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Council hears zoning request to accommodate business
By Debbie Gardner
WESTFIELD The City Council heard yet another application during its Oct. 20 meeting for a zoning change that would legitimize an existing business operating illegally under current zoning laws, a problem Planning Department Director Lawrence Smith said has been cropping up all over the city of late.
At the same meeting, the council also gave preliminary approval for the city to bond for $35.9 million for construction of the new Ashley Street School, and for $3 million for much-needed repairs to the roof, masonry and windows at City Hall.
The proposed zoning amendment under consideration is sometimes referred to as “spot zoning” and is not illegal in Massachusetts, according to the information Smith provided to the council.
So far this year Smith said the city has dealt with, or is in the process of dealing with six instances of improper business operations in relation to existing zoning.
“All were cases where years ago incorrect zoning interpretations were made,” he said, which allowed individuals to believe they could establish a business on the site. But, as Smith added, “Just because you’ve been doing something illegally for a number of years does not legitimize it” under the city’s zoning laws.
Glen Korostynski, owner of the parcel of land at 37 South Meadow Road, made the zoning change request under consideration. As owner and landlord of the former farm outbuildings on the property, he has allowed their use for commercial purposes; however, it was recently discovered the property is zoned Rural Residential. His request is to re-zone the land Business B.
Korostynski’s attorney, Raymond Zenkert, Jr., said the error came to light when a limousine service on the property went out of business and new owners of the cars and other assets tried to apply for a license.
“Smith said this is a case where, 15 or 20 years ago, Korostynski “talked to somebody in the city, I’m assuming it was the building inspector, and was told that [the current use] was OK, when in fact it wasn’t” under the city’s zoning laws.
“Now, he’s coming in 20 years later, after having spent $100,000 [on the property] trying to legitimize what he’s done,” he added.
Smith said the Business B zoning classification “is the most aggressive zoning, just below industrial,” and the situation before the council raises concerns regarding the needs of both the applicant and the abutters.
Abutter Rick W Maclorowski acknowledged that Korostynski has always been a good abutter and landlord, but that he was concerned with Korostynski’s plans for the future, including a sale and redevelopment of the land.
Maclorowski said the zoning change request seemed to “fit the needs of the landlord, but not the residents.”
At-Large City Councilor Brian Sullivan asked if there was a way to “put an amendment on this, to put in something, that [the Business B zoning] is OK while Glen is alive, then revert back to Rural Residential.”
Smith said a temporary change was not possible, which is why he said it is so important that “the initial zoning interpretation be correct” in these cases.
“Some are easy, [applicants] can come in and get permits,” Smith said. “In this case, it’s in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and that’s a little tougher.”
The request was referred to the council’s Zoning and Ordinance Committee for further study.