MWDN: Southborough ZBA ruling on Gulbankian Farms upheld

by susan on June 13, 2012

Post image for MWDN: Southborough ZBA ruling on Gulbankian Farms upheld

Above: The Gulbankian Farms Garden Center has been in business for more than 45 years

More than a year ago, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted to require the Gulbankian family to make improvements to its 40 Mt. Vickery Road property after complaints from neighbors. At the time, many of you voiced strong opinions about the process – which took more than a year – as well as the outcome. The Gulbankian family appealed, but today comes word a Worcester court has upheld the decision.

Reports the Metrowest Daily News:

According to court records, Worcester Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker ruled in May that the town did not overstep its bounds last year in requiring the family to make a number of upgrades to the property to keep operating its machine shop.

Kenton-Walker also agreed with the town that the machine shop wasn’t properly permitted, and ordered the Gulbankians to stop work at J&M Machine Co. because they have not made the requested improvements. The Gulbankians’ various businesses operate at 40 Mt. Vickery Road.

The Gulbankian family has not made the improvements required by the ZBA – improvements Michael Gulbankian Sr. said could cost the family $250K – so the town is within its rights to order a cease and desist order for the machine shop. Building inspector David Gusmini told the MWDN that for legal reasons he could not comment on whether he plans to issue such an order.

The Gulbankian family has appealed the Worcester court’s ruling.

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

1 daddyo June 13, 2012 at 5:19 PM

What a shame to see such a nice family have to deal with so many problems. They have been an integral part of our town as long as I can remember. I have never heard one bad thing about any one of them in the past forty years. How many businesses can you say that about? I have heard these complaints all started with the neighbors living on land that was purchased from the Gulbankian’s with the stipulation they would not complain about their businesses. Again what a shame an agreement even in writing does not mean anything any more! If the whole commotion is over the busses which from where I’m sitting have not been any problem at all. Why go after their machine shop? We are acting like this is a chess game and we are trying to crush them. We should be embarrassed to have our town treat our long time neighbors this way. Also paving their driveway would be an extremely expensive hardship and is not environmentally friendly. They have had busses parked on their land for many years. I used to ride them to school. Mr. Gulbankian asked show any oil leaks on his property because there are none! Let’s not drive our long time small businesses out of town like this. Please show support for them.

2 Alan June 13, 2012 at 8:15 PM

I will be watching in the furture if any of complaining neighbors go in front of the ZBA when they need a variance. I will be attending that meeting to ensure the process does not go smoothly. What goes around comes around.

3 John Kendall June 13, 2012 at 8:48 PM

Isn’t it funny…some get grandfathered, some don’t. Some have problems with the ZBA, some don’t. I am 100% behind the Gulbankians.

4 CJ June 13, 2012 at 9:11 PM

It’s outrageous that a signed agreement to prevent this type of action does not hold weight. People working the system to cause the Gulbankians hardship is infuriating. I will continue to support the family in any way I can.

5 John Butler June 13, 2012 at 10:30 PM

It is a moral abomination that this should happen to this family. The Town should not be contesting this case.

Someone should find a way to stop this horror show. We should refuse to spend a dime on counsel’s services defending this case. What does it take to stop this Town bureaucracy from hounding this family?

Attending these ZBA hearings was like watching some movie set in the old East Germany, a bureaucracy that can no longer recognize a wrong that it is mindlessly pursuing. No member of the ZBA had the courage to recognize and publicly declare this for what it was, a moral wrong. The ZBA should have dismissed this case on first sight.

Why is it that we can get the whole Town up in arms over the swap shop but can’t stop this outrage against this family done in our name?

I believe that citizens should appeal to the Board of Selectmen now to not defend the ZBA’s position in this case. The Selectmen should refuse to spend Town Counsel resources any further on it and the Building Inspector should be directed to drop this matter. Someone must see right from wrong here. If this family business is driven from our Town we all should hang our heads in shame.

6 Pat Q June 14, 2012 at 7:30 AM

Agree with your post 100% John. Great point that we hear from so many (including me) when the swap shop is threatened but we allow this to happen to such a well run, local, long standng family business. Isn’t this the reason we all gravitate to small towns after all?

Count me in on getting involved. What is the first step?

7 Al Hamilton June 14, 2012 at 12:50 PM


I agree with you. I think that Southborough is becoming a more and more business unfriendly town. I look at the debacle that took place for permitting the old farm stand on 85. Now, we are almost certain to see that field turned into housing as soon as the market picks up.

Just so we are clear, every business that we drive out of town or convince to look elsewhere means higher taxes for us all. Single family homes don’t pay their own way in property taxes. Business properties on the other hand are the town’s “Cash Cow”.

I suppose that if enough people are unhappy about this a petition requiring a special town meeting (I think it only takes a few hundred signatures) where we could cut the Legal Budget to 0 or otherwise restrict this harassment would be a potential course of action.

Just the threat of a special town meeting might be enough to resolve this.

8 Townie D June 14, 2012 at 6:23 AM

We are behind you Gulbankians!!!!

9 pdietz June 14, 2012 at 6:30 AM

This is so shameful. I don’t live in Southborough anymore, but I LOVE the town and still have many connections. I lived on Rockpoint Road very close to the Gulbankian’s for over 15 years. Never, ever, had any problems and it was refreshing to see the family running their own little business throughout the time that I lived right down the street. Please, please, please do not let a few Southborough Condo Dwellers ruin this hard working family.

10 Townie June 14, 2012 at 6:39 AM

The BOS wants this town to be a more business friendly town, but they let this happen. Looks GREAT from people wanting to start a small business. Shame on the BOS for letting this get out of control.

On a side note, I’m a little confused at the fact that the original complaint was of noise from the buses, but the ZBA is going after the quiet machine shop….

BOS and ZBA should be standing BY their citizens, not push them to the curb.

11 Helen June 14, 2012 at 10:41 AM

I have an idea, let’s run this business out of town, and let the property sit vacant for, hey, 15-20 years like the vacant property on the corner of Main & Newton Streets. Then the neighbors can complain about the overgrown vacant lot, and we can require the owners to put up a big ugly fence and mow the overgrown lot! Oh, and since the neighbors have now bankrupted the owners of the now-defunct business, let’s get the town to pay for it all.

Why don’t we all move next door to a pig farm in overpriced condos, and then complain about the smell? Same thing folks, you people in that development who have brought this about for the Gulbankian family’s businesses should be ashamed of yourselves. Are you as self-righteous as you are blind? You KNEW they were there when you bought those condos, and they were there before most of you have ever heard of Southborough. The whole thing is just wrong, and I’m also ashamed of this town for treating them this way.

12 just curious June 14, 2012 at 1:14 PM


You bring up an excellent point re the lot at the corner of Main and Newton St. It was and is again an eyesore. The only time it was cleaned up and looked nice was when Lou wanted to put his sign up and got the owner to cut the grass and remove the fence. Maybe we can get Lou to put some pressure on the owner. Even though he was not elected, Lou is a man who certainly does know how to get things done!

13 just curious June 14, 2012 at 1:11 PM

I’m not trying to throw gasoline on this fire, but if the ZBA decision is required to follow the rules of the town, and if they did so in this case, can’t the town just change the rules to allow this? We have a special town meeting coming up in October.

