MWDN: Gulbankians fined $126,600 for violations

by Beth Melo on August 9, 2013

Post image for MWDN: Gulbankians fined $126,600 for violations

Above: Complaints from neighbors about the bus lot on the Gulbankian property was the original source of the family’s legal issues with the town. (Photo by Susan Fitzgerald)

In an ongoing legal battle, the Gulbankian family is in the news again. According to The Metrowest Daily News, the family received a letter from the town enforcing $126,000 in fines accrued for zoning violations.

MWDN reports:

According to the [August 8th] letter, the Gulbankians have 21 days to either pay up or appeal, else they face crimininal charges.

“There’s no question it will be contested vigorously,” said the family’s new attorney, Sandy Matathia of Boston.

In June, it was reported that the family decided to close its machine shop business, J&M Machine Co, due to the zoning restrictions. As of yesterday’s MWDN report, the shop was still open.

To read the full MWDN report, click here.

J&M has been the focus of the legal battle with the town. The controversy surrounding this is based on what the family and supporters see as a technicality.

In 2010, neighbors complained about the bus lot on the property. When the town investigated, they found that business to be within zoning regulations. But they determined that the machine shop sharing the lot was not in compliance. 

The Gulbankians worked out an agreement with the Zoning Board of Appeals to make several changes to the property in exchange for approving a zoning variance. After deciding the required changes were too expensive, the family turned around and appealed the variance restrictions in court. The court upheld the ZBA ruling and imposed fines.

The family returned to the ZBA in May with a new appeal, which was denied. At that meeting, Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano warned that the family was accruing court imposed fines of $300 per day beginning June 12, 2012.

Cipriano stated that the town held off on pursuing the fines to allow the family a chance to reach compliance. But he claimed that by law they had no authority to waive them.

As of August 8th, 422 days of “noncompliance” had passed since the court ruling.

To read more about the history of Gulbankian’s ongoing battle with the town, click here.

1 Flip August 9, 2013 at 12:10 PM

This town is a bunch of money hungry bullies

2 Raffi Garabedian August 9, 2013 at 1:17 PM

I have watch this inexplicable saga for some time. So now the town fines the Gulbankians $126,000.00 because they won’t make unnecessary changes that would cost them in excess of $200.000.00 which they cannot afford in the first place. That makes a lot of sense. All because of a distinction being made of engines?

Mind you, that bus engines are quite larger than the engines that are worked on by the Gulbankians in their machine shop. It is also true that within the business of the machine shop no engines are ever started. They are just quietly assembled and shipped away. So there is never any exhaust, fumes or noise coming from the machine shop which is far removed and set back from the perpendicular roads of its address.

So there is no question that the machine shop is less, “impactful” than the bus repair area which the town of Southborough has permitted to work there and seems to be okay with its existence.

So what, in any reasonable persons mind, is the problem here? What is really going on? There has never been any proof of any kind of risk of any kind associated with the machine shop yet the town of Southborough appears obsessed with driving the Gulbankians out of business for no real reason. This Draconian-like imposition on the Gulbankians is an embarrassment to the Town of Southborough, and to its citizens.

So if the zoning board ordered the Gulbankians to make two hundred thousand dollars worth of improvements to receive a proper permit for a business which has no negative impact on the community and has far less “impact” than the bus repair business,adjacent to it, this can only mean one thing. This entire matter is fraudulent and the board for whatever reason want the Gulbankians out of business and out of Southborough.

I find this to be an outrage, immoral and in direct contradiction to how the founding fathers meant for laws to be enforced. A man owned property, worked his property and provided a service to citizens and support to his family while at the same time, doing no harm to the community.

The boards supporting this travesty are treading very dangerous ground here and have, in the view of most, misused the power given them by the citizens of Southborough. This entire situation resembles a malicious prosecution. I have to believe that a judge somewhere, once having heard this case being properly presented, will overturn the profoundly poor and curious judgment of these boards and assign punitive damages to those who engineered this travesty whether it be those condo owners on the hill, the boards or the Town of Southborough. Or all of them.

Laws and interpretation of laws are made to protect the community not to inflict harm on the welfare of families. Good, hardworking people should not have to suffer at the hands of illogical decisions made by persons whose job it is to safeguard the citizens not to conduct witch hunts or use their power to drive people out of their ancestral homes and property.

Roy Palmer

3 concerned_resident August 11, 2013 at 11:50 AM

As a concerned resident of SB, I completely agree with the comments posted by Raffi. I cannot fathom what would drive the ‘custodians’ of our fair town to pursue with such vigor, such determination and such a cost to tax payers (by using time and resources on this matter rather than focusing on other problems of more broad concern). In a nut shell, “some residents” complained of business activities that were ongoing for more that 50 years and the SB Inspector’s visit uncovered that the properly permitted engine machine shop, in existence for many years, was now fixing antique auto engines instead of bus engines. OH MY GOODNESS! What an awful situation. We, the Zoning Board Members, with the acknowledgement of the Board of Selectmen, and driven by the Town Counsel, MUST put a stop to that!

Its absurd. The real reason for this extended series of ‘safety compliance action’ is to impose such a high expense** is to force a foreclosure and then have a third party swoop in to purchase the property and below market rate, tear down the buildings, file for rezoning and builds either luxury condos, or commercial retail/restaurant businesses. If you don’t think this is the underlying purpose, then just wait. I know I will be waiting for the final disposition of the property and I would think that the FBI would be interested as well. just disgusting.

