Buckhill Road residents disappointed in Northborough ZBA vote

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By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer

Northborough – A controversial appeal brought to the Northborough Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) by residents Amy Poretsky and Joanne Krause regarding the property at 329-333 West Main Street was denied at the Board’s meeting on Oct.  27. The petition was to appeal the town’s Zoning Enforcement Officer’s interpretation that a new business at the property be grandfathered in as a contractor’s yard. 

The appellants stated that the criteria to be grandfathered in was not met–the new business use is not exactly the same and there was a period of non-use for two or more years. The new business should have to conform to new zoning bylaws, which no longer allows a contractor’s yard in that zoning area. 

The appeal did not succeed with a final vote of 2 in favor of the appeal and 3 not in favor. ZBA Chair Fran Bakstran was unsure, however, if this appeal needed a super majority vote, which it did not receive.

Concerns were raised by the 15 families who abut the property in the Buckhill Road neighborhood, who retained an attorney.

All-State Power Vac purchased the property in 2000, merged with two other companies in 2016 to form ACV Enviro, and maintained an office until they sold the property to S&S Hudson Trust LLC in January 2020. Although ACV Enviro didn’t abandon the property, the appellants’ dispute was that the use did change or expand and per current Northborough bylaws, two years of non-use would result in not allowing the new property owners to be grandfathered in.

Building Inspector and Zoning Enforcement Officer Robert Frederico said that ACV Enviro was on site at all times until the sale of the property and they had the ability to operate. He said that as long as the company was receiving mail, displayed their sign, and were able to conduct business, they are deemed active. 

Krause, an abutter to the property, said she called ACV Environment and was told by a company representative that they have not been in operation in Northborough for five years. This was disputed by a letter from ACV Enviro that Town Planner Kathy Joubert summarized stating that at no time was the facility or use of the site abandoned.

Poretsky and Krause’s appeal is based on that the new company does not fall under the definition of a contractor’s yard. The ability to operate does not matter, but the fact that it did not operate for two years in the same capacity does.

The new owner is leasing and storing 12 plus vacuum/industrial waste trucks on site. These trucks can contain chemicals and sewerage, which concerns neighbors on the safety of their well water supply. 

Frederico said he met with the owner of the operation.  

“He demonstrated to me how when the trucks do come back they are visually inspected; they are documented with photos that they are empty,” he said. “The residual, I don’t know how they quantify it, but the tanks that I saw looked almost dry, but they document that both when the trucks leave the yard and when they come back. Hearing that I was put at ease what is on the lot overnight.”

Before Frederico left the meeting for the vote, he commented about the ramifications if the appeal was granted. 

“We are all going to be in very unchartered territory in terms of who do we throw out and how long will it take and who will write that order,” he said. “That is something that is well beyond my wheelhouse and will take a lot of lawyers.”