Danbury Ambulance Seeks Borough Zoning Approval For Main Street Facility Operations
Borough Zoning Commission (BZC) members are considering a request from Danbury Ambulance Service, Inc to allow it to use the former Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps building at 77 Main Street for Danbury Ambulance operations.
In the fall of 2014, the ambulance corps moved from its garage at 77 Main Street, where it had been stationed for decades, to new facilities at Fairfield Hills. The Main Street building is now vacant.
Before it was used as ambulance garage, the building at 77 Main Street had served a gas station/automotive repair facility for decades, resulting in the site becoming contaminated with toxins. Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Association, Inc, which owns the 1.49-acre property, has removed residual pollution from the site to the degree that it is now usable for commercial purposes, but not usable as a residential property. The site has R-1 (Residential) zoning.
Town Director of Planning George Benson has recommended that the BZC approve Danbury Ambulance's request for a zoning compliance certificate for 77 Main Street for ambulance use.
At a February 8 BZC meeting, Joseph DeSimone, president of Danbury Ambulance, asked BZC members to approve a such a certificate for the property, thus allowing Danbury Ambulance to buy the facility from the ambulance association.
BZC members must now interpret the applicable zoning regulations to determine whether those rules would allow Danbury Ambulance to use the building for ambulance operations, according to BZC Chairman Douglas Nelson.
Mr DeSimone explained that Danbury Ambulance, which is under contract to provide paramedic services to the town, has a paramedic SUV stationed at the Fairfield Hills ambulance facility. However, there are times when a second paramedic is required locally and that person must then travel to Newtown from Danbury, he said.
Having a second paramedic SUV stationed at 77 Main Street would result in a faster response to local emergencies, he said. Besides that paramedic SUV, Danbury Ambulance would station two ambulances at 77 Main Street, plus some Danbury Ambulance staff members, he said.
Mr DeSimone said that the vehicles stationed at 77 Main Street would be used only on Newtown ambulance calls. Danbury ambulance sometimes provides back-up ambulances for Newtown calls.
Mr DeSimone said that Danbury Ambulance acquiring 77 Main Street would be "a perfect fit" in terms of the firm providing emergency medical services to Newtown, noting that the site had been used for that purpose since the 1970s.
BZC member Brid Craddock asked about Danbury Ambulance's rules on the use of sirens by its vehicles, adding that BZC members have received complaints in the past from people in that area about the use of ambulance sirens.
"It's a very sensitive issue on Main Street," Mr Nelson later said of stationing ambulances there.
Mr Benson urged BZC members to approve allowing 77 Main Street to again be used as an ambulance garage. In a January 25 memo to the BZC, Mr Benson stated that the ambulance garage use should be allowed either as a continuation of a pre-existing nonconforming land use or as a continuation of a municipal use, in that Danbury Ambulance has contract with the town to provide emergency medical services and thus the firm fulfills a municipal function.
Dr Robert Grossman, who heads the ambulance association, told BZC members that because the number of people volunteering to staff ambulances is decreasing, firms such as Danbury Ambulance are needed to augment local emergency medical care.
Mr Nelson said the BZC would refer the Danbury Ambulance matter to its attorney for legal review. BZC members will be discussing the Danbury Ambulance zoning request at an upcoming session, Mr Nelson said.
Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Association handles financial and business matters. Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps provides ambulance staffing.