The town’s inspectors returned to 300 State Road in Vineyard Haven Tuesday, but Clarence (“Trip”) Barnes III remains steadfast that his license to sell used car sales shouldn’t be tied up over a zoning dispute over rented rooms.
In the original document ordering Barnes to stop renting rooms, building inspector Ross Seavey wrote that the follow-up inspection would be Monday, Jan. 20. But since that was the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and town offices were closed, the inspectors showed up Tuesday morning.
“I have one person left in the basement,” Barnes told The Times. “I told them, I’m not kicking him out on the coldest day of the year.”
Building inspector Ross Seavey told The Times Barnes still has “multiple violations” at the building. “We’re going to engage in enforcement actions. We’re reviewing all of our codes and draft notices to Barnes.”
Barnes told The Times that he’s told people renting rooms upstairs in the building — one woman has been there for 10 years, and others have no place to go — to stay put.
In the basement, Barnes said, the inspectors asked him why he had not torn down the walls. In order to keep the partitions, the rooms need windows so someone could escape in a fire, he was told.
“I’m not going to tear down the walls that have been there since I owned it,” Barnes said.
Seavey explained that even though Barnes turned a door around in the basement, the tiny basement windows don’t allow for someone to escape in a fire. “The door example was just one example of an issue I brought up to him,” Seavey said, again noting that the windows won’t allow for proper egress in an emergency.
When the town officials left, Barnes said he was told the town would be seeking the advice of town counsel on how to proceed.
Barnes is still furious that the town is holding up his used car business, which he says has nothing to do with the apartments. “They’re just begging for a lawsuit,” Barnes said. “I don’t want to sue my town. I do too much for the town. This is absolutely ridiculous.”
Asked if he was disappointed Barnes had not complied with his order, Seavey said, “Of course, we’re disappointed. We have safety concerns with people living in the building if there’s not adequate egress.”
Barnes said there is nothing unsafe about the conditions.