Auto repo facility proposed on Shelland Street

An auto repossession company is seeking to establish an outside storage and auto repossession yard on Shelland Street, on property owned by Jordan Realty.

The Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board held open the public hearing at its Dec. 5 meeting to give the applicant time to return with a design for a storage facility.

Attorney Kevin Curseaden is applying for a special permit and site plan review on behalf of Skyline Recovery Service for a 1.72-acre property is located in the Housatonic Design District (HDD). Jordan Realty LLC of Milford lists James R. Beard as member.

Curseaden said the company plans to erect a 2,400 square foot prefabricated metal building, which would be barn red with a gable roof. He said two storage containers would be placed outside the building to store personal belongings removed from repossessed cars.

“Outside storage is an allowed use in this zone,” said Curseaden.

The project has received approvals from the Sewer Commission, the fire department and the police department, said Curseaden. He said the City Engineer Gregory Pidluski supported having additional stormwater drainage facilities, and sidewalks.

“Ninety-nine percent of auto repossession is late model cars,” which Curseaden said is relevant to stormwater drainage.

Curseaden asked that the applicant not be required to install sidewalks, which he said are expensive. He said in January when the board approved a contractor’s yard for Mallico Construction on an adjacent parcel, the P&Z did not require sidewalks, or a donation to the city’s sidewalk fund.

“When you start adding all the conditions and regulations, projects become cost prohibitive,” said Curseaden.

He said there would be two offices in the proposed building, which would be occupied by two different companies. There would be four office employees, six drivers, one flatbed truck, two wreckers and two spotter cars.

Landscape Architect Jeffrey Gordon of Codespoti and Associates said his company designed the drainage for the Tower Heights subdivision in 1998, which included both the industrial zone on Shelland Street and the adjacent residential zone.

Gordon said this property abuts the open space buffer owned by the city. He said the retention ponds and water quality structures handled the entire subdivision. He said that Pidluski requested additional drainage for this property, which Gordon did not think was necessary, given the presence of existing detention ponds with biofiltration.

Gordon said the storage containers could be painted to match the proposed building. He said it would be “prohibitively expensive” to expand the building because it is prefabricated.

Ten parking spaces are required and this project is providing 17 spaces. Gordon said three street trees would be planted along Shelland Street and there would be additional trees in the parking lot, along with extensive plantings along the rear.

Frank Fournier, business owner, said the company has offices in East Hartford, Waterbury, and Plainfield, along with Northampton, Mass. Fournier said the company is required to bag and tag property taken from vehicles and hold it for 60 days.

Fournier said business hours would be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, but cars may be dropped off at any hour of the day or night.

City Planner David B. Sulkis said outside storage containers do not comply with the board’s regulations. He said they could be used for no longer than three months.

“If the applicant needs extra storage space, it should be designed into the building,” said Sulkis. “Outside storage is allowed in this zone, but outside storage is not the same as storage containers.”

In response, Curseaden said storage containers and outside storage are not defined in the city’s zoning regulations.

“I think storage containers are allowed in this zone,” said Curseaden.

Board member John Grant said, “Storage containers would be considered an accessory structure with a foundation.”

Curseaden said, “I don’t think it would be an issue” to place the containers on a concrete slab, if required to do so.

Sulkis said, “If it met the regulations as an accessory structure, we could property tax it.”

The only public comment came from Robin Moran of 500 Plains Road, who asked if this was the same company operating a facility on Raton Drive, to which he received a “yes” answer. Moran asked if all commercial traffic could be diverted to Bic Drive, and a cited a city ordinance, which restricted truck traffic on Plains Road.

Sulkis replied by saying, “You can make a request to the traffic division.”

Following the public hearing, Sulkis commented that the company is illegally operating a similar facility on Raton Drive without a permit, and in violation of a cease and desist order filed by the Planning and Zoning Department.

The unpermitted facility is located on a 1.6-acre vacant lot at the end of Raton Drive in the Limited Industrial District (LI) on property owned by McNeil Enterprises LLC, which lists Roderick C. McNeil III of Lyme, as president and director.

In a Dec. 8 email response, Gordon wrote that the applicant and city are in court and this plan is the solution to settle the matter.

“There are number of such ‘unpermitted’ uses in the city as the uses are not clearly defined,” wrote Gordon, commenting that the Mallico Construction storage yard was the same issue with a similar resolution.