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A Burger War is Waged on Main Street

The Duchess owner's attorney twice tried to delay the public hearing on McDonald's plans to come to Main Street — then criticized the details

Big Mac or Big D? Duchess restaurant and McDonald's are going toe-to-toe of late, and the dispute has nothing to do with their menus.

McDonald's has yet to receive land use approvals to build a new restaurant at 579 Main Street, but Duchess, which already has a restaurant on the strip, near the corner of Judd Road, has been fighting tooth and nail to stop the international chain from expanding to its side of town.

Both sides have hired attorneys who are heavyweights in their field to represent them.

Lou Berkowitz, whose family started the Duchess chain in Connecticut, hired Kevin Gumpper, an attorney who was is the former chairman of the Plan & Zoning Commission in the town of Fairfield.

In the other corner, Real Time Investments LLC, which is applying for a zone change and a special permit to build the McDonald's, has retained the services of Raymond Rizio, an attorney whose impressive record of winning zoning approvals for his clients in Bridgeport was chronicled in a Connecticut Post article a few years ago.

On Jan. 6, Real Time Investment's hearing before the Planning & Zoning Commission was postponed after Gumpper pointed out an error in the legal notice, which said McDonald's wanted to build on a 1.35 acre property when it should have read 1.15 acres.

Then last Thursday night, Gumpper tried to postpone the hearing again.

Gumpper questioned the accuracy of the description of the site's boundaries in the notice filed in the Town Clerk's Office and said it should have included a map. Rizio countered that the notice was accurate and that any resident interested in seeing the map could have walked down the hall to the land use offices to see it.

"I think the notice is pretty clear," Rizio said. "You have a shaded map in the zoning office. Mr. Gumpper found it. We feel comfortable that the public got this statutory notice and it is fair, accurate and appropriate."

"What was submitted is not accurate," Gumpper argued, adding members of the public should be entitled to see an accurate description in the notice, which must be filed at least 10 days before a hearing.

Planning & Zoning Chairman Richard Zini appeared frustrated by the string of delays in holding the hearing. Gumpper tried to use a Fairfield application for Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course as a precedent supporting his argument, but to no avail.

The hearing went forward that night.

During the public speaking portion of the hearing, Gumpper charged that there was not proper notice and that a portion of the proposed driveway was too close to a neighboring residential property.

He called the increase in traffic of more than 10 percent on Main Street that traffic consultant Michael Galante estimated "astounding."

Gumpper said Duchess pays about $15,000 in annual property taxes, so McDonald's should not generate much more revenue than that.

"What kind of jobs will you get from McDonald's?" he asked. "You have to decide whether a McDonald's operation is really worth a 10 percent increase in traffic."

Gumpper also foresees problems from vehicles lining up to turn left into McDonald's driveway.

"How could you possibly allow this type of use on Main Street?" he asked. "This doesn't make any sense at all."

"I don't think there's a better corporate friend across the country," Rizio said of his client. "And having a McDonald's here would be a great attribute for the town."

Planning & Zoning commissioners want the proposed building to look more colonial. The hearing was continued to March 17, so Rizio can see if McDonald's will allow flexibility in the architectural design.

Stay tuned.

