Neighbor opposes expansion of Robert's Service Center
he Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) heard further input at a July 3 public hearing on a proposed regulation change requested by Robert's Service Center, 210 and 216 Buckingham Ave., near the corner of New Haven Avenue.
Owners Robert and Maureen Bruneau requested a regulation update that would permit service station garages in the Corridor Design Development District 4 (CDD-4), which includes New Haven and Buckingham avenues, provided the property abuts the railroad right of way, has a minimum lot width of 175 feet, a front yard setback of 25 feet, and meets certain other conditions.
At the June 19 public hearing, attorney Winthrop Smith represented property owner Donna Dutko of 236 Buckingham Ave., who is strongly opposed to the regulation change. Smith said he believes the proposal is spot zoning because it affects only a handful of properties.
Attorney John Knuff, who represents the Bruneaus, said at the June 19 public hearing that he believed the proposal is not spot zoning because there is no zone change, and the proposal is consistent with the Milford Plan of Conservation and Development.
Part of the controversy is that the Bruneaus recently expanded the business onto an adjacent 0.38-acre residential property at 210 Buckingham Ave. that they purchased in 2008. Without obtaining a zoning permit, they paved the yard behind the house, and installed a fence, and now use that area for parking.
At the July 3 public hearing, attorney Amy Souchuns, representing the Bruneaus, and attorney John-Henry Steele, representing Dutko, each presented additional information to support the case made by their respective law colleagues at the June 17 public hearing.
In particular, each took a different viewpoint of a memo from Stephen Harris, zoning enforcement officer, regarding a June 21 inspection of the Bruneaus' operation at 210-216 Buckingham Ave.
In the report, Harris wrote that the parking lot was being used store vehicles and several tow trucks. He said the vehicles were neatly arranged in a way that did not interrupt the free flow of traffic. However, Harris also noted that 216 Buckingham Ave. had 15 customer parking spaces when only 10 were approved in 2000, and that the rear parking lot did not match the configuration on the plans from 2000.
“Although it appears to be a well-run and orderly business, the site is out of compliance with the conditions of the special permit regarding #216. Also, there is no record of an approval to expand onto #210,” wrote Harris.
Souchuns said Harris' report indicated the property is currently in violation, but noted that Harris was complimentary about the “state of the site.” Souchuns said the proposed update to the zoning regulations is the first step to correcting the violation.
“The Bruneaus have been trying to work out for the last seven months keeping Robert's as a good local business,” said Souchuns.
Steele presented an Internet advertisement from the Bruneau's for a 24-hour towing service, which he said is not permitted on the property. He said their certificate of zoning compliance is only for an auto repair facility.
“They are in violation of the very regs they seek to change,” said Steele.
Souchuns presented a July 2000 report from Milford police in which she said, “It was understood at the time there would be tow trucks.”
The board closed the public hearing and is expected to discuss the application at its July 17 meeting. This will give board members time to review the packets of information presented by both sides of the issue.