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Big Box Store Hearing, Part 2: No Public Comment Allowed

A computer rendering of the store proposed for 2 Victoria Drive.
A computer rendering of the store proposed for 2 Victoria Drive.

Members of the public had an opportunity to speak in the first part of the Planning & Zoning Commission hearing for a big box store at 2 Victoria Drive on Nov. 21, but then that portion of the meeting was closed. Several townspeople who missed it expressed frustration at not being allowed to speak when the hearing continued last Thursday.

During a break, Bernie Sippin, a longtime resident whose family owns commercial property in town, had become fed up. While walking along an outside aisle in the Council Chambers of Monroe Town Hall, he abruptly stopped, turned toward the crowd and delivered a tirade.

Sippin warned that Walmart, the store most people think is coming in, will run roughshod over the town and he complained about not being allowed to speak at the hearing Thursday night.

"The public is being shut down!" Sippin shouted, before making his exit.

Near the end of the hearing, Robin Pearson, an attorney for the applicant, Kimball Land Holdings LLC, told the commission her client had no problem with members of the public being allowed to speak about testimony given that night. She said they didn't want people to feel they didn’t have a chance to comment.

Chairman Patrick O'Hara said, "If anyone wasn’t here on the 21st, I am loathe to change the process. The meeting was publicly noticed. They had an opportunity to speak and we received written comments since the 21st. We have a procedure."

Just before the hearing ended, Ronald Bunovsky of Monroe called out from his seat, "Point of order! I was under the impression last meeting that you said the public could speak."

"Mr Bunovsky, no!" O'Hara replied. "The agreement was the public would be allowed to speak if there were substantive changes. There was no substantive change. The hearing will close."

Earlier in the evening, Liz Murphy, who lives on the Stepney side of town, passed a reporter a note with what she had hoped to say that night.

"If I was allowed to speak at this hearing, I would have two questions," she wrote. "To the applicant — Where specifically in the POCD (Plan of Conservation & Development) does it say that this project is appropriate in the town?

"And to the Commission — Since the town of Monroe signed on as participants to the Pequonnock River Initiative, has the Pequonnock River's commission been a part of the planning, discussion and approval regionally?"

