Zoning board heeds neighbors' pleas to deny zone change

In response to concerns from neighbors, the Planning and Zoning Board unanimously denied a request to rezone a 0.28-acre property at 23 Meadows End Road from Residential-10 (R-10) to Commercial Design District-3 (CDD-3).

The board made the decision following a Jan. 6 public hearing in which 10 neighbors asked the board to deny the application, saying they were concerned about the commercial zone encroaching into their residential neighborhood.

Project Engineer Raymond A. Macaluso made the presentation on behalf of property owners John and Michelle Armellino. Macaluso said the 1,433-square-foot two-story house has a detached garage, shed and child's playset. As part of the change in zone, the site plan called for removal of the shed and playset, and the addition of a dumpster enclosure.

Macaluso said the property to the west is Milford Chevrolet, which was previously the location of the former Armellino's Restaurant. He said that John Armellino wanted to use the house as a real estate office and would move his family to the adjacent house at 27 Meadows End Road, which they already own.

Attorney Kevin Curseaden, representing the Armellinos, said he believed the application followed the city's comprehensive plan of development because the CDD-3 zone surrounds the property at 23 Meadows End Road.

“You have discretion about approving the zone change,” said Curseaden. “Other boards have approved zone changes in accordance with the comprehensive plan.”

Macaluso did not make a detailed presentation for the site plan, based on a recommendation from Board Chairman Benjamin Gettinger. Gettinger said Macaluso should wait until the board made a decision on the zone change, since the site plan was contingent on the zone change.

The next item on the agenda was for site plan review approval to use the house for commercial use/office space. Following the denial of the zone change, the board unanimously denied the site plan, as a procedural vote. Since the zone change was denied, the board had to deny the site plan.

The lone person to speak in favor of the application was Alderman Anthony Giannattasio (R-1) of Rosebrook Road, which is located near the Orange town line. Giannattasio said the property is close to commercial properties and accessible to Rt. 1 and I-95.

“It helps local people expand in business and develop their properties,” said Giannattasio, who did not identify himself as an alderman in his comments.

About 20 people attended the public hearing, many of them couples, and 10 addressed the board. Phyllis Gallo of Sycamore Drive, which backs onto Meadows End Road, presented a petition from 100 neighbors in the area who are opposed to the zone change.

“This change is not in the best interests of the neighborhood,” Gallo told the board. “It could be sold tomorrow and with commercial zoning they could have any kind of property the city allows.”

Gallo said she is bothered by lights from the Chevrolet dealership, which sh said shine in her windows, and also by noise from the public address system. She expressed concern that an already busy road would become even more congested.

Stephen Kraffmiller of Sycamore Drive said Milford has a lack of houses, yet abundant vacant commercial properties. Kraffmiller said a gas station, auto distributor, self-service laundry, and dry cleaner are all possible uses for the property, if the zone was changed.

“You have a happy neighborhood you are going to encroach upon,” said Kraffmiller.

Kim Gravel of 22 Meadows End Road expressed concern that the Armellinos would sell their property to Milford Chevrolet and she would be living across the street from a parking lot.

“Meadows End Road is residential and should remain residential,” said Gravel.

Responding to neighbors’ concerns, John Armellino said Armellino's Restaurant was owned by his father and added that he [John] had nothing to do with the Chevrolet dealership. He said the dumpster enclosure would be for a paper shredder and some garbage that might be emptied once a month.

Armellino said he and a colleague would use the home office and they would be “on the road” most of the time.

Macaluso asked the board if it could hold the public hearing open and table the application to give the applicant time to meet with the neighbors and discuss their concerns.

Board member Michael Dolan spoke in opposition to the zone change, saying he was not concerned about the Armellino's site plan, but by what could be built on the property in the future.

Board member Jim Quish suggested the Armellino's consider a deed restriction, saying in a recent application the deed restriction brought a level of comfort to the neighbors.

Quish referred to a recent application by Colonial Toyota to change land from residential to commercial. After Colonial modified the application and included a deed restriction for a buffer zone, the board approved the zone change.

Prior to voting on the measure to table, all the residents who spoke responded to Armellino's comments and they all said they were opposed to the zone change. They restated their concern that it is not the Armellino proposal, as much as what the zone change would allow for other commercial properties.

As with the Colonial Toyota application, the Armellinos could meet with the neighbors to discuss their concerns, and then resubmit the application.

Special Permit Approved

In other business, the board quickly and unanimously approved a special permit and site plan review to change the building property at 321 Boston Post Road from retail to office space over 10,000 square feet.

Duane Lanham was the applicant for the property, which is located in the Commercial Design District-1 (CDD-1) zone. Fischel Properties is the owner.

The board also unanimously voted to send out for review proposed regulation changes. The largest change involves how the city measures the height of houses. The other changes involve corrections of typographical errors.

The board has a number of regulations describing and defining height, stories and attics, some of which are not in agreement with the definitions in the building code. The revised regulation would simply state that the maximum building height within a one-family residential district is 35 feet.