MONROE, CT — Neighbors opposed to plans for an auto body shop at 604 Main St. raised their concerns to town officials. Town Attorney Frank Lieto looked into the matter and found CM Collision Repair was actually approved for a more limited use of a general repair license, a previous nonconforming use that was grandfathered.
Based on the legal opinion, Luis Alfredo Retamoza, the owner of CM Collision Repair LLC, no longer intends to use the space at Bart Center for auto body and collision repair, and is instead working to find a new location where such services are permitted, according to Lieto.
“I took this situation very seriously,” First Selectman Terry Rooney said Monday. “Planning and Zoning rules and regulations are there for a reason. I understand the community’s concern in regards to this situation.”
“After reviewing all of the information, it’s very important in the future for anyone reviewing these applications, or who has concerns with these applications, to look at, not only the proposed use of what the tenant is requesting, but to also look at the approved use, which is what the town and its regulations allow,” Rooney continued.
The property is in a B-1 zone, which does not allow auto body shops, a use only permitted in an industrial 2 zone.
Several concerned residents wrote letters and spoke during the public comment portion of last Thursday’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
“We admitted there was an error by a staff member, who is no longer with us, and worked on a resolution that’s very close at hand,” Chairman Michael O’Reilly had told them. “I don’t have it tonight.”
Lieto explained his findings in a letter to Retamoza on Monday:
Dear Mr. Retamoza:
It has come to my attention that certain questions have arisen relative to your alleged contemplated use of the Premises for auto body and collision repair services. It is my intention that this correspondence serves as clarification to avoid any further misunderstanding or speculation.
Your proposed use for auto body and collision repair is defined in the Town of Monroe Zoning Regulations (“Regulations”) as an “Automobile Body Shop”. This defined use is separate and distinct from an “Automobile Service Shop”, which applies to a business primarily engaged in auto repair and maintenance. The distinction is intentional and historic, in that auto body and collision repair use is not included within the definition designed for general maintenance and repair and is, in fact, an expansion of such a use.
The Premises is located in a Business District 1 (B-1) Zone. Neither of the aforesaid uses are permitted in a B-1 Zone under the Regulations. However, my research reveals that since at least 1985, the Premises were approved for and have since been used as a general automobile repair and maintenance facility or what is now referred to as an Automobile Service Shop. My research further reveals that at no time were the Premises permitted for use as or otherwise used for auto body or collision repair, or what is now an Automobile Body Shop. Based upon the foregoing, use of the Premises for general automobile repair and maintenance, to wit, as an Automobile Service Shop, is a nonconforming use which is permitted upon the Premises. However, use for auto body and collision repair, to wit, as an Automobile Body Shop, is precluded upon the Premises.
In summary, while your Application sought approval for a proposed use as “Auto Body Repair (CM Collision Repair)”, it was approved for limited use as “General Repair License (replaces previous automotive repair tenant”), in line with the prior nonconforming use. Essentially, the approval was tantamount to a denial of your request for use for auto body repair. Any desire for expansion of the approved nonconforming use would require application pursuant to the Regulations.
Nevertheless, as per our conversation of this morning, based upon the foregoing opinion, you have advised the undersigned that you do not intend to uses the Premises for auto body and collision repair and in fact, are working to find a new location where such services are permitted. However, should you reconsider and desire to operate the Premises for another permitted use, including a nonconforming use such as an auto repair and maintenance facility, I am hopeful that this letter will serve to better guide you and or the owner of the Premises.
Should you wish to discuss this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.