Joe Mancini December 11, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Lani-my point being those towns would never even consider a Walmart, let alone a back door attempt to bring one in. Can you imagine Mike Tetreau even trying to explain that situation? He'd be booted faster than you can say Ken Flatto. Yet Vavrek keeps on getting re-elected.
Crown Royal December 11, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Fairfield has TJ Maxx, BJ's, Marshalls, Old Navy, Bob's store, etc. What is the difference between a Walmart, and stores like this in your opinion?
Gerald M. Gaynor December 12, 2013 at 07:07 AM
Frank wrote: “Why don't you approve a growing facility for medical marijuana in Monroe? That will add to the tax base Too, and add another farm to our "farm town"! And help people suffering from debilitating diseases. Instead it's been tabled for a year while this "WalMart" thing is being quickly shoved down the townspeople's throats!” I’m not sure how he found linkage between those two ideas but it is pretty well established that one needn’t exercise internal continuity when commenting. As for the suggestion, I have no objection to it but that is clearly a debate for another time and place. “No sewers in town this should be interesting.” Perhaps this will be the final push that forces the Town to install them. The Town will be stuck in the odd little developmental corner we have painted ourselves into until such time as we do. “And by the way Gerald, I'm not in the minority, your viewpoint just talks more. I saw you on the Trumbull post also.” Neither of us has any data to actually support the assertion that the other is in the minority on the Wal-Mart issue. My opinion, as is yours, is based on anecdotal experience. That being said, if Wal-Mart was as roundly hated and as poorly frequented as your “majority” opinion would imply, it would not be a successful company. Not everyone shares Frank’s high opinion of the moral and ethical superiority of unions
Gerald M. Gaynor December 12, 2013 at 07:09 AM
Joe, the citizens of Monroe elect the government that they want. The logical extension of your argument is that the majority of those who vote in Monroe aren't bright enough to know what they want.
Bruce December 12, 2013 at 10:22 AM
Gerald - It's not about intelligence. It's about people not taking the time to look at the issues and blindly voting for the letter R. This means a select few in the Republican party are controlling who sits on all boards and commissions.
Lani December 12, 2013 at 10:31 AM
Everyone seems to forget that it wasn't so long ago we did have a Democratic First Selectman. Seems people in town do not necessarily vote a ticket..
Gerald M. Gaynor December 12, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Bruce, so, you actually intended to state that the majority of Monroe voters are lazy, partisan hacks who can't be bothered to look past the party affiliation of the candidates? What happened when we had a Democrat First Selectman? Did the Republicans get so lazy that they just stayed home? I've been a registered Independent my entire voting life and I've served on two Commissions here in Town...
Joe Mancini December 12, 2013 at 01:19 PM
Crown Royal-Huge difference between Marshalls, TJ Maxx, BJ's etc and Walmart. Take a trip to Shelton one day and you'll see what I mean.
Crown Royal December 12, 2013 at 03:59 PM
I work in Shelton. What am I missing?
Frank Toth December 12, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Ah, a spirited debate, I love it! On the sewer issue, I tend to doubt Trumbull is going to just let us tap into their lines because they would probably have to expand their lines to handle all our waste. Then they're tapped into Bridgeport"s lines & who knows how much they would want to process our waste. Remember why the Jewish Home decided not to locate here? That would have been a great addition to our community! But waste disposal problems. Will we build our own sewage disposal plant? I'm sure you know as well as I that would never fly. As for the marijuana growing facility I was making a point about the time frames involved. It was put on the back burner while this one was shoved to the forefront. As for unions, they provide solidarity for the working class & fought for many benefits workers still have.(HOPEFULLY) Like 40hr. work weeks, overtime pay, child labor laws, job safety, etc.,etc, etc. I have many reasons for my strong support of unions, but that is a debate for another forum. And Gerald, I'm honored you feel the need to quote me to address my issues. That's all for now. have a good evening.
Joe Mancini December 13, 2013 at 09:13 AM
Crown Royal-I meant take a trip to Shelton and go to the Walmart and you will see what I mean. It's a different world inside and in the parking lot. I've been to TJ Maxx in Fairfield and Newtown. No comparison. Walmart attracts a way different crowd and it's not in a good way.
Gerald M. Gaynor December 13, 2013 at 10:21 AM
Joe, if you believe that any number of people who resemble the folks in Shelton that you look down your nose at don't live in Monroe as well, I suggest that you start paying more attention. It might come as an unpleasant surprise to you that any number of people who share our county look at Monroe with the same level of disdain that you exhibit. PS: Plenty of people from Monroe shop at Wal-Mart.
Joe Mancini December 13, 2013 at 10:39 AM
Gerald-You don't know me so don't judge me. Do me a favor, go to WM in Shelton or wherever, one night around 8:30 p.m. Park your car in the outer edge of the lot. Shop around a while then go to your car by yourself. Then you'll know what I'm talking about. Then you can offer your apology, and I'll gracefully accept it. Until then, please stop talking.
Gerald M. Gaynor December 13, 2013 at 11:05 AM
Joe, I don't need to know someone to spot a repeatedly expressed attitude that I take issue with. I've been to the Shelton Wal-Mart at all hours and I’ve seen all sorts of people there. Are you really claiming that no such people live in Monroe? Are you further postulating that the people who disgust and frighten you will abandon Shelton to come seek you out as you avoid a potential Wal-Mart in Monroe? You are not entitled to an apology and I suggest that you avoid polling those who live to the south of us lest you find that they view you with the same level of disdain that you have for your neighbors. I must have missed your appointment as the arbiter of opinion here...
Crown Royal December 13, 2013 at 11:09 AM
