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Board Says NO to Children’s Therapy Facility

Board Says NO to Children’s Therapy Facility

It’s been home to a host of former businesses ranging from retail establishments to professional offices, two Town Plan and Zoning Commissioners felt a center offering children’s speech and occupational services was not a good fit for a Racebrook Road building.

Property owner Frank D’Ostilio Jr., appealed to the board on behalf of prospective buyers, Amy and Craig Cahill, owners of Cheshire Fitness Zone, who hoped to open a satellite office in the space.  The property, which is a non-conforming commercial use in a residential neighborhood, was home to D’Ostilio’s company, William Orange Realty from 1988-2005 and most recently, Coldwell Banker Real Estate.  In the 1950s the building housed a farm equipment business and over the years its uses have included a furniture store, travel agency, florist, and professional space for a lawyer and financial planner.  Sale of the property to the Cahills was contingent upon zoning approval.  “I am touched by the services they provide and believe in their mission to help children,” D’Ostilio said.  “It would be an honor to have them in my building.”  D’Ostilio said the Cahills’ primary location in Cheshire is in “impeccable condition” and they would be good on-site neighbors and support the causes of the Orange community just as he has.  According to D’Ostilio, traffic flow and use on the site would not be more intensive than when it was a realty company.

Although the name implies a fitness use, the Cahills described their business as professionals providing one on one speech and/or occupational therapy services to a maximum of eight children per hour.  As their Cheshire business has grown, the Cahills hope to expand to “help as many children as possible.”  The Racebrook Road location is desirable because of its homey feeling which seems less like a medical or doctor’s office.

While Racebrook Road resident Jeff Gordon submitted a letter in support of the plan, several neighbors expressed concern that changing the building’s use could open the door to less desirable tenants down the road.  Janet Harrison, who lives directly behind the property said, “If the use changes to therapy what’s to keep it from becoming drug or alcohol therapy?  I’m not opposed to that but in my backyard?” she said.

Commissioners Paul Kaplan and Ralph Aschettino argued in favor of the plan, citing that previous boards have supported a host of different businesses at the location.  “Unless we change it back to residential, from a planning point of view what can we do?  This use doesn’t seem detrimental in any way and less detrimental than a real estate office.  This operation is professional; clients have to make appointments to be seen.  It’s a comparable use.  We have to make decisions for the town and use some brains,” Aschettino said.

Commissioners Judy Smith and Kevin Cornell voted against the plan, Cornell saying the proposal as a rehabilitative facility was “substantially different in nature” than a real estate office.  “Any way you slice it it’s not the same,” Cornell said.

TPZC Chairman Ozzie Parente excused himself from the vote, citing a conflict of interest as D’Ostilio is a client of his.  TPZC regulations dictate applications with a split vote cannot be approved.

By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent

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