Decision reached on Gulbankians zoning issue, but not everyone is happy

by susan on January 27, 2011

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The Zoning Board of Appeals last night voted to approve permits that will allow the Gulbankian family to continue operating a machine shop and bus terminal on their Mt. Vickery Road property, bring to resolution an issue that has drawn out for more than a year. But the Metrowest Daily News reports not everyone is happy with the outcome.

The permits are contingent on the Gulbankians making improvements to their property to appease neighbors, improvements the family says will cost $160K. It’s money they say they may not have.

For the most part, neighbors at the meeting seemed satisfied with the adjustments made to the site, which the Zoning Board stipulated must be completed by Sept. 1.

The family, however, said it was frustrated with the process and seemed worried everything won’t get done in time.

“This has been a devastation to our family,” Carolyn Gulbankian said. “All of the sudden, our whole neighborhood is against us. … How do you think that feels?”

Michael Gulbankian said he does not think he has enough money to implement the needed modifications to the site, which he said would cost $160,000, by Sept. 1.

“You’re driving us out of town,” he told the board. “You’ve got a vendetta against us.”

You can read more details in this article by the MWDN.

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1 Marjorie Coldwell January 27, 2011 at 7:35 PM

I feel badly for the Gulbankian Family.
They are not a big Garden Center like Weston Nurseries, or Russell’s, or The Green Thumb, or Harvey’s. They do not employ dozens of people. They are an old town family trying to make ends meet in their small businesses. They work long and hard.
Yet they are they being penalized over issues that have not been questioned before.
The change in some attitudes in Southborough over the last few years bothers me in that people are being hurt unnecessarily.

2 John Butler January 28, 2011 at 3:57 PM

I agree with Marjorie Coldwell. This outcome is fundamentally wrong. The basic facts are that no significant change to the permitted businesses was being made by the Gulbankians. The ZBA should have had the moral sense to dismiss this on first sight. Instead the ZBA, on a mere technicality, have forced hundreds of thousands of dollars of expense on the Gulbankians, expense that will have no benefit to anyone. With 39 buses there for years in the past, the site has no contamination, but now it must be paved for the presence of 14. Please. We have citizen boards only because we hope they would apply a moral compass and common sense that a mid level paid bureaucrat would lack. They failed us.

3 shameful January 28, 2011 at 5:21 PM

Agree with John B. and Marjorie C. 100%. If they were working on bus engines instead of car engines, it appears there would have been no grounds for any of this nonsense.

How can a reasonable person conclude that working on antique car engines is more offensive than working on bus engines in the machine shop?

If you didn’t want to live next to a bus lot, flower shop, and machine shop, which have been there long before the homes on the hill were built, why would you buy a house next to it?

4 Amy Mohn January 28, 2011 at 10:23 PM

I hope the Gulbankian family knows that not all of their neighbors are against them! They were here long before most of us and their family business is a treasure in my opinion! I know Carolyn Gulbankian has tried to take her parents’ nursery to the next level! We should respect the folks in town who settled here before the recent conversion of family farms to stores and developments! I prefer their local character to a Wendy’s restaurant any day!

5 Jane Schneider January 30, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Plain and simple, this is dirty politics being played against hardworking, decent and kind people who have been in Southborough long before the self obsessed bureaucrats and social climbers came around. It’s disgusting! So glad I moved away from the shallow types now invading what once was a great place to raise a family.

6 Brian O'Sullivan January 31, 2011 at 9:35 PM

Don’t underestimate how carefully this looks to have been planned by some to use the immunity and free power of one of our town’s boards to serve their own ends to weaken the Gukbankians’ hold on their lands and livelihood, if not just hurt them.. Certainly it was a well coached free proxy legal assault for the Vickery Hill residents who admitted they were in breach of a signed contract to never contest the operations of the bus terminal. They benefited from a lot of free board time and town counsel hours too. Would only be fitting if they could be sued to recoup costs for the Gulbankians.
Less obvious is what motive some board members might have had for not letting the businesses run as previously been approved by predecessors without adding punitive conditions (just after changing one word “bus” to “automotive”was all that was needed) . Relevant perhaps is that at least one board member doesn’t seem to share the consensual definition of disqualifying conflict of interest(as in having appearance of or actual potential for financial or competitive gain or deep personal bias relating to outcome) as a reason to excuse self from a given hearing. One who appears to meet that definition was often seen tete a tete with the head of the condo association after board meetings. Makes me nervous to see something like that with all these stories these days about town business that is supposed to be in open meeting being done elsewhere.
Our representatives, elected or nominated have allowed a wrong to be done in our name.. Perhaps a review of who those representatives and board members are is in order. Elections are coming.

7 Debbie February 1, 2011 at 9:03 AM

Yes – this is very upsetting. I, personally, was unhappy when the lights from the new “Town Center” -especially the big sign, added their glare to that quiet area. But Gulbankian’s has been there all along and with moderate lighting. And what is the point in paving the lot if gravel works for the owners? What is wrong with gravel except that perhaps it doesn’t appeal to the aesthetic sense of a few? I find it appalling when people choose to become neighbors then demand changes.

