The recent decision by a Worcester court to deny an appeal by the owners of Gulbankian Farms, has prompted quite a few of you to speak out in support of the Gulbankian family here on the blog. The Gulbankians had appealed a decision last year by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals that required them to make improvements to their Mt. Vickery Road property in order to continue to operate multiple businesses on the lot.
In comments on the blog, many of you have decried the zoning board’s treatment of the family, who have operated their garden center in Southborough since 1965. “It is a moral abomination that this should happen to this family,” wrote reader John Butler.
On Friday, ZBA chairman Matt Hurley took to the blog to address the criticism and set the record straight.
In a comment on the blog, Hurley said while he expected not everyone would be happy with the board’s decision, he is surprised at the vitriol directed at the board and its members.
“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,” he wrote.
Hurley said the ZBA’s decision was intended to balance the needs of the Gulbankian family with those of its abutters. He noted the board approved a use variance for the family – a form of zoning relief that he says is very difficult to obtain – to allow the family to continue operating their existing businesses on the property, while conditions attached the variance were designed to satisfy the concerns of various abutters.
“The ZBA has nothing against the Gulbankians,” Hurley wrote. “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.”
Hurley said the Gulbankians have already complied with 13 of the 15 conditions applied, but object to the remaining two: that they pave a portion of their lot, and that they install a stormwater drainage and filtration system. The family says the improvements may cost them $250K, but Hurley says those numbers seem “an extremely high estimate given what (the board has) seen in other similar situations.”
You can read Hurley’s comment in full here. The Gulbankians have appealed the Worcester court’s decision, so Hurley said he would not make any further public comments on the case since litigation is pending.