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Neighbors complain of illegal business

McGrath denies his repair of cars at home constitutes a business

A group of neighbors on and around Narvick Avenue came went before the Morris City Council Monday complaining one of their neighbors is running a business out of his home illegally.

But the accused neighbor claimed Tuesday he's not making any money and is working on the barter system.

Nine neighbors spoke at Monday's meeting gripping that Pete McGrath is running an automotive business out of his home on Narvick and disturbing their neighborhood with noise and having too many vehicles parked along their streets.

McGrath was not present at the meeting. The neighbors did not share their names with the media out of fear of "retaliation," they said.

It's been an ongoing problem for years, according to the group. So much so the police are continuously being called and McGrath has become so angry over it he has threatened his neighbors.

"We built 28 years ago and until recently we thought we'd never move," said one neighbor who for the passed month has called the police every time she has seen McGrath working on a vehicle.

It is against city ordinance for a home occupation business to exist without meeting six requirements, which includes "no mechanical equipment is used, except such as is customarily used for purely domestic or household purposes."

"They keep telling me I am doing something wrong, but they're not telling me what I am doing wrong," said McGrath Tuesday.

Police are on the block daily tagging stationary vehicles on the street and the matters initiated by the neighbors are being investigated, said City Attorney Scott Belt. Chief Brent Dite said at the meeting officers are often at the McGrath home.

"(The home) has been on extra patrol off and on for some time," said Dite. Often times officers report to the scene from a call, but the officer does not witness the incident and the people involved do not want to sign a complaint.

The neighbors told Dite that in some cases they have been too afraid to sign a complaint, or have been told without witnesses their complaint would not make it to court.

"(McGrath) told me he's going to burn my house down," claimed another neighbor. Multiple neighbors claim he has said this to them, and often yells and swears at them from the street.

McGrath feels he is being harassed by the police and his neighbors. Charges related to incidents with the neighbors have not been filed against him.

"I just don't understand why they keep harassing me. Because I got in an argument with a couple of people?" he asked.

He admitted to threatening his neighbors, but said this was after he tried to work it out nicely with them.

"Yea, I have a little bit of a temper, but I'm nice in the beginning. You keep bugging me and bugging me, I'm not going to be nice anymore," he said.

McGrath used to have an automotive shop, McGrath Auto Works & Exhaust off Gore Road, but he had to close it.

"I'm frustrated and aggravated. They keep saying I can't do what I love, what I know how to do and what I went to school for," he said.

McGrath claims he only works on family's and friends' vehicles and he does it mostly for trade, although he said he has received some cash.

McGrath argues he is not running a business and this is obvious, he said, because there is not a business name on his house, he has no business cards and he is not soliciting.

A Google search of "McGrath automotive Morris" pulls up websites listing both his old shop's address and number, and sites with his home address.

Several hours after the council meeting, McGrath was arrested on an obstructing a peace officer charge after police were called to the home by his mother, who also lives there.

"They were not sent there after the council meeting (Monday). The report clearly indicates his mother called us and requested us at the scene for a disturbance, violent behavior and a domestic situation," said Dite Tuesday.

McGrath was intoxicated and would not cooperate with the officers and closed a door on one of the officers, the chief said. As a result, he was arrested for obstructing a peace officer.

In addition to this week's charges, McGrath has pending charges from an April incident of possession of cannabis and obstructing a peace officer.

In Tuesday's phone interview, McGrath called himself "not perfect" when alluding to his previous alleged crimes.

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