Secondly, is this part of the reason why the BOS doesn’t want to re-appoint some folks to the ZBA?

Now I have to say I had a great big belly laugh when I read Mr. Butler’s comment “… set in the old East Germany, a bureaucracy that can no longer recognize a wrong that it is mindlessly pursuing.” A friend who was a town department manager once used some similar (but vulgar) words to describe his experience appearing before the Advisory Committee. Isn’t that ironic!

14 Al Hamilton June 14, 2012 at 1:41 PM

I think there is quite a bit of difference between a department manager, who is spending taxpayer monies, appearing before a group of citizens charged with reviewing his/her proposed expenditures and the case in point. Even if the manager was given a hard time, and I would freely admit that in some cases a very hard time was dished out on my watch, that is quite different.

In this case a private, tax paying, citizen was appearing before a board. I think that set of circumstances is quite different.

15 John Butler June 14, 2012 at 2:51 PM

The first point that “just curious” makes is an important one to respond to in full. The task of the ZBA cannot be to follow rules, without judgment as they do so. If that were the case we would not need a nine person citizen panel. We could just pay Town Counsel to do it, or some other employee. Somewhat like a jury, the ZBA is made of citizens so that common sense and empathy can be brought to bear on decisions within the context of the rules. In this case the ZBA should have seen that the family had an outstanding permit to run a bus company and a machine shop and a right to operate a flower/plant business and that therefore, substantially, nothing was changing. Buses had been parked there for decades. Further they should have seen that the complaint was the kind of petty bit of miserable backbiting that has always arisen, occasionally, as long as people have had to live near to one another, and that should be dismissed promptly to save the victims of it, as well as the perpetrators from their later guilt when they come to their senses. Instead the the ZBA acted like an automaton, a broken robot, without thinking, without seeing the forest for the trees. Now, I don’t think we can change the rules, although I don’t know for sure. I think we can, however, choose to abandon our mindless pursuit of this family and that we should do so in the name of justice, right now.

The interest of the Town is not in enforcing this power we apparently have over this family business, therefore we should not do so. As a first and immediate step the BOS should declare that it will not. It would have been better to have had the ZBA stop this madness, but it would be better to stop it now rather than let it continue one step further. As far as I know the BOS has control of the deployment of Town Counsel. I think they should say that they will not pursue this further. I’m not sure about control over the building inpector, but if he knows there isn’t going to be court followup then he is powerless, I suspect. I am not expert however, so I merely assert that we must find a way.

(As for the implication that there is some irony in my role on Advisory Committee, which, it is said, a department manager once vulgarly slammed, I do not ask to be spared criticism if, in my attempting to serve the Town, someone thinks I behaved badly. I hope it is obvious that my comment on the Gulbankian case has no connection to Advisory Committee.)

16 Resident June 14, 2012 at 4:49 PM

While you are correct that the ZBA can exercise judgement, they must do so in an informed, intelligent way. As I state below, they often grant variances which would not hold up under appeal. They take a risk to do so because abutters do not object and they do not anticipate an appeal. But if it is clear that abutters will object and appeal a ZBA decision to grant a variance, they are doing nothing but wasting time and money by granting a variance. This is what happened in this case. They can buck the system and go to bat for this family all they like, as can the BOS, but in the end, if the neighbors are going to take this to court, the neighbors are going to win unless the zoning bylaw is re-written. It is very likely that the ZBA (and the building inspector) would have liked very much to side with the Gilbankians, but that is not their job. Their job is to uphold the laws that we residents vote on. The law, as I understand it, was clear on this one and their decision was the right one under the law. It may not be popular but the job they are asked to do is not a popularity contest.

As an aside, I think it is shocking that some posting on this topic are so ignorant of how the ZBA works and yet speak so authoritatively in criticism of them. They did a dirty job, but that is what they had to do. I object to any suggestion that they acted in an inappropriate or unethical manner. I know a few of the members and nothing could be further from the truth.

17 Al Hamilton June 14, 2012 at 5:25 PM

My understanding is that one of the important roles of the ZBA is to grant variances to the rules and regulations in the Zoning laws. I have had to appear twice (once in Southborough and once in N. Reading) and was treated very fairly both times.

What I took away was that in order for a property owner to qualify for consideration there had to be a “hardship” on that property owner if the property owner is required to comply with the letter of the Zoning by law. One of the boards first jobs was to determine if there was in fact a hardship if not, no variance regardless of the facts. In fact, they are asked to use a lot of common sense in making these judgements.

Speaking from my tower of ignorance it seems like the “Hardship” argument would not have been that hard to make in this case.

Perhaps the Gulbankians should just sell the property to McDonalds or Burger King.

18 Resident June 14, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Had they made a sound case for hardship, the court would have reversed the ZBA’s decision. Clearly they did not.

19 Al Hamilton June 15, 2012 at 11:29 AM


I think you are incorrect. The “Hardship” is a judgement based on facts. An appeals court typically does not get involved in the resolution of facts but rather was the proper process (law) followed.

I believe that the court said that the ZBA operated within its authority which I suspect was the correct interpretation. I suspect that if the ZBA had ruled in favor of the Gulbankians it would also have operated within it’s authority. They are the body charged with making the judgement based on the facts. As long as they follow the proper process the underlying judgement is not going to be overturned by a court.

This is similar to an appeal of a trial verdit. It is very very rare for an appeals court to override a jury decision. What they do rule on is was a proper trial held and if not they remedy that.

20 Resident June 14, 2012 at 4:04 PM

just curious, that is exactly the issue. There is a set of zoning bylaws and the ZBA is required to abide by them. They issue variances all the time and those are issued under very strict guidelines like financial hardship. Very rarely can an applicant prove financial hardship and the ZBA grants variances anyway. That is because, once abutters are notified, and if no abutters object, the ZBA can assume that their variance will not be contested. If a variance is contested and financial hardship is not proven, the ZBA can be overturned and this costs the town money.

Now, in this case, it was very clear that abutters would contest a variance if the ZBA granted one and if financial hardship was not shown so, regardless if the ZBA “liked” the Gilbankians or not, it was not in the best interests of the town ( or the Gilbankians) for the ZBA to grant the variaince just to see it overturned by the courts.

The solution is to change the bylaw, but then the bylaw has to be changed for EVERYONE. That means that you might find your next door neighbor, who you might not like and who might not run as clean an operation as the Gilbankians, running multiple businesses next to your property and greatly decreasing your property values.

In the end, it, unfortunately, does not matter how nice the family is, how long they have lived in town, blah, blah, blah. The law is the law and sometimes it is hard when we don’t want it to be, but it is there to protect all of us.

21 Frank Crowell June 14, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Resident – maybe you can help me understand something. If I have this right, the original complaint was about buses sitting idling waiting for their next run. Then, all of a sudden a town official (building inspector?) discovers that they are repairing cars or trucks or whatever which the Gilbankians have been doing for years. 

I guess if you lump this 50 year oversight with the story of the house built in town that is unlivable (I am sure we all remember that story – a building inspector was involved) then I guess this can all make sense.