TBL of CT February 23, 2011 at 09:27 AM
Maybe if "Super Size Me" by Michael Moore is viewed, some alternative views can be had....MCD's is all about the mighty dollar; not the health of people. On the plus, I guess that commuter traffic would gradually decrease, but there is not much joy at the bottom of the golden arch.
Christine E. February 23, 2011 at 02:13 PM
I'm not sure, but I was there on its last day of business and I was told, when I asked, that they were closing because "nobody comes". I didn't go much during the morning/lunch due to work constraints, but anytime I went at night there was never anyone there.
Nicole February 23, 2011 at 03:25 PM
The reason the dinner closed was due to major problems with the management and building. Once the regulars found out that the puddles in the parking lot were not from the rain, but from the septic system business went down hill. Who wants to eat someplace where you get out of your car and step in a puddle of septic waste. Or once you make it in, the owners have a fight and the cops come to arrest some hopped up on drugs or alcohol. If a real dinner opened in Monroe business would not be a issue.
Bridgeport February 23, 2011 at 04:16 PM
To those wanting a Wal-Mart of Home Depot in Monroe, you must be out of your damn mind. You can't have big box retail stores on a two lane road, a two lane road that already has bumper to bumper traffic all day, everyday. McDonalds will result in the same thing. Instead of working with chain restaurants and stores, we need to start working with local business owners. The vacant storefronts are depressing just like the run down strip malls. And to the person saying landlords are not in a position to maintain their buildings because of costs and the economy, please, Bart Center and these other strip malls were doing well during the up years and they didn't do a damn thing to make them nicer. From what I understand either they are older and have been in Monroe for a long time and don't might what they look like or they live out of town and own property here, thus not caring about looks either. The town needs to push these landlords to maintain their property, but they don't. If you've ever heard of the broken windown theory, which usually refers just to crime, but also to business, an area that looks depressing will result in more crime/more vacancies. The same can be said for business, potential owners will be turned off by what looks a bad business area. If they see run down strip malls with vacant storefronts why do you think they would use that as a potential site. They want something that looks like it does a good amount of business and where clientele will be.
Schap February 23, 2011 at 06:25 PM
Dear Bridgeport, I would love to hear your suggestions to get Bart Center to put improvements into their establishment. Why do you think that the Town hasn't tried? Should we pass an ordinance and drive them out of town? Should we boycott the hard working establishments that are tenants there? What would you be willing to do to make that strip mall more inviting? Do you go out there and talk to the tenants? Have you met with the owners of the property? Let's hear some suggestions about what YOU would like someone to do. Would you be in favor of tax breaks if they put improvements into their property? Should we fine them for some reason! What should the town of Monroe do with Owners that don't upkeep their property to the likings of their way? Let the Town know. I would love to hear your suggestions at a P & Z or Town Council Meeting Steve
Christine E. February 23, 2011 at 06:39 PM
No one is forcing anyone to ingest McDonalds, but if people want to that's their prerogative. I think Duchess is a decent alternative to traditional fast food, but i'm sure if you ate the deep fried options from there every day you'd get similar results.
Christine E. February 23, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Bridgeport, do you know the owner of the Bart Center? Just curious. I have no idea what his financial situation is now, or what it was when businesses were booming. People are obviously willing to rent from him (I'm not sure what the cost per sq ft to rent in his strip is) so why spend hundreds of thousands on renovations when you don't have to? He isn't breaking any laws by having an outdated strip and he's probably not interested in increasing his property value and paying more in taxes. Besides, If he did that, he'd make up for it by raising the rent on his tenants.
uc14 February 23, 2011 at 07:05 PM
plenty of businesses have redone their storefront to look better from the past few years to present. you're applying one example as a matrix of the whole road. duchess, hill n dale, cornell-carr, where captains pizza was, the car wash, francis bakery (before the fire)... all examples of existing buildings with redone facades and face-lifts.
Christine E. February 23, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Is anything going into the old captains pizza? They did a great job on that building.
