Grievances with Greenfield trucking company, contractor aired during meeting on fence permit

  • J.S. Rae is a tenant at 347 Wells St., where the company keeps construction equipment and raw materials. Eugene Darmanchev, who owns the property with his brother Dimitri, also operates a trucking firm there. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 12/12/2020 5:24:03 PM

GREENFIELD — The 8-foot fence that was illegally installed by contractor J.S. Rae a couple of months ago can stay, with conditions, now that the Zoning Board of Appeals has granted the necessary special permit.

In a virtual meeting Thursday, the board gave its OK to the chain-link fence with the green screening, which is 4 feet higher than is allowed. The fence surrounds 347 Wells St., where J.S. Rae is a tenant and keeps construction equipment and raw materials. Eugene Darmanchev, who owns the property with his brother Dimitri, also operates a trucking firm there.

However, the permit’s approval involves conditions, including keeping the fence screening maintained and planting a line of shrubs that run parallel to Wells Street. The fence also has an unpermitted sign on it, and the Zoning Board of Appeals asked that J.S. Rae acquire a permit immediately.

Additionally, the board included conditions that were stated by the Planning Board in its site plan meeting with Darmanchev the previous week. The Planning Board’s list of conditions are: no tractor trailer trucks can start or leave the site before 7 a.m., which includes idling; the applicant is required to return to the Planning Board with a designed landscape screen buffer that will mitigate noise and dust, and that will exist year-round; the applicant conforms to the Department of Public Works’ suggestion for the apron and drainage swale; the applicant requests a fire inspection; the applicant adheres to truck routes as presented on the application; the applicant implements dust mitigation during dry weather; and the applicant removes or registers all unregistered vehicles on the Wells Street property in excess of one unregistered vehicle.

Although Thursday’s meeting was strictly in regards to a permit for the fence, board members and residents aired their grievances with J.S. Rae and the trucking company, echoing many of the complaints heard in the Planning Board meeting. Zoning Board of Appeals Chair Mark Maloney read two letters, dated Aug. 21 and Nov. 4, that Building Inspector Mark Snow sent to the Darmanchevs, detailing compliance issues such as too many unregistered tractor trailer cabs and disregard to the noise ordinance, with trucks running before 7 a.m. and after 10 p.m.

“There’s a whole list of things that businesses are supposed to do to take care of their neighbors,” said board member David Singer. “It disturbs me how ignored (the neighbors) are.”

Noting that no one from J.S. Rae checked Greenfield’s zoning bylaws or applied for permits needed for the fence or sign, he said, “they’re already entrenched in a certain conduct that I think needs to be mitigated.”

Precinct 3 City Councilor Virginia “Ginny” DeSorgher spoke to represent residents, saying she’s received numerous complaints about the Wells Street property, which sees trucks coming and going after 10 p.m. on a daily basis. She said the problems Snow pointed out in his two letters have not been curbed, and she has personally called the police about the situation.

While she’s aware of at least one neighbor who has moved, DeSorgher said others cannot open their windows because of the excessive dust.

“I do want you to know on a human level that there are people who have had to move,” she said. “This is impacting people’s health. You are only giving tonight a permit on a fence. But there are neighbors that live there and you hold that in your hearts.”

“It’s a real issue in the neighborhood, like Virginia said, when neighbors move,” agreed resident Michael Mastrototaro. “It immediately abuts a residential neighborhood and it’s really causing a detrimental effect on everyone’s lifestyles.”

Mastrototaro said he feels having the two businesses there negatively impacts the resale value of neighboring homes, and noted issues with drainage that have followed the fence’s installation.

“When they installed that fence, they disrupted the whole groundwater there,” he said. “Whenever it rains, it’s a mess over there.”

One of the Planning Board’s conditions is to conform with the DPW’s suggestion for the apron and drainage swale.

In response, Darmanchev said it’s a challenge to figure out “how to appease the neighbors while trying to run our business, which is allowed by right” in the General Industry zoning district.

“To me, the highway noise is higher than my trucks idling for five minutes,” Darmanchev said. “Neighbors say what they have to say, I have nothing against that. I’d probably say the same thing. But I’m also looking at what my rights are being able to run the business.”

With the special permit for the fence granted on the numerous conditions, Maloney said Darmanchev must contact Planning and Development Director Eric Twarog regarding a site plan review within 15 days.

“My advice,” Maloney concluded, “would be don’t wait to start making some of the positive things happen that are in your ability to do.”

Reach Shelby Ashline at 413-772-0261, ext. 270 or sashline@recorder.com.




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