Emotions ran high as the Gulbankian family went before the Planning Board last night in the latest round of their ongoing dispute with neighbors.
“We did nothing wrong. We’re trying to make a living, that’s all,” Michael Gulbankian told the board. “It’s very, very hard on my family, what’s going on today.”
The family is seeking variances from the town to continue operating three long-standing businesses on their Mt. Vickery Road property. In October the Zoning Board of Appeals asked the Gulbankians to undertake a minor site plan review – a formal process that involves input from town department heads and a vote of approval from the Planning Board – in an effort to address neighbors’ concerns about pollution, noise, and other issues.
The family went before the Planning Board last night to present their plan, but made it clear from the start that they weren’t happy about being there. “We’re not here because we think we need minor site plan review. We’re here because we were required to be,” an attorney for the family said.
In their plan the Gulbankians proposed paving the portion of their lot where school buses are to be parked, closing one of the entrances on Mt. Vickery Road to improve safety, planting Arborvitae for screening, and lighting improvements.
But in the the end, the Planning Board said they needed more detail before they could vote on the plan, citing concerns about landscaping, lighting, and areas designated as agricultural and industrial storage.
“This is for your protection and everyone’s protection,” Chairman Donald Morris told the family. “It may take us a little longer, but we’ll get it done right.”
The Planning Board’s deferral represents the latest delay for the family. Complaints from neighbors surfaced a year ago, and the Gulbankians have been wrangling with the town ever since.
“We feel like we’ve been attacked,” Carolyn Gulbankian said. “My parents have done nothing but work hard and pay their taxes. We have deep roots in this community. We want to be treated fairly.”
But neighbors say it’s high time issues with the property were addressed. “Previous town administrations have overlooked the issues because (Michael Gulbankian) contributes to the town,” David Potenza, a resident of the neighboring Vickery Hills development told the board. “You have the opportunity to redirect or cancel out the mistakes of the past.”
Potenza said neighbors continue to have concerns about drainage, screening, lighting, and noise, despite the family’s latest plan.
The Planning Board will take another look at the plan at their meeting on January 10.
Update: Carolyn Gulbankian emailed me to correct a portion of this story:
You said we are seeking variances to continue to run our three businesses here. That is incorrect, we have the variances to operate our businesses here, we are only seeking a minor modification on the machine shop variance to include the repair of antique car engines. However, the town is requiring us to seek a “special permit” because we have more than one business here. That is something they overlooked to give us in the 5 decades of receiving every other permit we were legally given to constuct and operate our businesses here.