uc14 February 23, 2011 at 07:16 PM
every company is about the 'almighty dollar'; such as patch media, the website you're on. i doubt aol cares very much what happens on to anyone on this website, as long as more people log on, increasing advertisement revenue. to think otherwise is to reject the foundations of this country and to live in an altered universe that doesn't exist. mcdonalds is about what is going to make money. im guessing you haven't been there in a while, because there are plenty of healthy alternatives on the menu. if people started eating pears like no tomorrow, i guarantee mcdonalds would be serving pears. supply and demand.
Greg Bruno February 23, 2011 at 09:19 PM
If the Bart Center tenants are successful in thier current rundown storefronts nothing is going to change.If they start feeling it in the pocketbook the landlord will be forced to upgrade or live with vacancies.It's simple Eco 101.
Mitch Beck February 23, 2011 at 10:17 PM
Michael Moore did not do "Super Size Me." Morgan Spurlock did it.
TBL of CT February 23, 2011 at 10:30 PM
sorry... you are correct that is was Spurlock who did Supersize Me... my error. At any rate, yest no one is forcing anyone to eat that garbage... but the bottom line is that we dont need 2 in town... yes it creates jobs, waistelines, and tax revenue, but it also deters from our nice town. If a diner came in that was to code, it would be much better! Look at Rivalry... even that failed.... MCD's would not but do we really, Really, want it on 25?
Christine E. February 23, 2011 at 10:42 PM
If nothing else is lining up to open here, then yes...I really, really do.
TBL of CT February 23, 2011 at 11:13 PM
Not me... there has got to be something better.
uc14 February 24, 2011 at 04:19 AM
i completely agree about the diner. i would take a diner ANY day over mcdonalds. all im trying to say is right now we don't have the luxury of choosing what businesses are coming in as long as they aren't going to destroy the town, of which mcdonalds certainly isn't. after all, everyone seems to be forgetting where mcdonalds once was, there was mieneke which probably created pollution in the run-off of dirty oil and contributed to 'traffic' as well
uc14 February 24, 2011 at 04:24 AM
here's the link http://monroe.patch.com/articles/plans-heating-up-for-captains-pizza-building
TBL of CT February 25, 2011 at 11:42 PM
would you know it, but today I passed the hot tub, wood burning stove store in the old Metropolitan Traders bldng. and they too are vacating.... oh route 25!
Bridgeport February 26, 2011 at 03:37 PM
You can bash me all you want about my feelings towards Bart Center's appearance, but in my mind, if the Planning and Zoning Commission can tell Real Time Investments, LLC that there McDonalds has to be more "colonial" looking and that the "appearance" doesn't fit the town, but yet have dilapitated Bart Center directly across the street looking the way it is, then SOMETHING doesn't seem to be right? So in order to build a new structure in town, it has to fit certain requirements, i.e. look more colonial, more landscaping, less lighting and logos, etc. but Bart Center which is literally falling apart is ok? That's the problem with Monroe, and that's why businesses leave or why they don't open in the first place. The town is so harsh on new business, but let's old business pals do whatever they want and appear however they want. And to Steve, I'll tell you this, I'm not advocating to make renovations at Bart Center so costly that would run tenenents out of town. What I'm saying that if the town of Monroe took some initiative throughout the years and asked them to maintain storefronts, then it wouldn't have to be so costly today. But Monroe didn't do that, business as usual. Pay your taxes, and let the property deteriorate. Many residents in town, not just me, think the property as become an eyesore, but like you said things would be so costly that you can't really push them to make that many renovations. And yes, I would be favor of tax breaks if they changed property.
Bridgeport February 26, 2011 at 03:38 PM
Also, can anyone tell me what is being built between 707 on Main and the Lantern Ridge office buildings. Lots of excavating going on there. I believe Bismarck Construction is handling the project if I'm not mistaken.
Greg Bruno February 26, 2011 at 04:46 PM
Bridgeport's comments on the Bart Center are right on! When we have out of town visitors we avoid 25 at all costs. I hate to say it but McD's would be a major upgrade for that area of town.
Schap February 27, 2011 at 10:06 PM
I be;ieve the IBEW is building their own building. they will use it for meeting and training sessions
Schap February 28, 2011 at 12:24 AM