No, I would not like a to live next to a mechanics shop, but if I bought an expensive home, I would take a look around the neighborhood before I closed.

It would be best if a variance is given and the neighbors drop the whole thing.

22 Resident June 14, 2012 at 5:01 PM

Yes, I agree with you Frank, that would be the best solution, but not one any member of the ZBA, the builing inspector, or any member of the BOS can enact. Unless a town meeting changed the zoning bylaw, there is nothing else that will solve the problem and I for one would not vote for that change. It would open us all up to potential abuses by others.

23 John Butler June 14, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Resident. I don’t see it that way at all. First of all it is not clear that any court action would have been lodged by the neighbors had the ZBA merely held that the planned usage was within the scope of the existing 20 year old permits, as they had been given substantive interpretation over the years. If they had taken this position, then the cost of action would be with the neighbors rather than the Gulbankians and, without the support of the Town (and with the Town saying, factually enough, that the existing variances and the accepted use over decades, which were very arguably within those variance boundaries meant that the Town believed there should be no action) the neighbors might well have lost the case, or declined to spend the money on the case. I have a hard time believing that the neighbors would take on the Town in such a case. But, if they did, the Town should have been on the right side, win or lose, not on the side of doing a manifest injustice.

There is another fact that has bearing on this case. About 12-18 months before this started, the Town hired a new building inspector after the retirement of the prior one. The new inspector gave public testimony, in my presence, that the Town had been lax in enforcement, in general, for decades. He stated that he was going to change that, adding further that the potential for fines and other collections would make the higher cost of enforcement self-liquidating, or better. The problem occurs when this results in the sudden imposition of $100/day fines on a business that has been operating openly under an existing permit that seems to cover the usage. The law cannot be enforced one way for 20 years and then suddenly another way with the change of people. Remember the civics lesson: “a government of laws not of men”. The Town had fully accepted the notion, based on a public posted sign, that it didn’t matter if the permitted bus engine repair was in fact antique car engine repair inside the permitted building. It accepted that until the day that the new inspector showed up at the Gulbankian’s door to levy the fines, some 20 years later, brandishing his newcomer’s unthinking zealotry. Town Counsel, who is sensitive to the risk that changes in enforcement will result in unenforceability for the Town, wanted to argue against the notion that there had been such a change in enforcement, rather than, with justice, admit that in fact there had been such a change. Instead we, as a Town, should have admitted that we acquiesced in the notion that these usages were in fact compliant substantively. We should have argued that way because it was the right thing to do, because it was true that we had so acquiesced for decades.

Resident, in the end the argument is this: do the fair, just and right thing. Then, let the chips fall where they may. This is not naive. It is the only principle that makes us want to live together as neighbors. It has been lost sight of in this and must be restored to the center to guide our actions.

24 Resident June 15, 2012 at 8:15 AM

I agree that the more politically correct and popular thing for the ZBA to do would have been to issue the variance and let the neighbors appeal if they wished, which I feel they would have done and they would probably have won. I disagree that the current inspector should have been lax because the previous one was. Perpetuating what amounts to an error does not equate to a solution. That makes no sense and sets a very bad precedent. What would happen if an applicant for a variance came forward expecting one “because the Gulbankians got one.” What would happen if that applicant lived next door to you? Would you be happy if he got one? Should the ZBA tell him no because they don’t “like” him, or he hasn’t lived in town long enough? The Gulbankians enjoyed leniency for a long time, but that does not mean that they had any right to be in violation of the law indefinitely. In fact, this would be in direct violation of the principle of “a government of laws not of men,” applied properly.

By “a government of laws not of men” John Adams was referring to no man being above the law or that the law should be applied to all men equally. He was not referring to law enforcement or to the interpretation of law by an Authority Having Jurisdiction, which our building inspector happens to be. If we believe that one business in our town (one “man”) should be entitled to operate numerous businesses on their property, then all businesses should be allowed to do so. That would be unacceptable to a very large number of property owners in town and as well it should be. So the “law” not the “man” should be the primary consideration. Unfortunately, in this case, the “man” happens to be someone many people like. Would people be so up in arms if it were someone they disliked or didn’t know? I think not.

It is unrealistic to think that the law is interpreted exactly the same by all Authorities Having Jurisdiction. In fact it is quite common for the exact same law, for example the MA Building Code, to be interpreted in many different ways from town to town. Anyone in the building industry is painfully aware of this fact. Like it or not, the law gives our building inspector the right and the duty to interpret the laws he enforces as he sees fit and to the best of his ability. That includes our Zoning Bylaw. Nowhere does it say that he must be consistent with a previous inspector or that the rulings of the previous inspector amount to a “Grandfather clause.” Another fact is that the court upheld his interpretation. It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

In the end, I believe that the law is “open to interpretation” only up to a point. After that point it has to be changed if we don’t like it, but that it needs to be applied fairly and evenly to all. I guess I trust that the ZBA tried to anticipate where this battle between the Gulbankians and the abutters would go and endeavored to do the best they could for the Town within the law. The court obviously agrees.

25 John Butler June 15, 2012 at 10:29 AM

Resident, first, since you have so much to say, why don’t you stop hiding in the bushes of anonymity? Do not tell me that you are afraid to argue for an unpopular position, and that is the difference between us. I have stood for those, when I thought the occasion demanded. The general cast of the problem here is that it is easier to avoid sensible humane judgments when people can hide behind “carrying out the law” and easier to argue for the lack of such judgment when anonymous. We need less of that, and more of the fully human.

However, I will take up the substance of this again. If this were a case of three businesses operating on a site without established right, then of course the Town should not look away. You distort the amount of judgment involved. In this case there was a permitted, established right to operate a machine shop for the maintenance of engines. The footprint of that shop did not change, ever. The new Town building inspector thought it wise to issue a desist order and then $100/day fines because the purpose to which the engines were put was to power antique cars not to power buses. I say that so long as the size of the building does not change and the nature of the work in the building does not change, there is no Town interest in the nature of the vehicles which the engines subsequently power. Furthermore the Town had made this sensible judgment long before, when it accepted for decades this usage. I call this $100/day fine by the new Town building inspector a form of zealotry. Eventually the Town came around to the point of view that this excess was not necessary, but not until damage had been done. It is precisely this early application of sensible judgment that you argue against, and that I argue for. It has nothing to do with politically correct or any of your other rhetoric. It is simply what we as a Town ought to do in the situation we were in.

You also write as if ignorant of, or intentionally glossing over, the fact that the Town had already approved the operation of a bus company from this site. I am not saying that if the Town had not already issued a permit for that, decades earlier, we should now look the other way about the parking of buses here. Of course not. Also, I would not argue for such an entirely new permit if requested today. But, by permit actually issued by the Town, buses had been parked there for decades and were about to be parked there again. The judgment involved was whether a gap in such usage had vacated the right, whether school buses were different from coaches.

In the end was all nit picking bureaucracy, pursued mindlessly, with a large dose of neighbor ugliness as ignition. There was no need for the Town to do this, no risk of loss of the entire structure of zoning enforcement as you imply, merely if someone had acted reasonably in interpreting the existing permits. If you can’t see this, if you can’t make a distinction between reasonable judgment and zealotry, then perhaps I understand some of your motivation for anonymity.