(** either unnecessary parking lot drainage system …$200,000 or an excessive and illegal fine for not complying with the Zoning Boards order…. $126,000)

4 concerned_resident August 11, 2013 at 3:41 PM

Current SB Zoning regulations clearly define the maximum fine per day for noncompliance (Ch.174-24):

Whoever violates any provision of this chapter (i.e., Chapter 174) shall be punished by a fine not exceeding fifty dollars ($50.) for each offense. Every day that a violation continues after its abatement has been ordered by the town and sufficient time has elapsed to permit abatement shall constitute a new offense.
see for yourself….

Why has the ZB in consultation with Aldo Cipriano, Esq., Town Counsel, drafted a notice of noncompliance that totals fines of $126,000 for a period of 422 days? That calculates to $300 per day which is NOT the law in town. Atty Cipriano receives tax payer dollars to get it right? (The $300 per day fine is in the revise DRAFT regs, not yet approved by town vote)

And why is it that nobody in a SB leadership role immediately see that a six-fold increase in fines was applied? The Zoning Board is suppose to be experts, WHAT IS GOING ON ?????

Note: I don’t expect a response from anybody in authority to clarify this point, but I might be surprised. Lets all see what transpires

5 C. Nicholas Ellis August 11, 2013 at 10:08 PM

The court imposed those fines, after the Gulbankians appealed the ZBA decision and lost.

6 concerned_resident August 12, 2013 at 7:05 AM


Please, if you are going to state facts, get them right. No, the SB ZB has the authority to issue fines, not the court. Its right there in the regs. (doesn’t mention the court system). The court simply ruled that in the dispute before it, the SB ZB prevailed in the case and that the ZB’s orders should be complied with.

please do not “muddy the water” with inaccurate statements….. does nobody any good when you spew ….

7 C. Nicholas Ellis August 12, 2013 at 12:13 PM

Don’t be snide. It’s unbecoming.

If you read the article posted above, you will see it clearly states “court imposed fines” – twice. I was merely pointing this out. If anyone has their facts wrong, it is not me. I’ll leave it between you and Beth to sort out who’s right – I do not have access to the court record to verify.

Spare the undeserved derision next time.

8 Townie August 9, 2013 at 1:23 PM

Every member of the ZBA should look in the mirror and say to themselves they put a family out of business, took food off a table, and took a paycheck out a citizens hand. Makes me sick. You should all resign.

9 Alan August 9, 2013 at 1:58 PM

Lets not forget Aldo Cipriano role. How much longer are we going to listen to this guy.

10 SB Resident August 9, 2013 at 2:03 PM

At the end of the day this is residentially zoned property. We have zoning for a reason. As innocuous as their engine repair business seems, you are simply not allowed to run businesses in residential zoned areas. They should find some commercial property and run their business from there, just like every other business does it. They have been purposefully violating the law and are well informed of the consequences. They deserve everything that comes to them.

11 Minimom August 10, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Well then they have to shut down the flower shop too right? I think the business was there (legally) a lot longer th a n the residential zone.

12 John Stone August 11, 2013 at 4:41 PM

If you take a look at the zoning map and consider that the Gulbankians and their businesses were there long before the maps were drawn it is very clear that the zone was deliberately gerrymandered to exclude them.

13 Resident August 9, 2013 at 2:11 PM

Am I the only one that is okay with the fine? It seems to me Gulbankians are ignoring the ZBA. From what I have read, time was granted to comply with the order. To say that the Gulbankians have done this type of work for a long period of time and should receive special treatment doesn’t sit well with me. Codes change and businesses need to adapt. The bus lot is in compliance as is their nursery operation (I assume.) Close down the machine shop or make it comply. A Worcester judge has sided with the town. How much are they costing the town in legal fees by fighting this?

14 Leo Fender August 9, 2013 at 3:06 PM

Even the fine resembles an amount you would give to a corporation or conglomerate. Not a small business that supports four families.

Which, again, seems to indicate that something is at hand here. Someone wants the Gulbankian property badly and wants them bankrupt, forced to sell and gone. It just makes no other sense

15 Dorothy Gibson August 9, 2013 at 3:51 PM

SB and Resident.

You are both WRONG.

The Gulbankians have not broken any laws. They applied for a variance and a permit in 1986 for the machine shop and were granted both. Those are the facts for those who have no knowledge of the situation. So they are not just crazy people starting a business in their home as both SB and Resident imply.

So this is a part of this story that is also true. Many do not know or understand this truth. If you don’t know what permits and variances are by definition and that they were granted in this case, it would seem you should know where of you speak before you make such statements.

I wish these good people luck in this incredible situation.

16 Alan August 9, 2013 at 4:39 PM

All residents are allowed to run a business on there residential property with the proper permits. There are many small home business in town. For 20+ years the Gulbankian”s thought they were operating with the proper permits. They started with “bus engines” and moved on with other engines as the business slowly changed. This change did not happen overnight and I too would have not expected decades later the word “bus’ would come back to bite them. THEY DID NOT WILLINGLY TRY AND DECIEVE ANYONE.

I am not ok with a $126,00.00 fine to a two brother family business and anyone that does think its ok and they deserve it needs there morals checked. Wishing another person a devastating financial blow when they have directly did nothing to you is just wrong. I guess I had better parents who raised me.

They did not “ignore” the ZBA, they just couldn’t afford it. Big difference. The BUS lot is NOT in compliance and all the ZBA changes are for the buses. Get the facts. You are closing a business for the word “bus” on a 20+ year old permit that was ok’d by the town and going after the buses using the machine shop as leverage. That’s the facts.

