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Is Intent Enough for a Bigger Meineke Muffler on Main?

Planning & Zoning Commission seeks legal advice on a proposal to continue a nonconforming use with a larger building. Last week's hearing was continued.

Vazhayil Babu bought a Meineke Muffler at 585 Main Street in 1994. The business is a nonconforming use for the property, but it pre-dated zoning regulations. It had been a repair shop in the 1930s before becoming a Meineke in 1988, according to Ray Rizio, an attorney hired by Babu.

A fire destroyed the building in 2006 and the muffler shop hasn't been back since. Though a nonconforming use is no longer allowed after six months or more of inactivity, Rizio says it had never been Babu’s intention not to operate a Meineke on the property.

An environmental clean up of the property contributed to the delay on plans to rebuild a Meineke on the site, according to Rizio.

The building was about 3,000 square feet. Babu is proposing to build a 5,000 square foot colonial-style building in its place, with six bays and a second floor office. He and Rizio came before the Planning & Zoning Commission last week with a proposed zone change for the back of the property, from an RC to a DB1, and a site plan application.

Rizio said the Meineke would have a total car care concept, making all sorts of repairs, as well as offering oil changes.

"We believe the building is beautiful," Rizio said. "It went through ARB (the Architectural Review Board). We think it fits into the colonial character of the neighborhood."

Rizio said there would be no negative impact on traffic and that the business would contribute to the tax base.

But there was a serious point of disagreement between Rizio and the commission during the hearing last Thursday. Chairman Rick Zini maintained that the proposed expansion of the building represents an expansion of a nonconforming use. If the commission approves it, Zini expressed concern that a precedent could be set for other nonconforming uses in town.

Rizio argued that the use was grandfathered and that no accessory uses are being proposed. He maintained that the new building conforms with town zoning and that its being larger does not represent an expansion of a nonconforming use.

There is also a question of whether intent to continue a nonconforming use that had not been active since 2006 justifies continuing that use again. Rizio mentioned court decisions he believes shows that the state of Connecticut favors a property owner’s intent as a deciding factor.

During the hearing, Babu admitted to having been willing to sell his property for different uses over the years, before moving forward with an application to rebuild his Meineke.

The P&Z decided to continue the hearing, allowing the commission to seek legal counsel on the application. The advice it receives will be included in the record for this application.

Joey February 21, 2012 at 01:18 PM
More anti-business nonsense from the Planning & Zoning.
jim laguardia February 21, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Wait... what.... why are our legal fees so high again??
Jenna February 21, 2012 at 01:23 PM
What happened to the oh so needed McDonalds.
Susan Galian February 21, 2012 at 03:58 PM
We need all the business revenue we can get. Have you looked at your tax bill lately? I have and I'm not a happy camper. We discourage businesses in Monroe like no other town I know of. Let's get with the program here!
wild west February 21, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Sounds like they are doing the due diligence before making a decision. Shoot 'em first, ask questions later. Yeeha Monroe!
Joey February 21, 2012 at 04:42 PM
The people of Monroe need to stand up to the insanity of this inept P&Z Committee. We need people who will welcome business not go out of their way to scare them away. Vavrek needs to call on the leadership of the P&Z to step down and appoint people who will work on behalf of Monroe, not against it.
wild west February 21, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Let's hang 'em at high noon Joey!! Round up the wagons and let's git em!
Designated Hitter February 21, 2012 at 05:06 PM
"An environmental clean up of the property contributed to the delay on plans to rebuild a Meineke on the site, according to Rizio." Ok, this is concerning. Was this caused by Meineke?
QWERTY February 21, 2012 at 05:43 PM
What does "nonconforming use" mean? How does a mechanic shop on rt. 25, a major town road, not conform to the town's laws? Why was a burned business allowed to stand for 5 years without operation? Man, this town is screwed up.
living here February 21, 2012 at 06:52 PM
I happen to think that the PZ is trying to clean up Monroe.
Chris February 21, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Has anyone considered the infrastructure costs to continued building and whether or not there is a real tax benefit. It is interesting that as Monroe has grown commercially, taxes have continued to rise. Keep on building-or, maybe when our natural resources have been completly depleted and oursiders confuse us with Milford, then the we will be satisfied...but wait, our taxes will still keep going up.
Chief Waldo February 23, 2012 at 01:05 AM
What does "nonconforming use" mean? It means that what the property is being used for isn't allowed by the town's zoning regulations. In this case, as the story clearly states, the original Meineke building was an auto repair shop dating back before the zoning regulations were put in place. Since it existed before the regulations, it was allowed to continue operating that way as "nonconforming". How does a mechanic shop on rt. 25, a major town road, not conform to the town's laws? A auto repair shop is allowed in DB2 zones, not in DB1. This part of Main Street is zoned DB1. Here's a link to the zoning map: www.monroect.org/zonemap.aspx These answers and more are available on line, in the Planning and Zoning section of the Town of Monroe's web site: www.monroect.org. I'm not a town employee, official, or volunteer. I'm a resident that knows you've got to know the rules to play the game.
Justin March 07, 2012 at 12:53 AM
I say let them build it and expand the meinke. We need all the revenue we can get in this town. If we continue to scare away our small businesses, we are heading in the wrong direction!
Justin March 07, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Mr. Vazhayil has been an outstanding member to society and of our neighborhood, we should allow him to continue his business that continues to service our town. We shouldn't let the PZ drive our economy downward.

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