Do not cast me as a friend of the Gulbankians. I am not. I write merely as a long time friend of the Town, in this instance, some imagined better Town than we have actually been.

26 Kate June 14, 2012 at 1:23 PM

The town Zoning Board has handled this entire process extremely poorly. It’s all about how you handle issues as presented and understand the impact of your decisions or delay thereof. This seems to be a constant theme in our society to default to a costly legal and court option versus using rational judgment. The Selectmen of this town need to step in and stop this runaway board!

This is a black mark on Southborough and our willingness to support small business development. Where is the incentive to come here? Sounds like we want to continue supporting the big store chains along RT. 9 and outside Southborough.

The Gulbankins have been doing business in town and contributed to our growth for over 40+ years. Now faced with years of legal costs and proposed changes the town is forcing them out of business.

The schools are important but so is the development of business for revenue to support them . The fair minded residents of this town need to come forward in opposition to the individuals who logged this complaint and the Zoning Board.

How is it that you buy property understanding the existng conditions and operations of your neighbors (who have been there for over 40 years) and then try to force them out of business! The new American Way.
Let’s go after the Mass Pike, I didn’t realize the cars would make so much noise and cause such pollution when I bought my house.

27 Alan June 14, 2012 at 2:13 PM

If Lou (as you spelled it) is so powerful and such a influance, why didn’t he do something with the vacant lot years ago. Isn’t it interesting things only get done when it is to his advantage. Isn’t he on the ZBA???? If I recall he is part of the Gulbankians problem. Lets all look at his property to see if it meets the zoning laws. Big semi truck storage?

The ZBA is called the Zoning Board of Apeals which means they can override the towns zoning regulations. Thats what they do. All they had to do was issue a variance and we wouldn’t be talking about this. Thank You BOS for starting to weed out some of the board members that don’t understand that concept.

28 Al Hamilton June 14, 2012 at 3:20 PM

I believe that if this is appealed the BOS could decide not to defend, they have the full authority to do so.

§ 36-1. Authorization to settle legal claims.
The Board of Selectmen shall have full authority as agent of the Town to prosecute and defend all suits in which the Town is a party. It may settle, at its discretion, any legal and valid claim or suit against the Town which does not require the payment of more than $300. Any settlement requiring a payment greater than $300, except when authorized by law, shall be made only when authorized by vote of a Town Meeting.

Interestingly this authority would be taken away from the BOS in some version of the Special legislation

29 southsider June 14, 2012 at 4:21 PM

C’mon BOS… where are you? It must be clear to you all which way this political wind is blowing. Why not take a stand?
I also agree with Townie’s comments above: wasn’t the original complaint to prevent this family from expanding their business by storing school buses from another town?
I can muster a bit of sympathy for that concern… the smell and noise from lots of buses trying to warm themselves up every winter morning would become aggravating but the machine shop appears to be decades old and s/b grandfathered into legitimacy regardless of any rule. Putting these good people thru this trouble is a shame.

30 Al Hamilton June 14, 2012 at 4:32 PM

If people are really riled up I suspect that a special town meeting could be called that could probably resolve this by placing a special by law on the books or stipulation that no funds shall be expended on this matter.

May voters call a special Town Meeting?

Yes, voters may call a special Town Meeting. Two hundred registered voters or 20% of the total number of registered voters, whichever is less in number, may request a special Town Meeting. The special Town Meeting must be held no later than 45 days after the Board of Selectmen receive the request.

What’s the procedure for voters calling a special Town Meeting?

The requisite number of voters must sign a written request for a special Town Meeting. The format of the written request is flexible. Voters should include their addresses after their signatures.

Voters deliver the written request to the Board of Selectmen. The Board of Selectmen must then call a special meeting within 45 days.

It is a blunt instrument but effective

31 just curious June 14, 2012 at 10:04 PM

I have heard that the cost of a special town meeting is somewhere around $10,000. (That’s my recollection, but it may be faulty.)

Isn’t there already a special town meeting in the fall? Why not add this issue to the mix?
That special town meeting will address and vote on the proposed town planning by-laws.

Can someone with specific knowledge please tell us what part of the by-laws should be modified to allow the Gulbankians to continue as is? It might be educational for everyone to understand the pros and cons of such a change.

Finally, the new building inspector has been outstanding in my dealings with him. And he said NO to my project, until I made changes.

32 Al Hamilton June 15, 2012 at 12:32 PM

Yes, I think that the number you cite is in the ballpark. The question is how to add this issue in the form of a warrant article. For the Special Town Meeting the BOS is in control of what is and is not on the Warrant. I believe that only the Annual Town Meeting qualifies for the 10 signature article.

You could present the 200 signatures within 45 days of the Special and then let reason apply.

The real question is what does the article say. It could take the form of “No public monies shall be expended for…” or it could specificially address the violations.

33 Pat Q June 14, 2012 at 5:49 PM


By “stipulating that no funds will be expended on this matter” in a special town meeting …..would that put the matter completely to rest?

34 Al Hamilton June 15, 2012 at 12:36 PM

I am not sure. It would mean that Southborough would not be party to any appeal or for that matter any enforcement. It is hard to do anything without spending money. Any employee spending time on the matter would be in violation of the restriciton since time is money. No employee could drive to the site and get reimbursed for travel. No filing could be made. No legal bills could be incurred.

It is not a pretty tool to use.

35 Resident June 15, 2012 at 8:20 AM

There is a possible solution which no one has suggested. If the residents agree that the law prohibiting multiple businesses is good for the town as a whole, but that they wish to allow this particular business owner to continue to do business as he has for years, then residents could help raise the money the Gulbankians need to meet the requirements the ZBA has established for them to continue to do business. Judging by the outcry from so many of you on this blog, it would seem that this could be very doable if someone cared enough to make it happen. I bet there are businesses in town that might discount or donate their services to help out with making the improvements that are being required. Volunteers could donate their time. This would be far more effective than calling for a special town meeting to block the Town’s ability to hire legal counsel on the matter. The Gulbankians would save additional legal costs and it would be a positive step rather than a negative one. Maybe with such an effort, the abutters might be swayed and the ZBA might be able to compromise on some of their demands. I can see the headline in the MetroWest Daily News now – “Community Rallies Around Local Business Owner.” I would offer to help if I heard about such an effort and I don’t even know the Gulbankians. Improving the appearance of this prominent corner would benefit all of us too.

That being said, I am perplexed on how the family could have sold such a large parcel of land for development, but now would be bankrupted by the cost of these imporvements. Still, if that is the case, it seems many will want to helg.

36 Ary Ofakim June 15, 2012 at 11:59 AM

Resident, I believe the money from the sale of the land was used to establish homes for the Gulbankyan children (who got married & now have children of their own). They must really love Southborough. Maybe it’s time for Southborough to show some love back.

Resident, please look into, or, analyze what was the reason that after the original complaint of noise from these businesses was found to be in error — apparently, it was coming from another business–, did that bruise a certain person (s) ego, to open the floodgates of this hypocritical zealotry?

37 Pat Q June 16, 2012 at 10:12 AM

After all the poignant quotes from John Adams and a direct quote from you (June 24th) “unfortunately, does not matter how nice the family is, how long they have lived in town, blah, blah, blah.” I have concluded and believe you are dead wrong.

