MWDN: Gulbankians to shutter machine shop in Southborough

by susan on June 7, 2013

The Metrowest Daily News reports today the Gulbankian family has decided to close the machine shop it operates on its Mt. Vickery Road property after battling the town over zoning issues for the past three years.

Unable to comply with a Zoning Board of Appeals ruling requiring them to make improvements to the property, the Gulbankians will shutter their J&M Machine Co. shop, their attorney said Thursday.

“We are no longer contesting the variance and special permit,” Angelo Catanzaro said.

Catanzaro said he sent a letter to Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano asking for some leeway in terms of a closing date. Technically, the town at the beginning of the month could have started fining the family hundreds of dollars a day for continuing to run the shop in violation of town bylaw.

You can read more in this article by the MWDN.

1 mike fuce June 7, 2013 at 9:35 AM

That’s just great. Another business closes because of zealots. I don’t get why they are picking on the Gulbakians? That business has been there for years. Does someone want to put them out so they can buy it? Are neighbors that moved in in the last 10 years complaining now? If it is really and environmental issue believe it or not, you will do more damage to the environment by black topping and area. It is non pervioius material and the run off will end up somewhere else instead of the natural filtering of the material there now.. I did not put a pool in at our house becasue the concrete pavers that were required rather than slab concrete alone would have cost $13-20,000 becasue we are next to wet lands, it really was not worth the pay back – I get it and agree. So we lost 5 good paying jobs for some Southboro residents because we want more black top? Really?

2 Resident2 June 7, 2013 at 1:37 PM

The requirement was for blacktop draining into a filtration system which would then release cleaner water into the water table. Pervious pavement IS better UNLESS you are producing contaminants like motor oil, antifreeze or engine coolant into the water table.

3 Frank Crowell June 7, 2013 at 5:07 PM

Oh yes, working on antique car engines is so much worse then bus engines. This whole thing stunk from start to finish. Now the BOS is trying to get involved. Seems to be just a tad late, but I wish them the best of luck.

New storm drain regulations do not allow for car wash fund raisers – has that stopped.

Oh what’s this………law of unintended consequences. A vendor to the machine shop just lost a customer (I am sure Jeff Rudd is doing so well in this robust economy that he can afford to sell at cost specialty parts…….not). Where is the new business committee? Attracting new business to town just got a bit harder.

This does not need grants or fundraisers. It needed, a long time ago, common sense from the Zoning Board and the inspector. It is/was just that simple.

4 Jeff Rudd June 7, 2013 at 2:28 PM

And a special thanks goes out for taking food off my table as a vendor for the Gulbankian’s.

Thank you so much.

5 Helen June 7, 2013 at 2:48 PM

why did the town go after the Gulbankians so much? Worst thing they ever did was sell their land so overpriced condo owners would complain about their busses… too bad the Gulbankians believed the developers when they sold their property.

I could name another business here in town that are worse polluters (noise, air and were fined for water), and they haven’t endured a public lynching. Shame on you folks, what did you think when you saw a business next door to that new condo?

6 Mark Ford June 7, 2013 at 4:11 PM

I wish all the effort and energy spent complaining about the enforcement of a legal requirement of the ZBA was directed instead to figuring out how to help the Gulbankian family financially get this done. Again, has anyone looked into CPA funds, other grants, fundraisers, etc.? Step up, folks. Jeff, would you be willing to supply “at or below cost” for a time to the Gulbankians if it meant keeping their business viable in the long term? Would other vendors, and will you help organize them?

7 Resident2 June 7, 2013 at 4:57 PM

Exactly Mark. See my post here:

FYI – CPA funds can only be used for four purposes – recreation, historic preservation, low income housing, or open space preservation.

8 Mark Ford June 7, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Right I know the CPA limitations: can this fall broadly under “preservation?”

I doubt it, too, btw…was just trying to get folks thinking outside the box.

9 jeff Rudd June 7, 2013 at 5:02 PM


As the owner of a struggling startup home business myself I understand the Gulbankian’s issues 100%. I have had to do things other than my preferred engineering and machinist background just to get by, home repairs for customers, fixing small engines and such. Having purchased the few machine tools I have out on my own pocket, I have also been offering my services at all most half the cost as other established machine shops just to get business. The Gulbankian’s have come to me because of my low cost, close proximity and attempts and getting them product in a timely fashion.

