Zoners approve Route 7 showrooms

The Planning and Zoning Commission approved “non-direct-retail showrooms” — storefronts for the display of goods sold and delivered offsite — in the B-2 business zone on Route 7 at its April 17 meeting.

Five commissioners voted in favor of the amendment to the town zoning regulations, with one commissioner voting against. Three commissioners were absent from the meeting.

“These are the type of things where someone would go and look at granite countertops, and then it would be delivered from wherever it is made to its final resting place,” explained Planning and Zoning Director Richard Baldelli. He said the amendment to the rules was meant to essentially “codify” the existing businesses already present along Route 7.

But Commissioner John Katz, who cast the sole opposing vote, said he was concerned with what he called “retail creep” in the zone, even though he acknowledged that retail is not currently permitted in the zone.

“What kind of elephant’s trunk situation are we getting into by doing this?” Katz asked. “Dissuade me from that.”

Vice Chairman Joe Fossi said that of the remaining lots in the Route 7 corridor, there was not “one large piece of property left there that wasn’t a wetland, a cliff, or a very small parcel.” The remaining small parcels of land in the zone are “sort of left in limbo — you can’t really have a car dealer or anything there,” Fossi said.

But Katz said he was concerned with shop owners who would try to cheat the system, despite the ban on selling goods on the premises. He asked Baldelli if the change would create any new challenges with zoning enforcement.

“There’s always someone trying to push the envelope,” Baldelli said, though he pointed out that the small size of the showrooms — 200 square feet or less — would prevent the worst excesses.

Commissioner Mark Zeck raised concerns that businesses might sell display models out the door as a workaround.

“If it’s once in a blue moon, we probably wouldn’t notice,” Baldelli said.

“I wanna go on record with John and say that I’m also concerned with retail creep,” said Fossi. “But retail is down there,” he added. “They’re simply going to go to the Zoning Board of Appeals and claim a hardship that they can’t use their business.”