In the end it should matter how long they have lived here ………….they (several generations, mind you) have made a commitment to this town by running a respectable business that serves this town well on many different levels. It’s a gift that this family has not packed up and sold their property to some giant super store or developer……after the treatment they have gotten.

Is this how we take care of one another? They are not running a pig farm for goodness sakes. The property behind them was well aware of their existence.
The huge financial responsibility of meeting the ZBAs requirements should not rest on the town’s residents shoulders and it not should it rest on the Gulbankians. The requirements should never have been mandated.

It is also shocking that you can come up with a statement like “I am perplexed on how the family could have sold such a large parcel of land for development, but now would be bankrupted by the cost of these improvements”. Who are you to say what financial responsibilities this family has? Or how this family has managed its finances? Or what personal hardships they may have? Are you not aware of the crappy economy, lack or high cost of health insurance, bottomed out home values and lack of decent paying jobs in this country?

38 Resident June 16, 2012 at 12:47 PM

Yes, their finances are none of anyone’s concern and I probably should not have worded my statement as I did. I apologize. I will say that the comments here and the family’s arguments against making the requested improvements do bring financial issues into question.

39 south June 15, 2012 at 11:47 AM

What if they build apartment complex and start renting, or low income housing, that will bring condo owners property value way down. Cover all the grounds with asphalt is wrong.

40 daddyo June 15, 2012 at 12:10 PM

I am not perplexed at all how the Gulbankians spent their money . That is none of our business ! THE majority of the commenters do not believe the actions of the town are fair or just. Therefore asking them to pay to enforce them seems a bit silly to me. I could not agree with John Buttlers coments more! Except for one thing. I have heard many complaints about people not using their own names. Guilty as charged. I am not afraid of standing by my opinions . But have been more reluctant to display my lack of edjucation and proper spelling and grammer. because this seems to be very important to many I will introduce myself my name is Jim Foley. However I do believe I know right from wrong and the way our neighbors the Gulbankians have been treated is just wrong !!! PS I think it would be great if Susan could keep this article and it comments on the front page do to its overwhelming interest and importance.

41 Al Hamilton June 15, 2012 at 12:51 PM

At the risk of contradicting myself I think there is one important issue that has not been discussed. The BOS is in fact in a very difficult position. Even if they believed, as I do that an injustice has been done, they might reasonably choose to defend the actions of the ZBA.

The ZBA is a board of citizen volunteers. They are asked to do a difficult job that sometimes has substantial financial implications for other residents and property owners that appear before it. They have a lot of power and responsibility. In this case they were probably between a rock and a hard place. Someone was going to be unhappy with their decision but they did their duty and made a call. I think the call was wrong but they made it.

So, now that it is in the courts what does the BOS do? They, and only they, control the legal budget. They have the power to settle these matters. Do they support a board they appointed that is made up of fellow citizens doing a difficult job or do they disrespect them by trying to negate their actions. Who would want to serve on a board that can be readily overridden? Another rock and a hard place.

Perhaps Town Meeting is the right forum for righting this problem provided that TM actually has the authority to act in some fashion. Perhaps we could Rezone the parcel in question to permit the banned activities. Alternatively we might be able to legislate a special permit. Someone with more knowlege of Zoning and land use law can answer.

If Town Meeting acts then the ZBA and BOS can both be seen as acting correctly. The ZBA in exercising it’s authority and the BOS in supporting them and justice could be done.

42 Just Curious June 17, 2012 at 2:39 AM

Mr Hamilton wrote, in part: “…..Perhaps we could Rezone the parcel in question to permit the banned activities.”

If the proposed town annual meeting will be to discuss and vote on changes to the zoning by-laws, can an amendment be brought from the floor to add Mr. Hamilton’s suggestion?

43 Matt Hurley June 16, 2012 at 11:01 AM

I’ve been a member of the ZBA since 2007 and its chairman since last July. Given the many strongly-worded opinions expressed above, I think it’s appropriate to depart from my normal policy of not commenting on ZBA matters outside of our public hearings in order to correct some of the misstatements and misunderstandings reflected in the discussion so far.

I’d like to start by saying that the ZBA works very hard to make decisions that follow the law (as our oath of office requires), that are as fair as possible to all interested parties, and that are consistent with how we’ve handled other similar applications, regardless of who the applicant is. When it comes to complex, hotly-contested cases like the Gulbankian matter, it’s very difficult – if not impossible – to please everyone. In fact, by balancing a number of legitimate but competing concerns, we often reach a decision with which nobody is entirely pleased. Regardless of what the ZBA did in the Gulbankian case, our decision was likely to be criticized, which goes with the territory and is as it should be in a democracy.

But in my view, there’s no place in our public discourse for the personal attacks found in some of the comments above. By all means, people should voice their opinions, but comparing the volunteer members of the ZBA to mindless East German bureaucrats pursuing a moral abomination goes way too far and is the kind of personal attack that discourages people from getting involved in our Town government.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the ZBA is a quasi-judicial board, meaning that we don’t make the law, we apply it. And we can only apply the law to applications brought before us.

In this instance, the Gulbankians asked the ZBA to allow them to use their property in a way that our local zoning by-laws prohibit. In particular, the Gulbankians asked for a variance to operate a business – J&M Machine, which is operated by Michael Gulbankian, Jr. and specializes in rebuilding car and truck engines – in a residentially-zoned district. The Gulbankians also asked the ZBA for a special permit to allow a fourth “use” on their site – again, J&M Machine – in addition to the garden center, farm stand, and busing operation that had previously been approved on the site. (Our zoning by-laws allow only one use per site). Those three previously-approved uses are not at issue; this matter involves only J&M Machine.

It’s important to note that the type of variance requested by the Gulbankians – a so-called “use variance” that allows a business to be operated in a residentially-zoned area – is the highest form of zoning relief and is the toughest to obtain. State law, which can’t be overridden by our local bylaws or Town Meeting, not only required the Gulbankians to show that they would suffer “substantial hardship” if the variance were denied, but that the hardship stemmed from the site’s unique soil conditions, shape or topography. This is an extremely difficult standard to meet and courts routinely overturn ZBA decisions that grant use variances.

In deciding the Gulbankians’ request for relief from the zoning laws, the ZBA had three choices:

(1) deny the request, which presumably would have forced Michael Gulbankian, Jr. to find another location for J&M Machine other than his family’s property;

(2) grant the variance without any conditions directed to abutter’s concerns, which, if appealed (as appeared likely), almost certainly would have been overturned by a court because of the high standard for a use variance, and therefore the Town would have spent time and money losing a lawsuit and Michael Gulbankian, Jr. would have been left without the proper permit to operate his business on his family’s property; or

(3) grant the variance with conditions designed to address the concerns expressed not only by the Vickery Hills residents, but also by neighboring businesses, who expressed concern about the appearance and condition of the Gulbankians’ site, especially drainage and environmental issues.

The ZBA chose option #3: we voted 5-0 to grant the Gulbankians’ applications for a variance and a special permit with conditions. Many of the above comments appear to assume that the ZBA denied the Gulbankians’ request for zoning relief, but the truth of the matter is that we granted both the variance and the special permit that the Gulbankians requested.