We as a Town need to start somewhere. I guess the administration is starting with MCD. I am not bashing you about Bart Center, I am asking for suggestions. What do you do with a LANDLORD that owns the property, pays his taxes, doesn't go up in rent on his tenants and doesn't put any money back into updating his or her property. We as a Town can only suggest to the OWNER to update. Why do you say the Town didn't take the initiative to speak with the owners? It seems that you have a lot to say and have no FACTS. Some people believe inthis Town and I believe it is the Majority of the Owners and Developers that do the right thing. We all know that Bart Center is a disgrace and everyone in Town would like a little upgrade, but the citizens are not putting enough pressure on the landlord to take some action. It should be a front page story of the patch or courier and interviews about how much people hate how the appearance is so bad. I only want the Townb to get better, but if people don't gather and put all their thoughts and ideas out there then we will be talking about Bart Center 10 or 20 years from now. If you have some suggestions, maybe the P & Z could hear them during public participation. MAYBE a BART CENTER ORDINANCE?
Bridgeport February 28, 2011 at 12:44 AM
Thoughts and ideas? Steve, the ideas and thoughts are simple. You in town hall make money or are elected to the make changes for the residents. If you said you and the rest of town hall know it's a disgrace than why isn't the administration doing anything? If everyone else in town knows its an eyesore, just as you mentioned, then isn't that enough public outcry to get something done? If everyone does indeed know about how bad it looks? What do we need to do? Start a petition, if you need the petition, I'm sure I can get the signatures. But what does that do? You guys already know about it...
Schap February 28, 2011 at 12:30 PM
Bridgeport, I am not in town hall and I am not an elected official, I am a resident that doesn't know all the policies or procedures. I guess you assume that every steve in town is the FS. I am sure if Bart center was breaking any codes or rules the administration would be taking some action. Maybe you should start a petition and some action will occur. Until someone seems to protest nothing happens. For 10 months every year nothing is said about the budget, but when it is time to vote everyone has a lot to say. Take the BOE. They screamed and yelled last year how they were going to be destroyed if the budget wasn't the way they wanted it the first time they presented it, but here we are a year later and we are still moving along. I didn't read or hear that our teachers could not teach because the budget didn't pass the way they presented it. Did our future change? Did less kids get into inferior colleges. Did the students score less on all their tests? Did the sports program go to pot? What really happened in the year that we are still in. We know it snowed and we know that the school system is having a pretty good year based on the articles we read by the superintendent. Maybe an uproar about BART Center will do some good? Our FS door is always open, maybe you, " Bridgeport" might have the time to investigate what we can do, and report back to the concerned residents of Monroe.
Christine E. February 28, 2011 at 04:38 PM
Everyone's talking about the Bart Center...see Chuck's Corner lately? They're basically the same.
Christine E. February 28, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Personally I would like a definition of what this town deems as "colonial enough". The same exact argument was brought up when the landlord of the old Captain's Pizza building wanted to renovate. "We're glad you want to renovate, but your design isn't colonial enough". What does that mean? Maybe my perception of what Colonial is supposed to look like is really off the mark, but I see nothing on Rt. 25 that looks colonial, except maybe a church. What characteristics are they looking for? They fought tooth and nail over the stone work on the front of the Captain's Pizza building, and now that it's completed I think it looks great. Much better than the previous eyesore.
QWERTY February 28, 2011 at 04:55 PM
I love how there are THREE pharmacies within half a mile of each other on rt. 111 but NONE of them are open 24 hours. Same goes for all the gas stations. And the banks....well, competition between brick and mortar banks is non-existent, so banks aside from your own personal bank are useless. I know it comes down to dollar and cents but if P&Z can complain about the architectural styling of a building, why can't they demand something that actually benefits Monroe's citizens? I hope this isn't break news for the town, but prospective home buyers care more about function rather than fashion. It's nice knowing McDonalds will be open at 11 PM. Would I visit it frequently at that hour? No, but it's nice to have the option.
JR April 29, 2011 at 12:55 PM
Morgan Spurlock made Super Size Me.
Annie N April 29, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Are we also getting a Wendy's? An article in the CT Post makes it sound like we are - http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Court-decision-clears-way-for-Wendy-s-in-Monroe-1343673.php

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