The machining business is one of the hardest to start and very expensive to maintain. Purchasing multiple machine tools starting at $5000 a piece up to well above $500,000.00 a piece as well as the tooling to make the parts leaves very little margin for a profit / living.

Although having vendors lowering there pricing as well may help, I do not see enough revenue there for it to be big help to them is solving there $200,000.00 current expense they are facing. The machine shop business is often run as a seat of the pants business and machinery is almost always purchased with cash, if a loan is taken they are taken one at a time because of the volatility of the business and not knowing the work load from week to week or month to month. They may very well see as business men that the $200,000.00 loan they need to take to make the improvements to big of a risk that they cannot guarantee they can pay back.

It was a good idea, again I don’t know if there are enough vendors to make the difference. I think the only real solutions are to either take away some of the requested improvements or more time, a lot more time so they can Pay as They Grow.

No pun intended.


10 Donna June 7, 2013 at 7:05 PM

So the Machine shop shuts down and the buses are ok to stay with no pavement and drainage system improvements.

People can argue the ZBA did things correctly all day long but this will never make any sense to a person that thinks logically.

11 Ben June 7, 2013 at 8:14 PM

Donna: Yes If the machine shop goes then the buses stay and there is no need of pavement. Please explain that if you can.
The main complaint from the Condos was the “unsightly buses”.
if you were at the last ZBA meet, there was a representative of the condo’s that said “we’re all set”.

Many people have said and I read in the Metro news article the other day again an engine is an engine. Why was it ok when the town knew it was bus engines and not now when it is alot smaller car or antique engines? machines are the same,building is the same,business is the same.

The pavement and improvements is over one word in their variance to change “Bus” engines to “all” so please explain that one.

Resident2: I am a customer of the machine shop and also see the buses as I drive in and out.I am familiar of oil spots since I maintain and old car. When’s the last time you saw spots under your new car?
Those buses;as I have asked are new and are sealed system . As I mentioned as a good example”When’s the last time you saw oil under your car”.?

I don’t see any spots in their driveway. Don’t believe me go look.

You make is seem like it’s a superfund site.

12 Resident2 June 7, 2013 at 10:02 PM

When engines are being worked on, there is the likelihood of spillage of motor oil, coolant, antifreeze, etc as part of servicing engines. The issue is not minor oil drips from parked vehicles. The issue is the likelihood of a mechanic dropping a pan of motor oil and then just hosing it into the ground. Just one incident of an engine spilling it’s chemical contents can contaminate the water table.

This is the problem with this argument. So many of you are talking anecdotally – ” I dont’ see any oil,” ” the buses I see are new.” What if old buses start to be parked? Is someone supposed to inspect the buses every year? The pertinent issue is that requirements have been determined by environmental scientists. These requirements have been written into law to protect our whole community. Someone with a great deal more knowledge and training than an occasional customer of one machine shop has determined that the presence of a machine shop so greatly increases the risk of contamination that runoff filtration is needed. PERIOD.

Laws don’t make exceptions based on anecdotal evidence or unique circumstances. If you don’t like the law, appeal it. The Gulbankians have and they lost their appeal. Until someone sets about changing the law, it may be imperfect, but it is the best we have.

13 Frank Crowell June 8, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Please enlighten us on what the difference is between an antique engine and a bus engine. What differences are there with respect to potential contaminants in the environment? Why would there be such a difference that shuts down a long standing business?

“Talking anecdotally” – that’s the Governor’s defense for all that is wrong with his administration.

And by the way, laws cannot make exceptions – reasonable people do.

14 Ben June 8, 2013 at 11:29 AM

I spoke with “Mike Sr” this morning to rebut my anecdotal answers from the previous post.
There is no work of that kind being done outside,why would there be as Mike said;”We have a full compliment of tools inside the garage that’s why I built it.”

Also the buses can’t be any older than ten years.”STATE LAW”
The Buses are inspected bi anually by the registry police and are immediately pulled off the road even if the sign of dampness appears.
Plus they are inspected annually through normal state inspection so three times.
Your personal vehicle is only inspected once.