Most of the conditions accompanying the ZBA’s approval had to do with things like hours of operation, the proper storage of materials, and the planting of trees to provide screening. The Gulbankians apparently do not take issue with any of those conditions. According to a recent letter from their attorney, they have already complied with 13 of the 15 conditions that accompanied the ZBA’s approval.

So this entire dispute boils down to the final two conditions of the ZBA’s approval, which require the Gulbankians to (1) pave a certain area of their unimproved parking lot to provide parking spaces for buses and other vehicles, as businesses in Southborough are normally required to do; and (2) install a stormwater drainage and filtration system to address environmental concerns consistent with State regulations.

Because of the technical aspects of these two issues, the ZBA asked the Gulbankians to submit a site plan incorporating these elements to the Town’s engineer and other subject matter experts for their review, which the Gulbankians (reluctantly) agreed to do. The Town’s department heads decided that the Planning Board should also review the site plan, which it did on an expedited basis.

On January 24, 2011, the Planning Board voted 3-0 to approve the site plan proposed by the Gulbankians. Two days later, the ZBA adopted that same site plan in approving the Gulbankian’s request for a variance and a special permit.

At that time, the Gulbankians expressed concern about the financial impact of complying with the site plan, which they estimated would cost them $160,000. This struck the members of the ZBA as an extremely high estimate given what we’ve seen in other similar situations. (According to a recent article, the Gulbankians now claim that it would cost them $250,000 to comply with the remaining two conditions). To lessen the immediate financial impact of the site plan improvements, the ZBA agreed to allow the Gulbankians roughly 20 months (until September 2012) to complete the paving.

Although I didn’t rule out the possibility of abutters appealing our grant of the variance, I was surprised when the Gulbankians filed a lawsuit against me and the other members of the ZBA, which put the Gulbankians in the highly unusual position of appealing a variance that was granted in their favor. I’ve also been surprised by some of the vitriol directed at the ZBA over the past few days, especially when the newspaper article that triggered those remarks was about the court’s dismissal of the Gulbankians’ lawsuit very early in the case. Despite the strong message sent by the court, I understand that the Gulbankians have appealed the court’s dismissal, so the matter remains in litigation.

Where do we go from here? I obviously can’t advise the Gulbankians, but I remain surprised that they have chosen to spend time and money challenging a variance granted in their favor as opposed to directing their efforts toward complying with the site plan that they proposed and that the Planning Board and ZBA approved. I can’t speak for the other members of the ZBA, but if the Gulbankians had made good faith efforts to comply with the site plan, I am quite certain that I would have been in favor of giving them even more time to comply than we already did. The ZBA has nothing against the Gulbankians. Our goal all along has been to apply the law in this complex matter in an even-handed way that’s fair to all parties and minimizes the risk of embroiling the Town in expensive and time-consuming litigation.

I hope this helped to clarify the facts. I don’t think it’s a good idea for me or other ZBA members to engage in a public debate about open ZBA matters, so I expect that this will be my only post on this matter. Please don’t interpret my silence in response to any future comments as anything other than my reluctance to discuss a matter that’s subject to pending litigation.

Thank you,


44 Resident June 16, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Thank you very much for posting on this matter Mr. Hurley. I didn’t have the degree of detail that you obviously have, but your account of the issues support what I have understood them to be all along. I am glad to see people are so supportive of one of their neighbors and, like I said, I would help them out too if a campaign was started to do so. But, in the end, the law IS the law and it does not play favorites or take into account the kind of subjective issues that people seem to be so worked up about. The ZBA had a job to do and they did it the best way they could. The court agrees. .

@ Mr. Butler, I fail to see what my posting anonymously on this issue has to do with the validity of the opinion I am expressing. Exactly what would it change if you knew my name? I am not claiming to be someone I am not or making any accusations which might require verification of my identity. I am expressing an opinion. You do as you please and I have every right to choose to stay anonymous as I please. If you are so agitated by my posting anonymously, then please feel free not to respond to my posts. I am not the least bit afraid or ashamed of my opinion on this matter and will discuss it face-to-face with anyone who asks. I will not, however, post my identity while discussing controversial issues on a public internet message board. It is unsafe and very unwise. That is my policy and my right.

It is clear when the conversation devolves into such attempts to discredit an opposing opinion, that the conversation is over. It is similar to when an online discussion is reduced to criticizing each other on grammar and spelling.

45 John Butler June 16, 2012 at 8:35 PM

Mr. Hurley engages in a selective retelling of this story that makes the Town look better than the full story would. I will fill in the facts missing from his version, then you can decide. (Note that the Building Inspector, and, to a lesser extent, Town Counsel, are partially to blame for this debacle, not only the ZBA.)

Here are the facts Mr. Hurley neglects to mention in his account. The machine shop building existed under a permit granted by the ZBA long ago for the purpose of maintaining bus engines/equipment. The Town previously did not consider the maintenance of bus engines inside that building to be sufficiently different from the maintenance of antique car engines that a new permit was required for the latter. It gave evidence to its judgment that these were substantially the same, from the Town’s viewpoint, not only by tolerating the operation for 20 years but also by granting a permit for a sign, in 2003, advertising a “machine shop” on the site.

Mr. Hurley only tells you that the Gulbankians applied for a permit for the machine shop, which was granted, but neglects to tell you that the need for that was based on a sudden new Town determination that machining an antique car engine was sufficiently different from maintaining a bus engine that the Town suddenly must clamp down on this. This is what caused the Gulbankians to make the application that he begins his version of the story with. Perhaps he neglects to tell you the full story because you might conclude, as I do, that the Town’s interest in what kind of engine is maintained in that shop is insufficient to force this family business to apply for a new permit at all, or perhaps he doesn’t want you to focus on the fact that the Town granted a sign permit for exactly this business in 2003, giving evidence to its previous, entirely reasonable, view that the kind of engine being machined did not matter to the Town.

So, you see when I say that attending these hearings was like watching a movie set in East Germany, in which a mindless bureaucracy follows its rules to an awful end, Mr. Hurley wants you only to see the movie starting in the middle, after the Gulbankians had been forced to apply for a permit because repaired engines that end up in cars are too different from repaired engines that end up in busses. From that point he is “following the rules”.

I say, better judgment is required. This case is really simple: nothing fundamentally new, and not granted permits decades ago, is going on at that site. Period. Everyone who has lived here can see that. The Town long ago granted permits for a bus company, a bus engine repair building, a sign advertising a machine shop (the permitted engine repair), the flower/farm business was operated by right. Suddenly in 2011 the same set of things required a new permit and new conditions costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Is that fair? No.

Someone needed to stop this process in the interest of sound overall judgment and fairness. No one did. Now we get selective retelling of the story as an effort in self-justification.

46 Alan June 16, 2012 at 9:52 PM

In response to Matt Hurley’s posting. The Gulbankian’s case should have been a straight forward action taking only one or two meetings at the most. If Mr.Hurley was so consumed with worrying about the fact of a time consuming litigation he should have been more vocal in the meetings to find a quick resolve instead of letting one member steer the course.

I was presant in the meetings and I doubt he said two words or asked many questions.