A business does not have to comply with a zoning law when it changes after the fact. If that was true Wendy’s would have to shut down there drive thru. An engine is an engine. Thank goodness they didn’t put “pink” or “round” engines on their permit 20+ years ago.

Just because a judge says something doesn’t make it right. In this case the judge was ignorant of the facts. The ZBA stuck there foot down there throats and don’t want to admit it so are going to bring down the business to save face. What a shame. They should resign.

17 Cyril S. August 9, 2013 at 6:36 PM

There is a huge difference between a judge and a land court judge. From what I have read about the Gulbankians new lawyer , this is his field of expertise,he is highly regarded he and has been very successful in these type cases. It may cheaper for the town to pay to do the upgrades they insist on than to fight on endlessly in court with the Gulbankians. They are attacking the livelihood of four families so don’t expect them to go quietly.

So in the end, the town loses and the citizens will have to pay astronomical legal fees and the Gulbankians lose because they have had to deal with the anguish,stress and great expense.

The only winner here is the attorney for the town. He gets a fat fee no matter who wins or loses. .Sad but true… .

18 Resident August 9, 2013 at 6:37 PM

My opinion is based on what I have read in the paper:
“Problems began several years ago when, after neighbors complained about the busing operation, the town discovered the machine shop didn’t have the correct permits.”

From this information I gathered that the flower shop and bus operation were in compliance, but the machine shop needed upgrades in order to be legally permitted.

If the following is true, then I believe the ZBA is doing their job.
“The family has criticized the town for harping on what it sees as a technicality, but the ZBA has said that it is merely applying the law in the only way that would stand up to legal appeal by unhappy neighbors.”

I never thought they were a crazy family trying to suddenly start a business in their home. I never meant to imply that at all. I understood that they were permitted to work on bus engines, but that the business expanded into other engine repair. The set of engines that they service has changed, and if that involves a different permit they should comply with the new requirements.

1986 is a lifetime in terms of environmental standards. (My home heating oil tank was buried back then.) Standards change and keeping up with them is a cost of doing business. I suspect this has more to do with environmental issues than someone wanting to run them off their property.

I am not sure why my morals or my parents were attacked. I am not wishing any ill will to the Gulbankian family, but I do think that they should comply with legal requirements. I thought the forum was that of discussion. Personal attacks should not be tolerated.

19 Pat Q. August 11, 2013 at 10:08 AM

As said above…….If the following is true, then I believe the ZBA is doing their job.
“The family has criticized the town for harping on what it sees as a technicality, but the ZBA has said that it is merely applying the law in the only way that would stand up to legal appeal by unhappy neighbors.”

would the “unhappy neighbors” even have a legal appeal? They signed off on it when they bought! Is this all to head off something that couldn’t happen anyway?

20 LAH August 9, 2013 at 7:13 PM

Well said Alan. Totally agree.

21 Robinson August 9, 2013 at 7:25 PM

I agree with Townie. Zoning board folks in a small town thinking they rule the world. Get over yourselves. Hope you are pleased destroying a nice Sboro family. I certainly know who I won’t be voting for. Makes me sick as well!

22 Alan August 9, 2013 at 8:43 PM

Unfortunately for us the ZBA is a appointed position and not an elected one. But I am making a mental note who appointed them as well as who is on the current ZBA.

Some on the current ZBA have run for selectman and with a new 5 person BOS coming soon, I will be paying close attention to who runs for BOS.

23 Kathy Patterson Gazard August 9, 2013 at 7:58 PM

Let me guess! The people that are complaining moved to town, will live there for a few years and leave, they have nothing better to do! The Gulbankians have been running a business from their property for many years and are not going anywhere. They are what the town should be made up of, hard working, honest people. Shame on all the new comers who think they can just walk in and take over and shame on the town for letting it happen!!!

24 Al Hamilton August 10, 2013 at 8:16 AM

This affair has all the trapping of a Greek tragedy. All the participants seem doomed by the fates to make terrible decisions that lead to bad results.

The Gulbankian’s have already lost and will lose more in terms of legal fees and fines.

The Town will lose as well. Aside from the legal fees, this affair, as well as others makes Southborough look like a place you would think twice about before locating or expanding a business here.

The town recently formed an Economic Development Committee. The goal is to encourage businesses to locate in Southborough. Businesses, pay far more in taxes than they consume in services. Unfortunately, headlines like these and talk of a split tax rate make the task of the Economic Development Committee much harder.

Unless there is some sort of “deus ex machina” resolution in the near term Southborough will continue to look like an undesirable place to locate or operate a business in spite of our proximity to Rt’s 90, 495, and 9. If businesses won’t locate here or choose to leave you can expect your taxes to skyrocket.

25 Matthew August 10, 2013 at 8:23 AM

The major concern for the town seems to take action that is defensible under appeal which is why they probably wont offer a variance since that would openly ignore the original complaint and leave them open to legal action.

BUT the original complaint was against the buses and not for the machine shop. Have these complaints been addressed by the town or Gulbankians? If so then the parties that complained should not have any action to take against the town if we grant a variance for the machine shop.
The $200,000 costs were to bring the machine shop into compliance. Can we negate these if this variance is granted? Certainly void the penalties. Karen seems to have a budget for asphalt and fencing that is discretionary so how about getting a few seniors and volunteers to make it happen?

Why can’t this be like an old fashion barn raising? Do the workers have to licensed, insured, or union?

