the two lots that formerly contained Rockingham Woodcraft at 402 South Broadway and Circuit City and Ultimate Electronics at 412 South Broadway into one lot.

The former Circuit City/Ultimate Electronics building will become the 35,000-square-foot Toyota dealership including the addition of a 2,400-square-foot mezzanine.

Meanwhile, the dilapidated Rockingham Woodcraft location will be replaced by a 26,000-square-foot Honda dealership.

The entire location will include 285 spaces for vehicle display.

A PDF of the site plan is available here.

Much of the discussion Tuesday night surrounded conditional use permits submitted by the owner, Emmett Horgan, and developer Mark Gross of Salem-based MHF Design Consultants.

The dealership's plans included: three free-standing signs when only two were allowed by town regulations, seven wall signs for the Toyota dealership when they were allowed two and four wall signs for the Honda dealership when they were allowed one.

Town Planner Ross Moldoff said he was concerned about the impact of granting the conditional use for so many signs, noting he expected to hear from other local merchants about it.

"They all want as much signage as they can possibly get," Moldoff said.

Gross noted the total square footage of signage for Toyota would be less than that of either Circuit City or Ultimate Electronics. One of the free-standing signs would be re-usage of the Circuit City/Ultimate Electronics signs.

Ultimately Gross agreed to reduce the number of signs on the Toyota building from seven to five (removing one Toyota sign and combining two "service" signs) and significantly reduce the size of one of the "Service Center" sign on the Honda building.

The conditional use permit for the wall signs was approved 7-0 while the free-standing signs were approved 6-1 with Chairman Robert Campbell voting against.

"My whole concern with this is the precedent we're establishing," Campbell said.

According to Vision Apprasial's database of Salem properties, Horgan purchased the two properties for a total of $8.05 million last September.

The present Rockingham Toyota location is at 354 Main St., while Rockingham Honda is located at 360 North Broadway.

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