The one Point Mr. Hurley doesn’t bring up is the Vickery Hills Condo owners signed in their P&S agreement that they waive their right to complain and knowingly bought the condos with the Gulbankian’s businesses as next door neighbors.

The town “ZBA/Building Inspector/Town Attorney” should have stopped this travesty instantly. Where else can you buy a house and then put a long standing business/es out with the towns approval? Four families make a living off of that property, doesn’t that mean anything to this town or only when it’s tax time? Southborough welcomes businesses, now leave.! What a message we are sending out.

Someone else had posted that “The Gulbankians really must love Southborough to stay here”. I have known the Gulbankians all my life, Mr.Gulbankian drove us to school. People like the Gulbankian’s just don’t get up and leave for the next job, they created work for themselves and made the town more diverse but I guess that doesn’t count.

Mr. Hurley also mentioned that there are “four Uses” on the site, well I think we can scratch two from Mr. Hurley’s list as I believe ”farm stand, garden center’ ’is the same use and is exempt; agriculture. So that leaves School Buses and J and M Machine.

Having been asked to come to the ZBA meetings as a show of support to the Gulbankian’s I willingly did so and saw how the Condo people ranted about everything from soil bags to the way the buses were parked. Come on people the buses have been there as far as we can remember.

I concur with Mr. Butler about “East German Bureaucrats”.

To me it seemed clear that each time a vote was going to take place Mr. Bartolini stuck his foot in it and asked for more information “IE” more cost to the Gulbankians to prove something else whether it be wetlands or a barking dog. There is a reason that the ZBA chairman was not re-elected and after witnessing this first hand I have to wonder when the rest will be removed. !

The way I see it the condo people tried to get the town to remove the school buses as according to them “it’s an eyesore to see a yellow bus.” When that failed then they attacked the garden center. Again; when that failed Oh there’s a machine shop?? We’ll attack that.

Furthermore the machine shop is operating in plain site with a sign clearly fixed and in clear view of passersby on Rt.85. You’ll notice it under the Gulbankian’s Farm sign just in case no one noticed.

It seems that the big hula-balu is over one word in the machine shop variance that supposedly mentions “Bus engines” rather than “all automotive engines”. Mr.Gulbankian has stated many times in front of the board “An engine is an engine.” Make sense to me as well, an engine is an engine, what a novel idea ? Would be construed differently if on the variance it was Nuclear generator and then later to be found out they were making widgets, that doesn’t seem to fit the pattern of the intended purpose.

So are you with me people? The ZBA is using that as leverage to force the Gulbankian’s to pave the yard I believe the cost is 250,000 previously mentioned, then oil /water filtration and that is 85,000, wait we’re not done yet, 20 foot light poles to light the yard at night and to plant shrubs all around so that condo people won’t see the buses and won’t see the lights shining at night. Oh what an awesome sight. !

Sounds to me like a Walmart parking lot without the store.!

Funny thing is in all the years they’ve been in business there were no complaints up until the time the condo people came? Furthermore there’s less buses now than there ever was so it’s better right?

Bottom line is that these improvements are meant for a new business, not a business that say has been there over 45 years. The bus company there now is only there for one more year according to Mr.Gulbankian since they rented the space to park and work on the buses.

From a financial standpoint why would you want to spend that amount of money, say estimated at $500,000 worth of upgrades to a yard that won’t be used if the bus company doesn’t get the contract for the next time and the garage stays empty.

Would they be better off finding something in a form of multiple uses that the town would find less invasive if they don’t like the color Yellow. 40b comes to mind so doesn’t a Cumberland Farms gas station why not ? Right on 85.

47 Townie June 18, 2012 at 6:00 AM

So what you’re saying Mr. Hurley is that if the Gulbankian’s did the 2 reamaining conditions,Paving the parking lot and water drainage (which I assume is for the buses), the machine shop can stay open? How do those 2 things have anything to do with the Gulbankian’s operating a machine shop?? AGAIN, the original complaint was about BUSES! This looks like a personal attack against the Gulbankian’s.

48 daddyo June 18, 2012 at 2:06 PM

In an attempt to prevent everyone in town from getting hit by a branch off of the ugly tree, I would like to offer the possibility of helping to rectify this situation. It seems to me the majority of people are not happy about the Gulbankian situation. It seems increasingly unpopular to be labeled a “neighbor on the hill”. Both sides are faced with large legal fees and the town probably faces it’s own legal expenses. Although I have no involvement in this situation or political stance, I would like to see Southborough mend it’s fences.
So I offer this; Resident, you seem to be the unofficial spokesperson for the neighbors on the hill. If both parties agree maybe you and I could meet for an off-the-record meeting to see if we could be the go-between and broker a solution to the situation. That could leave everyone feeling okay about this, everyone would have something to gain. If you’re interested, please give me a call. My name is Jim Foley. My cell # is 508-335-2272.
I’m guessing the town has no interest in pursuing this controversial situation if no one is complaining. I give you my word, I will keep your identity confidential.
Jim Foley

49 Resident June 18, 2012 at 4:35 PM

Hi Jim, I appreciate your attempts at diplomacy but I don’t know anyone who lives in that area.

Also, I don’t think people quite understand where the issue is at this point. The variances have been granted, the neighbors are appeased and everything they asked for has been done. Regardless of how the situation was handled, the fact is that the Gulbankians are required by state law to pave areas of their property and put in a filtration system to keep oil, chemicals and such from going into the water system. We can’t relieve them of this obligation even if every resident of Southborough wanted to. Their only recourse is to cease the activity which potentially pollutes the water system or put in the improvements the law requires.

We can keep arguing about who did what and when it was done, but the matter is pretty simple now.

50 Mark Ford June 18, 2012 at 5:29 PM

Right…unless the Board of Selectmen decide not to litigate noncompliance, right? Isn’t that entirely up to the BOS? And can Town Meeting undo the adjudication?

51 Just Curious June 20, 2012 at 12:18 AM

I believe there are 9 people appointed to the ZBA and I do not know a single one of them. These 9 people volunteered to give of their time to help the town. I thank them for their service as I thank some of the other town volunteers I disagree with.

I occasionally disagree with decisions by the Advisory Committee, including the clumsy and ineffective way they failed to enter a meaningful discussion with the School Committee this spring. Nonetheless, I thank Advisory for their time and efforts, even when they fail.

To say that the town should simply ignore the Court decision because some simply disagree with it strikes me as foolish, arrogant and buying much trouble for the future. Wouldn’t this be called “selective prosecution?”

Resident made some excellent points in his earlier posts:

“…. I disagree that the current inspector should have been lax because the previous one was. Perpetuating what amounts to an error does not equate to a solution. That makes no sense and sets a very bad precedent. What would happen if an applicant for a variance came forward expecting one “because the Gulbankians got one.”

The town pays a lot of money each year for the advice of town counsel, who is also a former selectmen. If his advice is bad, and I have no reason to suspect it is, let us find a new town counsel. If his advice advice is the proper course we should follow, however unpleasant, we should heed his advice. Let’s find a solution, not follow Mr. Butler’s advice which is essentially to ignore the problem. It will not go away.