Why would we not grant this variance? Is it for a town committee to grant or the state? Can we put it to a vote? How many signatures to put it on the ballot?

Please let’s take some action to fix this. No one seems to be offering solutions or mediation. I don’t want the Gulbankians to get a free ride by any means but if there is work that actually needs to be done then it shouldn’t be such a burden so as to harm the business.

The legal fees the town is incurring are not acceptable to me, this is my biggest concern since the matter was born out of the absurdity of the addition of the work “bus” and this is all the lawyers need to line their pockets for years. This is a crippling burden for the town and cannot be allowed.

26 Matthew August 10, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Let me clarify…what I “want” has nothing to do with it. Clearly they have some responsibility. Whatever that ends up being aside from their own legal fees and the cost of closing or moving the shop it should never be to an extent that would harm or crash the business. The mprovements are capital expenses, perhaps the town cold loan them the cash at a rate better than a bank but more then they are getting on their pension investments.

27 Sandypo August 10, 2013 at 8:29 AM

I think the level of fine the Zoning Board has levied on the Gulbankians is outrageous.

The people who are complaining purchased their homes after the Gulbankians business was in operation, not beforehand. They should have done their due diligence prior to moving in! I agree with Kathy Patterson Gazard, these are honest, hard working people and they do not deserve this level of punishment. But Southborough’s town government is vindictive — to the Gulbankians, to the Culley’s whose lives have been destroyed since they built their disaster of a home on Lover’s Lane (town’s
building inspector was a shipwreck)…times are hard enough, they aren’t getting rich over there, the Gulbankian’ are just trying to make a living!

28 Linda M. August 10, 2013 at 8:56 AM


Personal attacks? Reading the newspaper only gives you a general overview and could be slanted one way or the other. Going to the hearings and putting in the time to understand the facts is what a concerned person should do.

Seems you think people should be concerned with your feelings being hurt by what you feel is a personal attack but you have NO problem saying you are okay with a 126 thousand dollar fine. You are not wishing the Gulbankians any harm, as you say?? THAT IS A LOT OF MONEY. One has to earn nearly 200 thousand dollars just to clear that amount. If that is not wishing them harm, what is? I would say that is very personal on your part.

“merely applying the law in the only way that would stand up to legal appeal by unhappy neighbors”

Maybe if you had been at meetings you would know that those condo owners knew what businesses were there before they purchased their condos and signed off , agreeing that they are okay with it. Now years later they complain? Years after the Gulbankians have established their businesses they have to be put through this?

The boards should not have even listened to that argument from the condo owners. They waived any right to complain when they signed off , fully acknowledging those businesses would be there.

So all I am saying is that a person should really know the facts before expressing an opinion otherwise the lie becomes a fact as it has in this case. That’s why most citizens of Southboro are outraged by the actions of their duly elected boards.

29 Minimom August 10, 2013 at 10:59 AM

And the irony of the whole scenario is that the Gulbankians sold the land that the condos are built on to the developer!! I’m sure THAT is something that they wish they could take back!

30 Resident August 10, 2013 at 10:04 PM

“The Gulbankian sold the land that the Mt. Vickery Hills Condominiums are situated upon for $1.6 million in 2002” – MetroWest Daily News

The family has been there for 80+ years….. I wonder how much of a mortgage was on the property.

31 Frank Crowell August 11, 2013 at 4:05 PM

“The family has been there for 80+ years….. I wonder how much of a mortgage was on the property.”

What does this have to with this anything? If they sold and had no mortgage on the property, should the fine have been higher? Is it still OK in America to make a profit? Are you saying that since they made a profit they should have plowed the money back into the property to comply with permits they already were granted and thought were in compliance for years?

I now really do worry about the long term health of this town and everyone else should be as well. This case stunk from the start and just keeps getting worse.

32 resident2 August 10, 2013 at 7:23 PM

These are the laws that the whole town voted on. if you didnt vote and dont like w. hat is happening..too bad. There are laws for a reason. Abide by them ordont do business. The gulbankians are not special just because they have been in town longer!

33 Alan August 11, 2013 at 11:17 AM

Well that settles it then. The laws the law. Nothing more to do I guess. I for one will never question our government again no matter how the laws are interpreted.

34 resident2 August 11, 2013 at 3:53 PM

I love the snideness of your comment. These are the laws that the townspeople wanted. Now people want exceptions because they like the person on the receiving end. You cant have your cake and eat it too. You dont have to like my comment BUT like you, I am entitled to my opinion.

35 Alan August 11, 2013 at 8:10 PM

Your are correct, you have a right to your opinion. I don’t believe you went to any of the meetings as I believe your opinion at this point would be different.

36 resident2 August 12, 2013 at 8:31 AM

Nope it wouldnt be meetings or no

37 Pat Q. August 11, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Well said Linda M. Totally disagree with you resident2 and here is why.

I really wish people would take a moment to step back and think about the situation. We are not Boston or Newton or Worcester. We are a small town and people who have lived here all their lives or a short time are proud of that and all that a small town brings with it. Part of what sets the small towns apart from bigger ones should be that we take care of each other. And maybe that means not being such hard asses when it comes to putting this family through the legal nightmare that is currently facing them.

This entire debacle started when “neighbors” (who signed off knowing what
was next to them) complained and set the wheels in motion to bring us where we are now. Yes, rules are rules, but i dont think the world would come to an end or the little town of Southborough would fall into an endless pit of rule breaking citizens and businesses if someone, some group, some board put an end to this ugliness.

