Adam Korngold, the owner of the Waves Car Wash on VFW Parkway, lost a battle tonight when the Boston Conservation Commission declined to order a would-be competitor across the road to return nearly half his available land to its natural state, a move that effectively would have blocked construction there.
Korngold had earlier hired an engineering firm to help him fight Ronen Drory's proposed car wash where the McDonald's that burned to the ground in 2013 used to be, but now appears to be focusing his efforts on something called Protect West Roxbury Wetlands, which took out full-page ads in the West Roxbury Bulletin for two weeks and which has hired its own lawyer and engineer to fight Drory, who already operates car washes in Canton, Brockton and Taunton.
Neither the ads nor the group's Web site say who is behind it. The group's attorney, Matthew Watsky of Dedham, acknowledged tonight that Korngold is one of the "ten citizens" involved in the group. He declined to name the other nine or say if anybody but Korngold is actually paying for the fight against Drory. Such ten-citizen groups are often formed to pursue lawsuits over zoning or other regulatory decisions; Watsky said whether his group goes to court will depend on what the Conservation Commission does in the coming weeks.
Although the commission decided tonight it would not make Drory, who bought the land in late 2015, "remediate" roughly 23,000 square feet of the land near the Charles River that had been built on or filled in over the past four decades, it also decided to hold off on any go-ahead for his car wash until after his attorney gets word from the MWRA on just what it wants done to protect its sewer line and small access road that run across the property. Earlier this year, the commission had ordered Drory to clean up about 1,700 square feet on the site.
The commission is involved because the Charles River runs along the site.
Watsky argued Drory should be forced to repair the damage he or somebody allegedly did by chopping down large numbers of trees on the land; as proof he showed blowups of Google satellite views he claimed showed a "before" shot with lots of trees and an "after" shot of barren, brown land.
Drory's attorney, Ann Sobolewski, however, called the after shot ridiculous, saying it didn't show the effects of clear cutting but the effects of autumn making the trees lose their leaves. She said that somebody who looked closely at the photo could still see all the trees and their larger branches.
"If I went and built a plaza nobody would care," Drory said. "These guys hired a lawyer and brought all his customers over [to the hearing] just to shut us down. It's not about wetlands, it's about stopping competition."
An engineer hired by Korngold's group took issue with the plans Drory's engineer submitted for capturing and treating stormwater runoff before it flows into the Charles to remove oil and sediments. Jeffrey Walsh, vice president of Graves Engineering in Worcester, said the pipes called for by Halim Choubah might be insufficient to handle the flow.
Choubah said he has been doing civil engineering for more than two decades, knows what he's doing and, if anything he over-engineered the pipes and drainage, to handle more water than could actually be reasonably expected on the site. Commission member John Sullivan Jr. also questioned Walsh's questioning of Choubah's work, noting that as a professional engineer, Choubah's signature on plans carries considerable weight. Walsh retorted that out in the Worcester area, where he's from, such "peer review" of civil engineers' work is routine, at least for the sort of municipal projects he's involved in.
The commission takes up the car-wash issue again on Aug. 2.