52 Alan June 18, 2012 at 3:42 PM

I am unaware of any legal costs that the neighbors are having to spend. Can anyone elaborate if there is?

53 daddyo June 18, 2012 at 4:58 PM

Alan, I think you are correct . I probably did not word that statement well. I am not sure the neighbors have incurred any legal cost. however it was suggested that they would pursue legal action if the town did not handle the situation correctly. I am simply trying to find a better solution so we can all put this behind us.

54 daddyo June 18, 2012 at 5:40 PM

Resident, I have no reason to argue with you or anyone else for that matter. I do not know all the laws but I would be surprised if it were as simple as you suggest . Previous post suggested that variances can be overturned by the courts . I would also be very surprised if the ZBA does not have the power to reverse their own decisions and I believe there are other issues the neighbors have complained about with no legal recourse . Hence the talk to negotiate terms that could work for everyone’s benefit . If you are unable to do this my offer is extended to any of the neighbors on the hill. I would just prefer not to see our long time neighbors the Gulbankians treated this way when i am sure there can be a more reasonable solution and we can remain a friendly little town we all enjoy!

55 Resident June 20, 2012 at 9:34 AM

Yes, variances can be overturned but I believe that the neighbors have indicated that they will be content with the improvements that the ZBA has asked for. Somone has to appeal a variance for it to be overturned and I don’t thing the ZBA is anticipating an appeal from the neighbors. The ZBA does not need to reverse their decision, they granted the variance and the abutters are content. What they cannot do is give the Gulbankians a “pass” on the stormwater requirements and that is the only thing left to be addressed. I think it is that simple at this point.

BTW I was not suggesting that you were arguing. I was referring to the general tone of this whole discussion.

56 Tedy June 18, 2012 at 8:34 PM

Will someone please explain to me why a special town meeting would cost $10,000?

57 Mark Ford June 18, 2012 at 9:00 PM

OK, I’ll take a stab…Police details, Fire Dept. details, DPW resources (moving voter booths into three districts in place), etc… monitors, ballot production, ballot counting… etc.? Does $10,000 seem out of line? It doesn’t to me. Democracy can be expensive…

58 Resident June 18, 2012 at 11:19 PM

Mark, sounds like you are confusing a town election with a special town meeting.

I don’t know the exact costs, but I would suspect things like printing costs, staffing, equipment rentals, AV costs.

59 Mark Ford June 19, 2012 at 6:17 AM

Oops. Right you are!

60 Al Hamilton June 19, 2012 at 7:49 AM


Warrant Printing
Town Counsel review of the warrant articles
Police Overtime for the meeting
Overtime for other employees in preparation and at the meeting
The folks that check to see if you are a registered voter
Amending the code after the meeting

The number I had heard about 10 years ago was $5,000 but I think that will be heavily dependent on the number of articles and the type of articles.

I am a cheapskate but in this case we should not count pennies.

61 Tedy June 19, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Thank you for your responses. I had not taken legal fees into account. I know that “Freedom is not Free” and democracy is not cheap but it makes me chuckle to think of what our Founding Fathers would say.

62 Al Hamilton June 19, 2012 at 5:06 PM

We had lawyers back then too Jefferson and Adams were lawyers among their other occupations. By all accounts Adams was a pretty good one.

We all get aghast at the carrying on in Congress and our occasional foolish acts at the local level not to mention the state house. But, on the whole we need to count our blessings. Power changes hands regularly (not regularly enough at the State House) and nobody gets killed. We have are reasonably secure and reasonably free. I can stand up on the floor of Town Meeting as say that the Police Chief or the Selectmen are wrong feel any meaningful repercussions. I don’t have to bribe anyone to get a drivers license or a building permit.

On the whole we have got it pretty good. We have problems but so did the Founders (a British noose was one). If the Founders returned today after they got over the shock, I think they might recognize that some 220+ years have passed and the system they designed is pretty much unchanged (except for that slavery business). Not a bad record.

63 John Boiardi June 19, 2012 at 6:56 AM

Re: the Gulbakians

I don’t see any difference between working on bus engines or antique engines. The tools, nvironment, work space are the same. Leave the Gulbakians alone!
However, if paving the parking lot and a filtration system is required to prevent water pollution then it should be required and done.
If the residents of Mt Vickory don’t like the sound of bus engines warming up, sell your condo and move. I live on a street with a school. The school buses roar up and done the street twice a day. Get used to it. I knew there was a school nearby when I bought the house. You live in suburbia. If you want quite move to a rural area.

64 daddyo June 20, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Here is another problem I have with what is happing to the gulbankians. I am not asking that they be treated differently than everyone else in town. In fact the opposite . for example their parking lot. they were granted permits the way the parking lot sits today. that should not change as I would believe it is grand fathered in. just the way many of the homes we all live . many laws and regulations have changed since our homes were built such as lot size, how many electrical outlets are required , types of windows that are allowed, even what type of insulation we have in our walls. Can you imagine if each and every one of us were suddenly told we need to bring all these things up to today’s standards? That my friends is exactly why we have the grandfather claus. We all need to be protected from such things and that’s why I believe we should all stand tall in defense of our neighbors . I also stopped by to talk to the gulbankians and was touched by how hurt they are by all of this. Mr and mrs gulbankian are both elderly now and should be enjoying the fruits of their labor. Instead are worried sick about what will become of their family businesses they worked so hard at . that is shameful .

65 David McIntire June 20, 2012 at 3:41 PM

To view my comment on this matter and to aviod being redundant please go to the following link:

Thank you.

66 Town Resident (and not an abutter) June 22, 2012 at 8:55 AM

Regardless of how long we’ve lived and/or worked in this town, we are not outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as proven by the upper court’s decision to uphold the ZBA’s decision. The ZBA is not operating in a vacuum.

Congrats and thank you to the ZBA for making a tough decision in accordance with the scope by which you have to operate. You are moving our town out of the Wild Wild West.

67 David McIntire June 25, 2012 at 8:58 AM

Yes the ZBA is moving our Town out of the Wild Wild West, BUT, in which direction are they heading.
The ZBA has followed the building inspector’s lead by threating fines to be imposed against a business that clearly operates with the proper permits. Their oversight of the multiple uses granted this property in 2003 was irresponsible and has resulted in many thousands of dollars in costs to be incurred by both sides. Their oversight of the multiple uses granted was a sin by itself, but for the building inspector and the ZBA to further claim that machining a small antique automobile engine is substantially different than a machining a large diesel bus engine is absurd. Any person with even the slightest knowledge of engines would attest that an automobile engine is substantial less in size and mechanics that a bus engine and no rational thinking person would consider imposing fines for a use that is similar but substantially less.
The case is still in Court.
Hopefully the Selectmen will decide how much money the Town is going to spend defending an action wrongfully forced upon a resident and realize that in the end any attempt to impose a fine will most likely fail.
The ZBA has put the Town back in the Wild West maybe the Selectmen can bring us back to civilization.

68 Frank Crowell June 25, 2012 at 4:03 PM

Considering what the BOS did with respect to Police Contract (ignoring a TM vote on the Quinn Bill) I am not expecting anything to benefit of the Gulbankian’s out of any BOS meeting.

Wild West? Unchecked Government Power is more like it.

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