Town and Gulbankian family joint statement on settlement: 10% fine and buses will go

by Beth Melo on April 2, 2014

Post image for Town and Gulbankian family joint statement on settlement: 10% fine and buses will go

Above: The lot at 40 Mt. Vickery has been a point of contention with neighbors, resulting in the property owners’ legal disputes with the town. If voters approve new zoning, buses will be gone by July 2016. (Photo by Susan Fitzgerald)

In early March, the Board of Selectmen announced the impending resolution of disputes with the Gulbankian family over zoning. 

This week, the Town of Southborough and the Gulbankian family explained the solution in a joint statement. The terms of agreement focus on resolving neighbor complaints about the bus lot.

Mediated terms included a fine, which has been paid, of $12,610 (just under 10% of the fine issued last summer.)

The family also agreed to stop parking buses on the lot by July 1, 2016.

Until that date, the impact of the buses on neighbors will be diminished by:

  • keeping them in the western portion of the site
  • arranging parking to minimize early morning back up and warning sounds;
  • limiting buses to one-way entering and exiting;
  • continuing a program of source control to prevent dripping or release of fluids from stored buses; and
  • filling gaps in the landscaped hedgerow on the site (soon after Memorial Day).

This deal is contingent on Annual Town Meeting voters approving the article to rezone the property from Residential-A to Industrial. The zoning change is supported by the town as it is:

in keeping with the long-standing use of the Gulbankian property, and consistent with the other Industrial District parcels that surround the Gulbankian property.

Under the rezoning, the family will be allowed to establish a legal permit for the machine shop. 

In previous statements, the Zoning Board of Appeals and town counsel had stated that a permit issued to the machine shop could be easily overturned in court by neighbor appeal. Avoiding that appeal is why they attached restrictions that would resolve neighborhood complaints.

The restrictions included paving the lot and installing a drainage system. After getting an estimate for $200,000 to complete that work, the family appealed the decision. Since then, the town and family have been in continued legal disputes culminating in a court imposed fine of $300 per day.

Last summer, the town issued a letter enforcing the accumulated fine of $126,600. Subsequently, the family filed another court appeal. That was scheduled to to be heard in January.

According to The Metrowest Daily News, Selectman John Rooney reached out to the family to request mediation. The family agreed, and mediation took place in February.

The Town Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 16, though likely to continue to Thursday, April 17.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the zoning article this Monday, April 7, 7:00 pm in the Town House Hearing Room.

To read the full joint statement from the town and the Gulbankians, click here.

1 KathrynK April 2, 2014 at 12:29 PM

I know this has been a tough issue for all sides, but I just want to shout out to the Gulbankian family: like many residents I know, I love your store, and appreciate your family’s long history in the community–and feel terrible that you have had to go through such a big mess to run your businesses. Running any business is tough enough these days–these extra stresses and expenses just seems unfair. I am glad to hear this is almost over!

2 Bupters April 2, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Gulbankian family: Thank you for all that you do for the community of Southborough.

3 David Parry April 2, 2014 at 11:36 PM

Three cheers for the Guilbankians !

This has been a sorry story for this town, and it is high time it was resolved in their favor. The Gulbankians have operated their business for decades, with no problems whatsoever. Then a nosy neighbor, who bought a new condo next door, on land previously owned by the Gulbankians, and who signed an agreement not to object to the Gulbankians operations, decided to complain. And then the previous building inspector did some historical research and found some arcane, obscure legal problems where the “t ” had not been crossed decades ago. That legal loophole has cost the Gulbankiians serious money and heartache, and has cost this town in steep legal fees.

The irony is that some town boards tried to force the Gulbankians to do the very opposite of what this town’s master plan calls for, namely “maintain rural character”. They wanted the Gulbankians to pave over (with asphalt) their rural gravel parking lot.!

Many of us feel great personal sympathy for the Gulbankians, and this town owes them a big apology.

4 Bupters April 3, 2014 at 10:46 AM

An excellent, accurate account of this sordid, expensive, time consuming and distracting witch hunt against people who have done nothing wrong. An apology to the Gulbankians is the least that the town can do.

5 Mark Ford April 3, 2014 at 12:20 PM

Ugh. If there were a means of using the Town coffers to pay their fine, I’d happily agree. What a fiasco.

6 Elder April 3, 2014 at 1:07 PM

I’m glad to see that someone took charge of this thing that has been going on for five years and ended it. We should remember that this would still be going on if the town did not care.

7 Al Hamilton April 3, 2014 at 2:24 PM

I believe a big chunk of credit goes to John Rooney for bringing the two side together and pounding out an agreement.

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