Keeping car wash traffic off roadway requires zoning variances

Russell Speeder Car Wash, 263 Cherry St., is seeking a zone change to expand its property with the goal of having more cars waiting on its site and not extending out into Cherry Street.

The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) voted 6-2 at its Sept. 4 meeting to allow the business to pursue a zone change without submitting an application for a special permit and site plan review.

In his presentation, Attorney Thomas Lynch said this application was similar to, but different than the request the board approved for 990 Naugatuck Ave., in which the board agreed at its Aug. 21 meeting to allow that applicant to submit a zone change request without a site plan.

“In our case we actually have a completed site plan…It was submitted to the zoning office,” said Lynch.

Lynch said City Planner David B. Sulkis reviewed the site plan and identified a number of uses on the current site and on the proposed updated site that are non-compliant with the zoning regulations.

Lynch said the car wash has been operating for 27 years on the site, which is located in the Corridor Design Development District (CDD-1) zone. The business has a contract to purchase the adjacent 0.12-acre residential property at 16 Ross St., which is located in the R-5 zone.

Lynch said the company would like to extend the CDD-1 zone line onto the property at 16 Ross St. It would demolish the 1,200 square foot house from 1950, and use the land to allow additional vehicles to wait in line for the car wash.

According to Lynch, the Shoreline Dental Group, located at 255 Cherry St., purchased the next property at 20 Ross St., demolished the house, and is using it for overflow parking.

“I offer that as a fact that alleviates some of the concerns that normally would come about when you extend a zone line back into a residential zone because the residence at 20 Ross Street has been eliminated,” said Lynch.

Lynch said the property needs a number of variances related to the buffer zone. He said the zone needs to be changed before he can go to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) with applications for variances.

If the ZBA grants the variances, then he will return to the P&Z with a site plan, indicated Lynch, commenting that this application process is “a circuitous route.”

Lynch said the need for the change relates to a traffic problem, especially in the winter, when “Cars are backed down Cherry Street creating a traffic problem.”

With the expansion, the driveway would allow more than 12 cars off the site, six more than can currently fit. Lynch said this exceeds the number required by the zoning regulations for a car wash.

Under the proposed site plan, the shed with the waiting area and the car detailing area would be eliminated to allow for the longer driveway, said Lynch. There are no plans for any additional structure, although there may be some additional vacuum canister sites, he said.

Sulkis commented on the proposal by saying, “He presented me with a site plan that doesn’t conform with anything. He’s in a Catch 22. He can’t go to the Zoning Board of Appeals and ask for variances for a zone that doesn’t exist.”

Sulkis said the zone would need to be changed so Lynch could go to the ZBA. Sulkis said if the ZBA does not approve the variances, then the project cannot move forward.

“It needs a lot of variances,” said Sulkis.


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