Laundromat, Mystery Shop Nixed

Thomas MacMillan PhotoAfter a man was killed near its front door, a laundromat sought to move a block away on Whalley Avenue to a new 24-hour spot with beefed-up security.

No way, said neighbors.

Zoners sided with the neighbors and denied approval for Precision Wash & Dry laundromat’s proposed move from Whalley Avenue’s Stop & Shop plaza to 222 Whalley Ave. The new operation would have included a retail operation of an undetermined nature.

The vote came Tuesday night at the monthly meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals, where Precision Wash & Dry made its pitch. Neighbors said they were concerned about crime and loitering. A man was shot and killed outside the laundromat’s current location in May.

The laundromat sought variances to allow a laundromat and retail operation in an area zoned for automotive sales. It’s the second time Precision Wash & Dry has tried to open a location on Whalley Avenue only to come up against stiff neighborhood opposition.

Mark Sklarz, lawyer for the property owner, said the 222 Whalley Ave. has been on the market for several years and has been vacant since 2011, when Advance Auto Parts left.

Attorney James Perito (at right in photo), who kicked off the BZA presentation for the Precision Wash & Dry, said the company faces a hardship as a result of the zoning. The automotive restrictions are outdated, from a time when the strip was “automobile row,” Perito said.

Perito said the move is prompted in part by a new realization that the laundromat has “some issues” with a lack of security at the current location.

Perito said Precision would spend about $900,000 renovating the building and would hire a local contractor to do the work. The rear of the building would be a laundromat. The front would be a retail store of some kind. Perito said a tenant had not yet been found, and that alcohol and gun sales were off the table.

Frank Sproviero (at left in photo), whose company 21st Century Management operates 18 Precision Wash & Dry laundromats, said the move would include a change in management, improved security, and “zero tolerance with loitering.”

Architect Patrick Rose said plans call for the removal of the rear third of the existing building, to make room for a wrap-around parking lot with 51 spaces where 38 are required by zoning regulations.

Security staff would have an elevated corner booth inside the laundromat allowing for a full view of the interior and the parking lot, he said.

Perito asked that the laundromat be permitted to be open 24 hours a day, instead of 6 a.m. to midnight. He said that’s necessary given the added costs of increased security. “We need the flexibility to be able to operate 24/7,” he said.

“Honestly, I feel the same concerns as City Plan does about a blanket retail use variance,” said BZA member Victor Fasano.

BZA member Ben Trachten raised concerns about the laundromat being located at the back of the building: “It creates an area where people could congregate concealed from Whalley Avenue.”

When the floor opened to public comment, neighbors added concerns of their own.

Evelyn Streater-Frizzle (pictured at the top of the story), the chair of the Whalley-Edgwood-Beaver Hill Community Management Team, said she’s concerned about the “quality of life issue.” She pointed out that the neighborhood already rejected an attempt to put in a Precision Wash & Dry laundromat at the corner of the Whalley and the Boulevard, because of concerns about crime and loitering.

Edgewood Alderwoman Evette Hamilton (pictured) said she is “totally opposed” to the notion of a 24-hour laundromat.

“Someone was murdered in front of their property,” she said. And now they want to move to a location on the back side of another building? she continued: Do they have security now? Why not?

Perito said the security guard at the current location in the Stop and Shop plaza is not only for the laundromat, but for the whole complex. The new location would allow the laundromat to control its own security, he said.

Later, during the board’s voting session, Fasano again expressed reservations about approving an unspecified retail use. The board contemplated approving the laundromat by denying the retail use, but ultimately agreed to deny the entire application without prejudice, which will allow the applicants to re-apply.

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posted by: darnell on December 13, 2012  3:28pm

Wow! If you have $250,000 to throw around, you can get your local alderman and management team to support variances ( a triple sized building, a third less parking). I guess this laundromat company doesn’t know how the game is played in New Haven. Probably said no to a community benefits agreement, so now they get blamed for a murder OUTSIDE of their establishment.

posted by: Curious on December 13, 2012  4:04pm

So the laundromat operator wants to drop a million dollars to renovate another property?  Why not put that money towards their own security at their existing location?  Why can’t they have their own security there?  If I am not mistaken, the only security in that plaza is a cop stationed in the lobby of Stop & Shop.

Salary for a security guard in New Haven is $37,000.  Add benefits and that’s $46,250.  The same $900,000 would pay for a full-time security guard for twenty years.