An official decision has not been made, but it appears unlikely the City Council will grant a Class II (used vehicles) auto dealers license to Iyana Auto Sales on Dickens Street in South Attleboro. The largest drug bust in city history took place on the property last year.
A three-member council committee voted Tuesday night to forward the license application to the full council, but none of the members supported the request (a committee cannot reject an application, so the document needed to be approved for council consideration or remain on the committee docket indefinitely). Other council members not on the committee who attended the meeting said they would vote against the application.
Iyana lost its license in January when the council voted 11-0 to reject a renewal application because the business had failed to obtain a required $25,000 security bond. This action came nearly a year after federal and local authorities raided the site, arresting three men (including the owner's father) and seizing approximately $500,000 worth of heroin.
The business' repair shop, which is licensed separately, continues to operate on the property.
Iyana had failed a building inspection following the submission of its recent application. Owner Candy Vicente had the right to request a new inspection, but license committee Chair Jeremy Denlea said she had not asked for one.
Denlea said he did not support the application because Iyana has "failed twice in submitting an adequate and complete application." He also noted the alleged illegal activity on the site.
"We are in a sense the keepers of the gate, so we want lots of good, small businesses, and we invite them to come to the city," he said. "But if part of that is you might possibly have heroin in your business, then maybe it's our job to step up and close that gate every now and then."
In addition to the drug bust, the Rhode Island DMV recently contacted the city about Iyana because there is an investigation into possible illegal pre-dating of car sales to when the business still had a license, Denlea said.
City solicitor Robert Mangiaratti wrote in an opinion requested by Denlea that being a "proper person" was among the criteria needed to be met for a business owner to obtain a city license.
"The council has good reason to believe that serious criminal activity has taken place at the Iyana business premises," Mangiaratti wrote. "In my opinion, a conviction is not a prerequisite for your considering the alleged criminal activity in deciding to issue a Class II license."
He continued, "The drug arrests and confiscation of heroin at the Iyana premises could reasonably lead the council to conclude that the applicant's affiliations reflect a lack of the requisite good character to hold a license."
The owner did not attend the meeting on Tuesday. She appeared at an August public hearing on the application. Councilors asked various questions about her business during the hearing. Some councilors said on Tuesday they were bothered she was unable to answer simple questions, including how many employees the company had and what the business hours were.
"It's always felt like they didn't have their stuff together," said Councilor Brian Kirby, who said the problems go back a number of years.
Kirby said the council needed to be concerned about the people in the neighborhood, which he said includes his parents. Several people living near the business site submitted a petition to the council after the drug bust requesting Iyana's license be revoked.
The license application will go before the full council next Tuesday.