Again I restate the machine shop they don’t work on engines outside.

I believe if the ZBA had known all the facts there would be a different outcome.

15 Jeff Rudd June 8, 2013 at 1:58 PM


Having worked as a mechanic when I was young at Stedt Hydraulic in Westborough and Southborough Automotive part time I can honestly say that all mechanics do receive training in all kinds of spills. It was prohibited to work on any machinery unless you were on a non-porous stab which meant you had to be inside a working bay. We would also be trained on how to handle the spill with various materials like speedy dry, spill socks and spill pillows to catch and dispose of the liquids in a manner meeting EPA standards. Mechanics are not just “let loose” on there work. “Hosing” an oil spill into the ground is just not a reality in todays shops. No one in there right mind would ever do that both as a mechanic and as a shop owner.

As for the machine shop, all engines shipping in and out are by law not allowed to have any fluids in the engines. The machine shop itself is also regulated on it’s usage and disposal of oils and fluids as they are used in the manufacturing process. You will be hard pressed to walk into any machine shop and find oil and such just laying around with a potential of a spill.

As I have done research, the buses are in fact inspected three times a year, this is part of national standards, and I have also looked at a copy of the inspection report that is used and “leaks” are the first thing they look for on any component of the bus that contains a fluid. I think we can all agree we are not going to let our children ride around in equipment that is less than a 100%.

Laws are in fact amended all the time by lawmakers and Judges based on new circumstances that arise after a law has been enacted. The Judge could have set precedence. The lawmakers could have made a mistake. It happens all the time.

Also the Gulbakian’s did not loose there appeal, they in fact dropped it and the appeal never happened. I would assume due to money issues which goes back to them not being able to afford the required improvements.

As Donna has stated above, we are now looking at a closed business with no improvements being made at all for the buses. Are these the same laws you wish to continue to defend? Are these the great minds with all the more knowledge than us that you are referring to?


16 jim foley June 8, 2013 at 7:14 PM

Resident 2 you should also understand the antique engines they work on are ship with no fluids in them. They have been totally drained and are shipped dry. The shipping companies would not except them any other way ! So no spills inside or outside. lets not forget the busses are a non issue.

17 Resident2 June 9, 2013 at 12:11 AM

The ZBA ruling requiring the improvements was appealed and uphelpd by the Worcester Superior Court last May:

“According to court records, Worcester Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker ruled in May [of 2012] 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.”

I am not going to argue about the necessity for the state mandated improvements. Again, if you don’t like the law or think it is in error, then change it. I happen to trust that the ZBA and the Building Inspector had, and still have, absolutely no reason to pursecute the Gulbankians and would not be requiring these improvements if they had any other legal option. I know these people, have worked with the ZBA and the Building Inspector and strongly believe this to be true. I do not believe that the board or the Building Inspector have any latitude at all in how they interpret or enforce the law in this matter. You all seem to believe differently. I think you are well-meaning but mistaken

The rest of you can continue to speculate, theorize conspiracies, villify the board, insist the law is wrong and so on. None of that will do anything to change the law or help the Gulbankians

18 jim foley June 9, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Resident 2 Im so glad to hear you wont be arguing about this case any more. Because the court did not say the town was required to impose those requirements on the Gulbainkians. just that they had the ability to if they chose to. It was a poor choice for the town to precede this way!

19 Jeff Rudd June 9, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Thank you Mr. Foley, well said.

20 John Butler June 11, 2013 at 11:28 PM

Jim Foley, I see this the same way you do. The court held the Town has the power to act wrongly so now the Town is acting wrongly. The same is true with regard to arguments that “neighbors would have prevailed” had they pursued action in court. Perhaps that is so, but since fundamentally this it is wrong to pursue the Gulbankians this way, make the neighbors pursue action if they want. Lastly the argument sometimes heard that there is State environmental law regarding this, the ZBA is not enforcement agent on such law. Since the site has been as it now for 20 years, maybe the State has more sense. This is a failure of a local board to understand why we have a citizen board, and it is wrong, all wrong.

Previous post:

Next post: