April 25, 2014

Deep River Zoning Board of Appeals Overturns Zoning Condition on Grove Street Industrial Building

DEEP RIVER— The zoning board of appeals Tuesday overturned a condition on a new industrial building at 16 Grove St. that was included by Zoning enforcement Officer Cathy Jefferson as part of the required certificate of zoning compliance for the structure.

The board’s decision came after a nearly two hour public hearing that featured dueling arguments from three attorneys, with Essex lawyer John Bennet representing property owner Raymond Galeotti, Middletown lawyer William Howard representing Jefferson and the planning and zoning commission, and Old Saybrook lawyer David Royston representing the ZBA.

The 8,400 square-foot building was constructed last year after Galeotti received zoning approval in the summer of 2012. Galeotti received a special permit from the planning and zoning commission for what he described as an expansion of his existing business on the site, a jewelry engraving business called Eve’s Addiction. He also received a variance from the ZBA because the planning and zoning commission had adopted new village district regulations for the area, a move that made the existing 50-year-old industrial building on the parcel a non-conforming use.

After the building was completed last summer, Jefferson included a condition on the certificate of zoning compliance noting the structure was for use only as an expansion of the existing business. Jefferson said Tuesday the condition was based on information presented by Galeotti at the July 2012 public hearing on his permit application, and because the more recent village district regulations made the 16 Gove St. parcel non-conforming. Grove Street is a mostly residential street that extends south off Bridge Street to end at the 16 Grove Street parcel.

Bennet, presenting meeting minutes for both the PZC and ZBA, maintained the condition on future use was never included in the July 2012 approvals for the industrial building. He acknowledged that any separate uses in the building would require approval from the PZC, but maintained Jefferson had “no authority” to impose the condition now on the certificate of zoning compliance, which is tied to a required certificate of occupancy.

Bennet said Galeotti needed a “clean” certificate of occupancy from the town, and contended the condition had interfered with his efforts to sell a portion of his business, and lease a portion of the building that is not needed by the business at the present time. In sometimes angry testimony where he threatened a lawsuit against the town, Galeotti said the condition had disrupted his plans to sell a large share of his business to a company that also owns the From You Flowers business in Old Saybrook. Geleotti added that he is now planning to move Eve’s Addictiion, and its 25 employees, to space in Old Saybrook in the spring.

Jefferson and Howard said the use of the new building in December by From You Flowers had led to new complaints from nearby residents, leading Jefferson to stand by the condition during discussions with Bennet in December. Howard said the provision on use by the existing business was “more a statement of fact” based on zoning regulations than a condition.

Priscilla Lerner, of 15 Grove St,, said the pre-holiday use of the building by the flower business led to a sharp increase in traffic and parking on the dead-end street. “The street is too small for it,” Lerner said, adding that she suspects Galeotti had always planned the 8,400 square-foot building for other uses beyond the jewelry engraving business.

The board relied heavily on advice by Royston in it’s deliberations on the appeal. The attorney urged the board to overturn the condition because it had not been specifically included on the ZBA and PZC approvals in July 2012, and to avoid any effort to direct future decisions on use of the property. “I don’t think you have to decide anything more about the property to sustain the appeal,” Royston said..