It is so much the opposite of what we are supposed to be as a small town. It will be something we will be ashamed of for years to come. Will we be proud that we stuck to the rules……no matter what the cost? Can’t we look beyond our little self important rules and regs for just a moment and support a family that has been a part of this town for generations? We are not talking about a Starbucks here….we are talking about a family business that helps define the words “small town”.

38 Greg K August 11, 2013 at 4:42 PM

Resident and Resident, if you are even two people and not one,

It makes no difference what the Gulbankians sold their property for. The fact that you posted that is revealing. It smacks of jealousy and pettiness. They are lucky if they cleared a million in the first place and then, if you knew what businesses have to do, they reinvested , obviously , to put up buildings and purchase machinery.

I have seen Mr. Gulbankian , a man in his 80’s, still delivering flowers and working in the garden area. That money was not a windfall Powerball winning which would allow them to never have to work again. It was a means to expand their business without having to go and borrow to do it. These are hard working people, not jet setters lying on the beach without financial worries.

If I had to bet, I would say you are one of those condo owners who signed off on those businesses and now want them gone. It may be that you and others like you are responsible for the Gulbankians having to expend substantial amounts of money you note that they sold their property for to defend themselves against this nonsense.

In the end , from what I understand after reviewing all the real facts of this case, you will see that this was an exercise in absurdity whose genesis was the condo owners like you whose real problem is that you JUST DON’T LIKE THE LOOK OF THE GULBANKIAN PROPERTY and want them and their businesses gone. Good luck with that . You will need it.

The Gulbankians had the permits for all their businesses, and the variances, all given them by the Town of Southborough. They are not in any violation and I fear once this case hit’s the land court, that the Town of Southborough will be hit hard with a lot of legal costs and punitive damages. Then you can complain about the rise in your property taxes.

This will not go away the way you wish. You can be certain of that fact. The Gulbankians may have had received poor advice on this matter in the past but they are on it now, it seems ,from what I have observed of their new legal representation.

At the end of the day ,we all should know that when you try and decimate a family and its ability to support themselves , you instill in them a bitter and hardened resolve.

39 jim foley August 11, 2013 at 5:28 PM

GREG K well said!

40 Resident August 11, 2013 at 5:45 PM

The town is enforcing the law. No, I don’t think special treatment should be granted to those who have lived here 80+ years. The initial permit was for bus engines which is a subset of all engines. The problem as I understand it is that they are servicing engines for which they are not properly permitted to do. Surely, servicing all types of engines generates more by-products than sticking to bus engines hence the stricter environmental code. If they don’t want to come up to code, then why don’t they go back to their bus engine business? Business decisions are made all the time based on the cost of doing business. Repeatedly engaging lawyers because you don’t like the town’s position certainly indicates to me that you have some spare change, and are not in the dire financial position that some seem to imply. I do not have a problem with the Gulbankians making a profit as Frank seems to think. I applaud them for their land sale profit. However, I do think the adjacent property owners are well within their right to ask the town to look into their concerns. Frankly, I would not want to live in a town where the officials of the town refused to check into long-time residents. The town was well within their right to ensure proper permits were in place. Since the proper permits were not in place, the Gulbankians should fix the problems or cease the business that is in violation. I don’t think the town had any other choice but to levy the fine against them. Nothing else seemed to get their attention. How does anyone even know if they would have been approved to service “engines” back in the 80’s? A permit to service bus engines might have been easier to get due to the small scope. This whole permit logic is similar to teaching licenses. It doesn’t matter if a teacher has been teaching elementary school for 30 years; if that teacher suddenly decides to teach at the high school level, the teacher would have to get a different type of license. Permits/ licenses are in place for a reason. No, the town should not turn a blind eye. Wouldn’t that just open the town up for other types of lawsuits?

41 jim foley August 11, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Resident when the gulbankians obtained their permit for the machine shop the primary reason was to work on their no way would anyone in their right mind think that they would be restricted from working on the much smaller engines that they do. you see the bus engines they work on have a potential to have far greater impact on our town with the possibility of oil spills. so if anyone is concerned about any sort of hazards then they should be thankful they are working on a much more environmentally friendly antique engine they are smaller and shipped dry so there is no chance of oil spills. they are also the same exact engine that would have been installed in an antique bus, I know this for a fact I am an advanced L1 certified auto tech. so the engines they work on are bus engines even if they are not being installed into a bus. This was a very poor choice for the town to pursue this action.It will ultimately cost they gulbankians and towns people a whole lot of money for something completely unnecessary. The only ones I can clearly see coming out winners are the attorneys.

42 concerned_resident August 11, 2013 at 7:25 PM

Resident, your comments are inaccurate and your rationale is spurious, though I agree with you that nobody in town should turn a “blind eye” toward meaningful infractions that could jeopardize the well being of the community.

But allow me to respond to one comment: you state:

“Surely, servicing all types of engines generates more by-products than sticking to bus engines hence the stricter environmental code.”

