Restraining Order Blocks Newington Firestone Store from Opening

Order Reprints

A judge has issued a temporary injunction effectively blocking the opening of the new Firestone Complete Auto Care on the Berlin Turnpike, at least for the time being.

A. William Mottolese, a judge trial referee, said in court last week that pneumatic power tools to be used at the store at 2903-2909 Berlin Turnpike would violate the town's noise ordinance, according to attorney Timothy Hollister of Shipman & Goodwin, who is representing the plaintiffs.

Mottolese issued an oral order prohibiting use of the tools until the store installs noise mitigation measures, Hollister said.

Attorneys for Wex-Tuck Realty, which owns the property, said at the hearing that the ban would prevent the store from operating. The store, which Hollister said was originally slated to open Friday, was closed Monday.

"They said in no uncertain terms, if we can't use tools, we can't open," Hollister said. "We do feel vindicated."

Hurwitiz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff, the law firm representing the property owner, did not return several phone calls seeking comment Monday. Zoning commission chairwoman Cathleen Hall declined to comment Monday.

The injunction is the latest twist in nearly three years of litigation over the project and a zone change that made it possible. In the summer of 2012, the zoning commission lifted a ban on new auto-related businesses along the Berlin Turnpike. The owner of 2903-2909 Berlin Turnpike subsequently applied under the new rules and was granted permits to erect a Firestone Complete Auto Care store.

A group of auto-related businesses sued, alleging that the new regulation was unfair to them, left the rules unclear and gave the zoning commission too much latitude. They filed a separate lawsuit challenging the permits given to Firestone, arguing that they were invalid because underlying regulation was fatally flawed.

A judge eventually agreed with parts of the plaintiffs' claims and voided some sections of the regulation.

When construction of the store began last November, several neighboring homeowners, along with the plaintiffs in the two lawsuits, sought an injunction to block its opening, Hollister said. They argued that the store failed to meet the town's noise ordinance and the decision striking down sections of the underlying regulation rendered parts of its permit invalid, he said.

"Firestone ignored our position and started building," Hollister said. "They knew there was a risk in that."

In March and May, Mottolese presided over five days of hearings on the noise and permit validity issues, Hollister said. He said he expects the judge to issue a written decision as soon as this week.

Hollister said he is "skeptical" that the store can come up with a solution to the noise problem. Any such plan would have to be approved by the zoning commission, he said.

This article originally appeared on Hartford Courant

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