PROSPECT — Proposed changes to the zoning regulations elicited an outcry of concern from the business community in town.
The Planning and Zoning Commission is reviewing potential changes that would impact funeral homes and trade businesses.
Under the proposed changes, any new funeral homes that wanted to open in town would only be allowed in business districts and be required to get a special permit. Trade businesses, such as painters and electricians, would be required to get a special permit and go before the commission for a public hearing, under the proposal, before they would be allowed to operate.
The cost to obtain a permit to open a trade business would rise from $25 to $250 due to the necessity of the public hearing.
Mark Guastaferri, who owns commercial property throughout Prospect that he rents out to tradespeople, called the proposed changes “overbearing” at a March 20 public hearing on the proposal.
Aside from the increasing fee, Guastaferri said the longer time to get a special permit for trade businesses would drive away businesses. He said he needs to be able to sign tradespeople into his spaces within 10 days in order to ensure they set up their business in Prospect. Under the proposed regulations, it could take close to three months due to the hearing process, he said.
“So you’ve killed a portion of my business,” Guastaferri told the commission. “I can’t tell a perspective tenant ‘wait three months and we will get back to you.’ No way. They are going to go to some other town that will welcome them with open arms.”
Land Use Inspector Tammy Deloia said the change regarding trade businesses getting special permits was proposed due to concerns about the size of companies that could move to the town.
“When you say plumber or electrician, everyone automatically thinks of the plumber with one or two vans and maybe two guys. But when something is allowed in the business zone a large plumbing company can come in with 30 or 40 trucks, and then you have 30 or 40 trucks in a business zone that may be 10 feet away from somebody’s backyard,” Deloia said.
Guastaferri felt the change would do more harm than good.
“This regulation is like swatting a fly on a window with a sledgehammer. You are going to get the fly, but you are going to do a lot more damage,” Guastaferri said.
Vincent Maruso, who owns the building at 72 Waterbury Road that houses the Prospect Memorial Funeral Home, had no issue with requiring funeral homes in business districts, but opposed the need for a special permit.
“I’m looking at this going forward. I am not the operator. I have a tenant who is the operator. When his lease is up if he decides he wants to relocate somewhere else, buy somewhere else, or build somewhere else, or even if he were to sell, that would subject us to a greater risk of something that was a permitted use we could lose that through the process of a special permit,” Maruso said.
Maruso told the commission this regulation is a burden that is directly aimed at him.
“There is only one funeral home, so this is sort of singling out this location,” Maruso said.
Matt Buonaiuto, owner of Matt’s Handyman Service and president of the Prospect Business Association, felt the proposed regulations would hurt businesses that wanted to start up in town.
“The business association definitely agrees with having more people move into town, tradespeople or otherwise, but I think the special permit is just a little bit too much. I’ve heard negative things about it and people do not like that aspect of it,” Buonaiuto said. “It makes them have to do more work than other companies are doing.”
Planning and Zoning Commission Vice Chairman Al Havican said the reason the commission proposed changes regarding tradespeople is that the current regulations do not mention them.
“It wasn’t spelled out before. The process is to come up with a possible solution and hear from everyone and then make a decision accordingly,” Havican said.
Havican thanked the people who spoke for their input, saying the commission will take their comments seriously.
“I think we have good input to go forward and reconsider things,” Havican said. “When we look at things and try to improve them, it’s not a perfect situation. So the input is what helps us. There is no one on this committee that is anti-business in the town. If we make a decision that needs to be tweaked, fine, we are all for it. That’s why we welcome the public to come in.”