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?"