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June 25, 2021

East Hartford Tesla showroom on hold until August

300 Connecticut Blvd. in East Hartford.

The East Hartford Planning and Zoning Commission tabled to August a decision on revoking a special use permit it granted to Tesla for a showroom and service center, deciding instead to wait until hearing advice from its lawyer about a pending lawsuit filed by a rival car dealership against the town.

The PZC on April 14 granted the special use permit and site plan modification to InSite Development Services of Illinois, acting on behalf of electric vehicle maker Tesla, for a property at 300 Connecticut Blvd. for the showroom and service center. In June, Hoffman Auto Group of East Hartford filed a lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court against Tesla, the PZC and InSite seeking to block the decision, saying the commission made procedural mistakes.

On Wednesday night, lawyer Thomas J. Rechen of McCarter & English who represents InSite, said there’s no need to revoke the permit and refuted the technical aspects of the lawsuit including the claim that InSite was involuntarily dissolved in March by the state of Illinois, thereby lacking the standing to pursue its application on April 14.

Rechen said that’s a moot point as InSite was involuntarily dissolved in Illinois because of a non-payment of a fee, which was quickly resolved when it was paid. Under Illinois law, he said, upon filing of the application, the company should be deemed operational as if the dissolution never happened.

The lawsuit filed by Hoffman also claims that the PZC gave no public notice properly referencing the zoning sections to grant the special-permit use and site plan application.

Rechen disputed that claim as well, saying Connecticut law doesn’t require that the zoning sections be referenced in a public notice.

The PZC on Wednesday also postponed to Aug. 11 considering a new application for a special use permit by East Hartford CT (300 Connecticut) LLC, an entity formed by InSite in its stead should the PZC revoke Insite’s previously approved special use permit.

Rechen indicated that if necessary, Insite could transfer any rights it may have pertaining to the original permit to the newly formed entity.

Tesla has long been lobbying lawmakers to allow the company to sell its electric cars directly to Connecticut customers. The legislature’s Transportation Committee approved a bill on March 24 that would allow electric vehicle manufacturers to sell their vehicles directly to the public, but the bill never made it out of committee for a vote by the General Assembly.

The issue has been debated in Connecticut for years, forcing residents who want to purchase a Tesla to do so in another state.

The Federal Trade Commission and Tesla have stated that selling directly to the consumer reduces end prices, increases consumer choice between industry brands, and gives manufacturers greater control over marketing and sales.

Opponents, including the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the National Automobile Dealers Association, have said the model reduces price competition, lowers consumer safety and is less committed to investing in local communities.

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