It’s a baseless argument, a syllogism (look it up). No, in fact, services antique engines from 1920 Ford Model Ts or even antique bus engines do NOT generate more by-products than do servicing active bus engines from a fleet of active buses. Why you ask? Because the antique engines arrive in wood crates from which all fluids (oil, coolant, etc) have been removed. The US Dept of Transportation and EPA are sticklers about transporting hazardous materials such as used oil, coolants, etc. The engines arrive “dry”, are dismantled, repaired, reassembled, recrated and sent back via courier trucking service to where ever they came from. Their are NO by-products. Now, active bus engines do not have any of these characteristics. They are messy, and yet the Gulbankian Team have been able to repair them also without incidents for these many years.

in a nutshell, not a variance from a permit does not always yield a new risk…. sometimes the change is favorable from an environmental perspective. These guys are truly skilled professionals…. who would have thought? see

Can we as SB community members not rally behind this good and honest family? God help you if the power structure in this town comes after you…. should I sit back.

p.s. I am not related to the family…. only a long-time customer of the flower shop, thanks!

43 Roy Palmer August 11, 2013 at 6:22 PM

Yes, very well said Greg K. Resident still doesn’t get it because she does not have the facts nor does she seem to want know them.

The machine shop was there when the condo owners bought there condos and they knew it and signed off on it.
The Gulbankinians property is up to code and even the town knew that before the residents started complaining about the look of the Gulbankians property. So they complained and tried to get the town to make them change the property to their aesthetic satisfaction which is not their right.

Let there be no doubt, this is not about code violations its essentially about snob zoning and abutters interference.

Its getting tired to hear that the Gulbankians think that they are right because they have been there for 80 years. Those are points that you, bloggers and writers have made. The Gulbankians are not making their case on that and you , resident , know that.

Again, the machine shop does not have hazardous waste issues or fumes. Its essentially assembling and grinding that goes on there. Nothing else. You also should know that..

If you paid attention to the meetings and the facts you would also know that the registry of motor vehicles has acknowledged in writing that there is no oil leakage from the buses at all. And the bus business is not in question and the area where engines are actually started and run.

But it goes on and I suppose if you keep repeating disingenuous statements ,people may start to believe them. The problem is that its doubtful that a land court judge will be swayed by disinformation or manipulating of the facts…We will see…..

44 Johnboy August 11, 2013 at 6:53 PM

Leave the Gulbankiens alone! School bus engines, other engines, who cares! They have been there long before the people who are complaining.

45 Resident August 11, 2013 at 7:54 PM

Greg, about your assumptions/assertions. Resident and Resident2 are not one in the same. I am not a condo owner. While I do live in Southborough, I wouldn’t exactly say that I live next door to the Gulbankinians. I am certainly not jealous of them or their real estate transactions. I am all for capitalism. And, 1.6 million certainly is not enough for one lifetime. I never meant to imply that they were jet setters. My point was something else. I really don’t care one way or another about the look of their property. It’s a bus lot after all. But, I don’t live in a Banana Republic either and if there are code violations, I want my government to enforce them. Not just enforce them for some people, but all people regardless of their connections or roots in a town. It’s very simple to me. If they are in violation, they need to comply. I am well aware that the condo owners were not there first. Where is the town wrong? Do the Gulbankinians have permits to work on car engines? My understanding is they are permitted for bus engines not car engines. Are you implying that the town is in fact a Banana Republic and is making up code laws as they go along to satisfy a bunch of people who own condos? Why would they do that? Is it a vote thing? I don’t get it.

46 John Stone August 11, 2013 at 8:02 PM

It would appear that “Resident” is likely one of the so-called “neighbors” we’ve heard of here. “Resident” seems to have plenty to say but all of it hearsay or conjecture. It almost looks like a deliberate attempt to mislead.

47 Resident August 11, 2013 at 9:24 PM

I am not attempting to mislead anyone. Are they in compliance or not? If they are, why is the town insisting that they are not? As I previously stated, my information is based on what I have read in the newspaper and on this site. If they need a permit for cars to work on their antique engines, it should not matter if the engines are mail-ordered unless permitting guidelines make this distinction. What is to ensure that they won’t one day switch to working cars? After all, they did switch from bus engines. Work to change the code requirements if you don’t like them. If a variance is a viable option, find a way to get a variance. Don’t ask government to ignore the law. Special favors have no place in government. I don’t know the family. And, I really don’t live in close proximity to them even though some of you seem to doubt this. I probably pass by their place once a week if that, so the look of their lot really doesn’t matter to me. It seems to me that some of you are not objective and have a bias because of friendships and ties to the family. I understand that. My only interest is that the town enforce codes and laws equally among its citizens. If this next court date works in the Gulbankians’ favor, more power to them. I really don’t wish them ill. I don’t want to see them driven from their property, food taken from their table, or their revenue stream sabotaged, but I do want them held accountable to existing code whatever that is. And, I admit that I am not an expert. So, if there are facts indicating that they are not in code violation, I am all ears.

48 jim foley August 11, 2013 at 10:34 PM

Resident I own and run an auto repair shop with all the proper permits. I have been in business for twenty five years. from time to time I have long time customers come in with a flat wheel barrel tire. I have fixed them I suppose with out being properly permitted . do you think I should be punished for these infractions? once I actually fixed a neighbors mailbox I wonder what that punishment should be for that. after all we shouldn’t allow any rules to be broken right. these infractions are minor and so is the distinction between what type of engine the gulbankians work on. it is just silly for any one to think they were or are trying to get away with is also crazy for the town to harp on that wording.

49 Resident August 12, 2013 at 4:33 PM

Where is the analogy? If they had fixed one or two car engines over the years, we would not even be having this discussion.

50 jim foley August 12, 2013 at 6:28 PM

Resident you seem smart enough to be able to figure that one out on your own. it is pretty simple.

51 Resident August 12, 2013 at 6:56 PM

Sorry, guess I am not. Please explain.

