MONROE, CT —- Miro Motors’ plan to open a repair shop and used car sales business at Bart Center, 604 Main St., will no longer have to come before the Planning and Zoning Commission for a change of use application, according to a legal opinion rendered by Town Attorney Frank Lieto.
Now Firas Samander, owner and operator of Miro Motors LLC, will bring his plans to land use staff at Monroe Town Hall for the necessary approvals.
In the letter to Planning and Zoning Administrator Kathleen Gallagher, dated Jan. 31, Lieto said his research of the property’s records shows “there is clear evidence of prior use not only for general automobile repair and maintenance, but for the limited accessory use of automobile sales.”
Lieto learned this information when he rendered a legal opinion for a prior proposal for the property (which is also listed as 590 Main St. in the application) from CM Collision Repair LLC, which wanted to open an auto body shop in the B-1 zone.
The Zoning Board of Appeals, which used to decide on the use, had approved general repairs for the site three times: in 1985, 2003 and 2019, according to Lieto. He said all the approvals included the following conditions:
- There shall be no more than 13 vehicles parked overnight in designated parking spaces on the property (eight of which for repair and five of which for sale);
- There shall be no parking or storage of other than personal vehicles;
- There shall be no parking in front of the building face parallel to Main Street along the north/south axis lines;
- There shall be no external “used car” or “for sale” signs, banners or the like; and
- Signs within/inside the automobiles are permitted.
Lieto said it is his opinion that limited auto sales should be allowed subject to these conditions.
Though Miro Motors no longer needs its approval, the Planning and Zoning Commission decided to allow the public to speak on it at last Thursday’s meeting.
Commissioner Leon Ambrosey questioned whether there was a license to sell used cars there and Gallagher noted there were the three ZBA approvals.
“I would like to see it showing they had used car sale licenses on that property, because if they didn’t, it’s not a continued use,” Ambrosey said.
Gallagher said she did not have that information.
Susan Bannay, of Bart Road, said she lived in the neighborhood for 30 years and knew the previous owner. She said he never had a used car lot nor a used car sales permit.
“He told me he could not have more than two cars parked out there at a tine,” Bannay said. “I’m not sure how grandfathered auto sales is happening. There was no auto sales. He may have sold a car or two, but he never had 12 cars on a lot.”
She said the owner, Dave Bodnar, had told her the town did not allow him to park cars overnight, adding 13 cars parked at the corner in the neighborhood with only bushes for screening is “insane”.
Cathleen Lindstrom, of Guinea Road, said she and her husband took their cars to Bodnar for repairs for many years and she concurs with Bannay that the lot was not used for used car sales.
“If there was an existing business any place in town and it went out of business and it never took advantage of the conditions that might have applied, how can you grandfather it in?” Lindstrom asked the commission.
“It’s not like it was operating as a used car lot,” she said. “It was not. So what gives you the right to say, ‘we’re gonna approve it based on something that came up in 1985, but nobody has acted on it in so many years,’? That makes zero sense to me.”
“It absolutely does not belong there,” Lindstrom added. “It was not a continuing use.”
She also asked if the applicant will submit a landscaping plan for the property. Chairman Michael O’Reilly told her the application will be handled by staff. “I’m sure they’ll make sure there is adequate landscaping,” he said.
Joel Leneker, of Huntingtown Road, wanted to make sure the restriction on signs also applies to the fabric signs that stick up and look like feathers and anything strung up from a pole to the building. He said he wants stricter enforcement of sign regulations overall.
One resident asked about floor drains and where the drainage would go. Gallagher said floor drains are not included in the application. The resident was also concerned about fencing, expressing opposition to a chainlink fence, which O’Reilly said is not allowed.
Based upon some of the things brought up Thursday night, Gallagher said she will talk to the town attorney.
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