Joe, I do know what I am talking about. Are you implying that I will get mugged if I park there? Because I would really like some evidence of that if that is what you are implying. Surely you should be able to pull some local police reports or local news stories pertaining to muggings in Walmart if this is such a huge issue. People shop at different stores based on a variety of factors such as, hobbies, socioeconomic background, brands offered, price, etc. Get over it. I don't think it would be typical to find your average soccer mom strolling up to Cabella's, or your average lower income family shopping at EMS or Whole Foods. Stop discriminating against certain people. This isn't 1960 anymore, this area, and the world has more shades than just upper-middle class white families. Grow up you prick.
Joe Mancini December 13, 2013 at 04:04 PM
Crown-Actually all you need to do is check the police reports to see the inordinate amount of calls to police department for crimes/problems associated with WM. It far outweighs any revenue brought to town. And for the record, I never made reference to any race, creed or religion. That, my friend, was based on your own insecurities based on who you are. And I'll assume the fact that you have resorted to name calling you have a temper problem as well.
Peg December 13, 2013 at 04:32 PM
I think we all should remember the values we were taught at home and school growing up and not bully or name call. Young people read Patch too. Thanks.
I Live Here Too December 14, 2013 at 08:29 AM
Joe, discrimination doesn't have to be directed at a race, creed or religion.
I Live Here Too December 14, 2013 at 08:41 AM
Lani, if that zoning change went through on Vavrek's back door deal and a rock crushing plant went in our First Selectman and the entire P&Z would have been tarred and feathered...recall Michelle Mount leading the charge against the project. Spin it any way you wish, but they withdrew the proposal because of public outrage. Plain and simple. And they aren't naming WalMart for fear up public uprise. Otherwise, why so secret???
Joe Mancini December 14, 2013 at 09:42 AM
I live here too-You are actually agreeing to my point. Walmart should not be "back doored" into the community. If Vavrek and Kimball believe in what they are doing, name the company and put it out there. Why the secrecy? And as far as discrimination is concerned, would you want a WM next to your house?
Crown Royal December 16, 2013 at 09:32 AM
Joe, I asked you to please provide some local police reports or local news articles related to the increased violence at WM. Surely if you make such an accusation, you have some evidence to back up your claim. As far as my 'temper problem' I do in fact have one with people who act bigoted, racist, prejudiced, or just plain discriminatory against another human being. You have a single objective of all of your comments on Patch, and that is to always bash Vavrek. What did that man do to you to make you have so much hatred towards him? Kimball has no reason to provide the name of the retailer. The P&Z matter is merely about whether or not a large retail building is permitted on the site. Whether it is Walmart, Target, Lowe's, Shop Rite, it does not matter. The P&Z has no authority to stop it unless it violates a zoning restriction. Again, I ask, please provide local evidence of an increase in crime based solely upon a Walmart.
Joe Mancini December 16, 2013 at 11:44 AM
Crown-I stopped replying to you when you referred to me as a "prick".
Kelley December 24, 2013 at 02:26 AM
Trader Joes pays a living wage. They also bring in a customer base that mirrors Monroe's affluent population. Walmart does not. Walmart receives a lot of bad press because it doesn't pay a living wage, and it does drive small businesses out of town. The traffic will be horrendous and the area will suffer. I rarely shop at Walmart because it doesn't offer quality goods and importing from China doesn't create jobs for American workers. I would like to hear the tax implications of this store coming in. Will it reduce my taxes?
Kelley December 24, 2013 at 02:27 AM
Having parents that live in Stratford, and being at that Walmart more than once, I can attest that there is a lot of crime surrounding a Walmart store.
Peg December 24, 2013 at 04:43 AM
I would also like to know what the tax implications are and if it will reduce my taxes. Can someone please comment on this. Thank you.
I Live Here Too January 06, 2014 at 11:27 AM
I'd be willing to bet that we're giving them concessions so the tax breaks for us will not be seen for years....same thing as Swiss Army. Who will more than likely bail on us the minute their tax breaks expire.
SCHAP January 06, 2014 at 12:03 PM
@ I Live Here Too. I believe the tax abatements for Swiss Army are expired or close to expiring. They are a company that we pursued and were glad to have them come to Monroe with an International Headquarters. It was a wise decision as a Town for us to give them a tax abatement. I haven't heard anything about a tax abatement, but it is still early in the process and there is a committee that reviews all applications for a tax rebate. Maybe our first selectman would add you to that committee since he is looking for volunteers. That way u could have first hand knowledge and voice your opinion.
Joel Leneker January 06, 2014 at 12:11 PM
SHAP: very good suggestion for "I live here too" to join a committee. No doubt who ever the real business is that is part of this application will get a tax abatement. Just part of business these days with so many municipalities hungry for the business. The trick is to keep them here after their tax abatement expires.
I Live Here Too January 07, 2014 at 01:27 PM
SHAP, How many committees are you on??? Swiss was given a 10 yr deal if I'm not mistaken. Not saying I don't like Swiss here. Keeping them here after their deal expires will be the key. Otherwise we'll have another empty building on our hands.
Paul Sobel January 07, 2014 at 02:01 PM
Re. the Swiss Army tax assessment reduction - I don't know the terms of the specific agreement, but seven years is the statutory maximum for the length of an abatement period. This is also the outside limit stated in the town ordinance. The statute is Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 12-65b. Re. the possibility of Swiss Army moving, anything can happen, but as long as Swiss Army is a healthy company, I don't think it will be going anywhere. A huge sum of money was invested in the facility and would be wasted for Swiss Army to not continue in it. I also don't know the breakdown as to personal property vs. real estate, but as long as the building is standing, it is on the tax rolls no matter who owns or occupies it.

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