52 Former Townie August 13, 2013 at 8:05 PM

Late coming into all of this and quite happy to have left town, but being former resident of Southborough who lived down the street from Gulbankian’s, I need to say this … RESIDENT are you deaf!!!! Model T engines or any smaller car engines versus BIG bus engines….. what don’t you get!

53 concerned_resident August 11, 2013 at 11:46 PM

Hi Resident,

I do hear you on this matter….. the law should apply to all equally. What I object to is the subjectiveness of the regulations that are being applied to the Gulbankian family.

First, I READ the applicable LAW. (SB Zoning Regulation 174-9). Note that the regulation states affirmatively that a ‘special permit’ SHALL issue except…” means the rebuttable presumption is a special permit is allowed unless a stated condition is found…. (see below)

Second, gather and review FACTS (not restated, warmed over paraphrased and inaccurate summaries of what might be contended). this is the hard part for the facts are difficult things to find. Daniel Patrick Moynahan, distinguished Senator from NY use to say, “a person may be entitled to their own opinion, but a person is NOT entitled to their own set of facts”.

Third, see if the conditions and details outlined in the law are satisfied or not by the facts of the matter. Common sense is a good guide when determining if a condition or term has been satisfied.

Finally, reach your conclusion…. in compliance and deserving a variance or special permit or not.

§ 174-9. Special Permit Requirements.

No special permit shall issue except upon a general finding that the use sought and its characteristics
• shall be in harmony with the intent and purpose of this chapter,
• shall not be in conflict with public health, safety, convenience and welfare and
• shall not be substantially detrimental or offensive to the neighborhood or destructive of property values herein.

(1) Location.

(a) The proposal should be located near uses which are similar to the proposed use, or if not, the nearby uses should be ones likely to benefit from rather than be damaged by having the proposal nearby or be permanently buffered from it.

(b) Providing adequate water and drainage for this location should pose no special public problems.

(c) The site should be able to accommodate the proposal without substantial environmental damage due to wetland loss, habitat disturbance or damage to valuable trees or other natural assets.

NOTE: in my opinion, the remaining subsections of this regulation don’t apply to the Gulfbankian matter, though if some one disagrees, then simply plug that law into the formula above.


54 Resident August 12, 2013 at 7:53 PM

This is pure conjecture. Again, I am just trying to understand the town’s motives. We have:
shall not be in conflict with public health, safety, convenience and welfare


The site should be able to accommodate the proposal without substantial environmental damage due to wetland loss, habitat disturbance or damage to valuable trees or other natural assets.

I could see oil from buses being more of an environmental issue now than it was in the 80’s.
Again, I don’t know the laws, but I am familiar with a case where a business in another town had been operating for many years as a 2 story business without an elevator. There was ramp to both levels, but a disabled person would have to go outside to get from one floor the to next. The business prospered and wanted to add onto their existing building. They were forced to install an elevator before the addition could happen because while the original building was grandfathered in, the addition was not.
My point: Is is possible that the rational has something to do with the new permitting request. Sometimes things that seem simple really aren’t especially when government is involved. Perhaps, wanting to change one permit forces other issues to come up to code. Is this more complicated because multiple businesses are operating in the same space? If you attended the meetings, I admit I did not, what reason did the ZBA give for mandating the changes and what authority did they cite for being able to do so? That information is missing from the blog.

55 Al Hamilton August 12, 2013 at 8:10 AM

For those that believe that a substantial injustice has been done, let me offer a suggestion.

Gather 100 signatures of registered voters to call a special town meeting. The petition might have 2 articles.

Article 1 – Amendment of the Zoning By Laws to make the current uses permissible.

Article 2 – Repeal of the Zoning By Law.

If you gather the signatures then the meeting must be held. I believe that changes to Zoning require 2/3 majorities.

56 Sandypo August 12, 2013 at 8:40 AM

I like Al Hamilton’s idea — anybody else want to try it?

57 jim foley August 13, 2013 at 6:31 PM

sandy your heart is in the right may come down to just that gathering signatures. if so I am sure many of us myself included would be willing to help. I feel confident if there is a vote the gulbankians will get the required support they need from the good caring people of this town. It seems to me they finally got themselves a very competent attorney that specializes in this area. so for now I guess it is best to let him do job. but if the gulbankians do want that help all they have to do is ask and I for one will do all I can. I just find it hard to believe the town has not changed their stance on all of this. you know I don’t have any legal back round. but I am sure if the town was truly interested in resolving this matter I could come up with some very simple compromises that would satisfy both sides. save the town and the Gulbankians a whole lot of money and restore our faith in our town leaders. but that would mean our town leaders being open minded enough to compromise. It takes a very strong leader to come forward and say maybe we were a bit over zealous . lets step back and negotiate a better plan of action in everyone’s interest. surely there is a better way for this to be handled

58 Resident August 12, 2013 at 9:10 AM

I like Alans’ psot questioning Aldo Ciprano the Town Attorny. He gets paid for this garbage and keep in mind he is aligned with the Demacrat party folks. Be careful what you write becasue attornies can come after you. It is insame.

59 Bill August 12, 2013 at 11:59 AM

Excuse me, it seems as though in this town if you are either a woman in charge of a department (Jane and Karen), aligned with the Democratic Party or Gasp! A teacher or school committee member you don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t get it.

60 Resident August 12, 2013 at 6:58 PM

I did not submit that previous comment. I am not sure why the individual did not tack on a number for clarity.

