Zoning Board denies Toyota's request to create more parking space

A split vote from the Planning and Zoning Board resulted in denial of Colonial Toyota's proposal to establish parking to store its vehicle inventory at 449 Boston Post Road, the site that formerly housed the now demolished Kimberly Diner.

Board members offered mixed opinions in their review of the plan at their Sept. 2 meeting, with some saying the proposed zone change from residential to commercial was intrusive to the neighborhood. Other board members offered the opinion that the proposed 20-foot buffer zone would provide adequate protection to homeowners.

Board members Thomas Nichol, Thomas Panzella and vice chairs Edward Mead and Jeanne Cervin voted in favor, while Michael Dolan, John Grant, Jim Quish and board chairman Benjamin Gettinger voted against the application.

The vote means that Colonial will have to return to the board with a plan only for the property along the Post Road that is currently zoned commercial. Since the board has the power to determine zone changes, Colonial would have no basis to appeal that decision.

The plan was opposed by neighbors on Ford and Gunn streets, mostly due to a proposal from Colonial to change the zone of the property on these roads from residential to commercial. A total of 13 residents spoke in opposition to the plan at the Aug. 19 public hearing, which was attended by 25 neighbors.

Colonial submitted an application to allow the business to store a portion of its vehicle inventory on the site at 449 Boston Post Road and was also seeking permission to use a vacant commercial building at 435 Boston Post Road as a photo shop to take pictures of vehicles for Internet sales.

The parking facility is permitted in the Corridor Design Development District 1 (CDD-1) bordering Route 1, but is not permitted in the Residential 12.5 (R-12.5) district along Ford and Gunn streets behind the parcel.

Under the business name Gold Coast Realty II, Colonial applied for a zone change from R-12.5 to Zone CDD-1 for the properties on Ford and Gunn streets to match the zoning of the property along the Boston Post Road. Colonial also needed a special permit and site plan approval from the board for the entire project.

Brian Stone, attorney for Gold Coast Realty II, told the board at the Aug. 19 public hearing that the zone change affects less than three-quarters of an acre of the 1.8-parcel, which is across the street from the showroom at 470 Boston Post Road.

In response to neighbors' concerns, Stone said Colonial submitted changes that limited the zone change to its property, created a 20-foot wide buffer zone along the residential area with a fence and landscaping, and no driveways to the residential area, and would deed-restrict the buffer zone so it could never be developed.

During the Sept. 2 discussion, Gettinger said the neighbors who spoke at the public hearing indicated they did not want the commercial zone to encroach upon the residential zone. Gettinger said he thought the change was “a dangerous precedent” that could affect other residential neighborhoods in Milford.

Speaking in favor of the proposal, Mead said if the zone change were denied, the two residential lots directly behind the parking lot would have commercial property right in their backyard. With the proposed berm, fence and other landscaping, the residential neighborhood would have “a good buffer,” said Mead.

In response, Gettinger said, “I think it's unfair to people that bought land to move the commercial land closer to their property.” He said if someone bought the property behind Colonial Toyota, “They would have an understanding of where the commercial property line is.”

Cervin said, “Toyota did a very good job of talking to the neighbors,” adding, “There's no guarantee leaving it residential will improve the street.” She said she felt the berm with the trees and other landscaping “may be an improvement for the neighborhood.”

In response, Quish said, “There was a mixed message from the neighbors…I didn't feel the neighbors were wholly against it…I do think there is a concern about creating a commercial vibe on the whole street.”

In casting his 'no,' vote, Gettinger said, “I think we are slowly chipping away at the residential character of Milford.”

Other business

In other business, the board continued the public hearing to Sept. 16 for a resubdivision of a seven-acre parcel at 701 North Street, which adjoins the Orchards Golf Course. The property is owned by Stone Preserve LLC, which lists Arnold Peck as manager.

The board had held open a portion of the public hearing from its Aug. 14 meeting, seeking information about environmental conditions on the site, specifically related to the remediation of a possible underground oil tank. There was also a question of whether there were any pesticide residues in the soil from the former orchard.