8 Lisa February 1, 2011 at 2:39 PM

I am in agreement, this is a huge miscarriage of justice it appears. This family has been here for longer than most of us and should have been treated with much more humility and respect than they were. Shame on the ZBA, I guess they are more interested in giving variances for 4 story office buildings which go so nicely with the structure of our Town.

9 Tom February 3, 2011 at 2:48 AM

Being a long time resident of Southborough (45 plus years) and the Gulbankians being a very decent family which has always been respected has to go through all of this. This is abusred and I hope the town selectman has the guts to stand up for the right people and do their job. Just because of a few it should not outweight the many. I for one will be the first in line during the next elections to vote in the right people to help run this town. And shame on the Zoning board.

10 Michelle February 15, 2011 at 7:53 PM

This message is to those of you who started this fight with the Gulbankians– you obviously have no sense of community! You owe the Gulbankians respect – as we all do! Mr. Gulbankian is one of the hardest working men I have ever met. He and his wife have raised three wonderful children and built a business from the ground up and kept it going for years! He has done more in one lifetime then most of us hope to achieve! The OLD Southboro would never have let this go this far! The OLD Southboro would have squashed you and your selfish reasons for starting this fight and it would be YOU that would want to move out of town!

11 Reason February 15, 2011 at 10:29 PM

Honestly people, how long a resident has lived in the town and how “nice” they may or may not be are not matters for the Zoning Board. The Zoning Board is charged with the unenviable task of protecting the rights of ALL property owners whether they have lived here for a century or a month. The Gulbankians were operating outside the required zoning bylaw. It was the responsibility of the Zoning Board to enforce the zoning bylaw. It is really that simple. The fact that the Gulbankians may have been skidding by, operating outside of the town’s regulations, was icing on the cake for them, not cake to which they were entitled in perpetuity.

12 shameful February 16, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Agreed, the amount of time one has lived in town is irrelevant.

But, the only violation that has been identified is that car engines and NOT bus engines (as allowed) were being worked on in the machine shop.

Caught on a technicality that could have been avoided if the original paperwork had included the words “car” or “automobile”, and not just “bus”. And the game of “gotcha” has been won by those who knowingly purchased homes adjacent to, wait… exactly what is there now and has been there for over 30 years..

If anyone can honestly propose that this would have taken place if the words “car” or “automobile” were included in the original paperwork, I will rethink my position of support for the family.

13 Reason February 16, 2011 at 12:21 PM

My understanding is that the Gulbankians did not have a variance to allow more than one business on the property. That is much more serious than just the difference between a car or a bus engine. Maybe someone else can clarify?

14 MP February 16, 2011 at 12:00 PM

The difference between operating a machine shop for bus engines vs antique cars is nothing. I personally have been in the shop down there and its clean. Its not a garage where they are pulling engines out of cars. These engines are being delivered in via common freight carriers which could not and would not accept ANY freight that could be comtaminated. And think for a moment about an antique car…..the owners keep them in pristine condition.

As far as the paving of the lot, the more asphalt and concrete…the less so called green space and small town feel. Does Southborough want to be a concrete jungle?

There was an comment above about buying property next to an existing buisness and start complaining after the fact. That makes no sence to me, what did these people buy these condo’s off Craigslist or something? Perhaps a pic on the internet?
Its like the people in Bedford Ma complaining about the noise at the airfield. Those people have no clue what noise is untill the USAF decicides they want to start flying in big C5’s and B52’s.
Do your homework before you sign your name.

15 Brian O'Sullivan February 16, 2011 at 10:16 PM

In response to Reason. The fully permitted machine shop was always working on engines, though once much more dirty. When told by the building inspector in late 09 that antique car engines required a permit change update the Gulbankians dutifully filed for that update and were told also it would then have to be a separate business so they would also need to file for a multiple business permit. Only due to the building inspector saying yes it has to be a separate business to be cleared for other engines did multiple businesses become an issue and the ZBA has said fine to that by the way. Though dividing the bus terminal and machine shop into two technically creates two businesses where there were one it does not add any new functions, buildings, pollution, signage -anything. In fact the recent board review included encouragement from the board to NOT RESTRICT in the permit the kind of engines planned to be worked on to avoid need for a future review. How more clear does it need to be that the type of engines cleared to be worked on is just a matter of language not impact.
Also by the way both the ZBA member who has been vociferous and hostile in demanding financially costly additional conditions on physically unchanged businesses and a Selectman long knew that antique car engines were worked on there long ago and saw no issue obviously as they sent their own antique engines to be worked there. This was no secret nor significant offense nor one deserving penalty or anything other than fair and equitable treatment when the Gulbankians properly filed for the necessary permit changes when so directed to.

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