61 John Stone August 12, 2013 at 10:07 AM

It seems that the more you know the facts of this situation the more you realize what a terrible injustice is being perpetrated on the Gulbankian family who did in fact have a valid permit for their machine shop in the first place.
This whole thing stems from the “neighbors” in their super expensive condos being scared when the recession hit and they saw their home values being depreciated. They needed someone to blame and they needed some action they could take. Right there under their noses were those school busses. So they tried to take action against the Gulbankians over the busses. When that failed they went looking for and found some loophole that any reasonable review of the situation would dismiss but the ZBA not wanting to be challenged by those “neighbors on the hill”, took action to disqualify that 20 some year old permit.

It seems the only reasonable thing to do at this point is to take up the suggestion made by Mr. Hamilton and bring on a special town meeting to restore justice to the town of Southborough. Of course we also need to be remembering in the next town elections that a purge is needed to restore the dignity of town.

62 SB Resident August 12, 2013 at 10:25 AM

A couple points no one has mentioned. First, I wish we could go back in time and learn why the bus engine variance was issued. I assume that it had to do with them having a bus parking lot, so the fixing of those bus engines is why they started the shop and this purpose directly tied to a current variance was why the new variance was allowed and why the variance specifically says bus on it. This was probably a very distinct point in the process that the Gulbankians thoroughly understood. As a result of this assumption, it is logical to conclude that they full well knew that servicing the antique engines was not covered under that variance. Why they didn’t proceed to try to get the proper permitting, none of us know, but given that they had three variances already, understood the process and reasoning behind variances, I would again take a logical guess that they thought the variance wouldn’t be granted.

Second this article isn’t about whether or not the Gulbankians are being wronged etc. It is about the fact that they were told they had to close their shop or else they would face this punishment, they agreed to close the shop, and then proceeded to NOT close the shop. It shouldn’t matter which side your on, they deserve the fine.

63 Resident August 12, 2013 at 7:33 PM

Thank you concerned_resident and SB Resident. I appreciate that concerned_resident provided some real facts. I have not had time to fully research all of it, so perhaps this response is a little premature.

I totally agree with SB Resident’s points. It speaks to the heart of what I have been trying (and perhaps failing) to express. It would be helpful if concerned_resident could shed light on why the current variance for auto engines was refused (besides the fact that the family refused to meet the town’s requirements for obtaining the permit). In other words, what legal latitude does the town have to issue a permit for the antique engines when requirements are not met? Are the requirements arbitrary? It seems to me (again, my opinion) that would be pretty easy to shoot down in court.

I have never tried to represent “the truth” or state that I had all “the facts”. Once again, my opinions (and that’s just what they are) have been formed on what has been reported in the paper. The paper’s reporting reads favorably on the town’s actions. Unless I missed it, I don’t believe anyone has countered via a letter to the editor or some such format as to why the town is singling this family out or acting in bad faith for the the town’s interests and why the town would not require the exact same thing from a similar business. If you favor the Gulbankians, please suggest a valid motive for the town to stick it to such a hard working family that has been part of the fabric of Southborough for so long for no reason.

64 Dorothy Gibson August 12, 2013 at 11:25 AM

Yes, Jim Foley makes a good point. God forbid the Gulbankians sell some tomato plants or cucumbers because they are not flowers but vegetables and they are only allowed to sell flowers. Real crimes against the people of Southboro..

That said , they do have the permits and variances for a machine shop…

65 Resident August 12, 2013 at 8:59 PM

So silly, are vegetable plants and flowers sales permitted differently? I suspect not. But, there probably is another permit if they actually wanted to sell food produced by the plants.
Again, so where is the issue? They have permits and variances for a machine shop. Great. I believe the issue is they don’t have the CORRECT permits. Is that not true? To say it is just a little 3 letter word, doesn’t hold up.

66 Bupters August 12, 2013 at 11:57 AM

Al Hamilton, if that would work I’m all for it.

I am furious. This was a witch hunt from the beginning–adult bullying and mob mentality at its finest–now disguised as “obeying the town’s laws”. Certain residents and the Town should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves. Unfortunately they don’t seem to have that capacity. I am embarrassed to live here.

I really hope the Gulbankian family’s current lawyer will be of help to them. That they should even have had to get a lawyer is unconscionable.

I would like to do whatever I can to help them.

67 Bupters August 12, 2013 at 5:43 PM

John Stone: Excellent points, and excellent letter.

68 Bupters August 12, 2013 at 5:51 PM

Concerned_Resident: Excellent points and letters as well. Everyone should read them.

69 Bonnie Phaneuf August 12, 2013 at 9:35 PM

A Special Town Meeting can be called, either by the BOS or by citizens’ petition. For citizens to call a Special Town Meeting, 200 registered voters must sign a petition asking the BOS to schedule a Special Town Meeting. The Selectmen must than call a town meeting to be held within 45 days of receipt of the petition.

This could certainly fit a Town Meeting situation.[ Author unknown]
THAT’S NOT MY JOB This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about it because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody would do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

Anybody can collect 200 signatures to call for a Special Town Meeting but if you are looking for success please the same 200 voters need to show up.

70 Bupters August 13, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Why the snark, Bonnie?

71 Bonnie Phaneuf August 13, 2013 at 1:16 PM


I have requested a Special Town Meeting in the past with the necessary 200 signatures getting the 2/3 vote necessary for a zoning article change is a hurdle. Good Luck!
I will attend the Special Town Meeting if one is scheduled.

72 Bupters August 13, 2013 at 7:27 PM

I see your point.

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