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Hearing for Large Retail Store Begins Without Naming Walmart

Other than the architect's slip of the tongue, neither the applicants nor Planning & Zoning Commissioners stated which big box store wants to come to Monroe.

A computer rendering of the store proposed for 2 Victoria Drive.
A computer rendering of the store proposed for 2 Victoria Drive.
Site plans for a 160,942-square-foot retail store proposed for 2 Victoria Drive do not mention it by name and computer renderings of its appearance have "Retail Name" on the signage. Prior to the zoning application moving forward, First Selectman Steve Vavrek and developer John Kimball, who owns the 39-plus-acre property, both declined to mention the possible tenant.

During Thursday night's Planning & Zoning Commission hearing representatives of Kimball Land Holdings LLC, commissioners and supporters of the plan were all mum on the name. Then architect Gabriel Massa said "Walmart" before quickly catching himself.

Mary Orsillo of Stanley Road later spoke against the application, saying, "I believe there's an elephant in this room and it's called Walmart. It may bring in jobs and increase our tax base, but I think there is a risk/benefit. I think we'll lose whatever little businesses we have left."

Jamie Brätt, director of Planning & Development for the neighboring town of Trumbull, estimates about 19,000 cars would travel to the location — off of Route 25 — every week and called for an independent traffic study.

"This is bad for the environment. Bad for existing businesses. Bad for both towns' health, safety and welfare," Brätt said.

She added the burden of any traffic improvements would be on the public, rather than the store that would reap the benefit from it.

Lee Hossler of Stanley Road, the former Economic Development Commission chairman in Monroe, spoke in favor of the proposal, expressing his hope that the store would be a catalyst toward empty commercial properties along Main Street being filled by new businesses.

Alluding to Trumbull's history of building along its borders and increasing traffic for Monroe on routes 111 and 25, Hossler said, "I find it interesting that someone from Trumbull comes up here and talks about big box stores on their rear door. It seems like the fox hunting the rabbit, then the rabbit hunting the fox."

Held in the Council Chambers of Monroe Town Hall, the public hearing for a special exception permit was continued to Dec. 5. The property is in an Industrial 3 zone.

The Proposal

Kimball Land Holdings is proposing a store in which 154,000-square-feet of the building would be used for retail, in addition to an enclosed garden center and seasonal sales areas outside the main facility. It would have 621 parking spaces with room for 41 additional spaces if needed.

The store would have a 24/7 operation, according to Kevin Solli, the engineer for the application.

The site — across from Victorinox Swiss Army's headquarters — would have its own onsite water treatment plant.

There would be a 31.5-foot-high acoustical wall to muffle noise from trucks at the loading dock behind the store. But Solli said the applicant would agree to reduce it to 15-feet-high with cover and sought guidance from the commission. Mitigation walls around air handling units on the roof are also be meant to reduce noise.     

The property would have hydrants for fire protection, a marked crosswalk where the Rail Trail goes through the property and sidewalks in front of the building. Solli said talks with the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority about bringing a bus route there are ongoing.

A landscape plan is meant to enhance the natural buffers between neighboring property owners and beautify the property with plantings of junipers, spruces, American Elm, cherry trees and native plants to promote wildlife habitats.

Solli said intersection improvements at routes 25 and 111, Purdy Hill and Judd roads and Spring Hill and Tashua roads, as well as improving the timing of traffic signals, will lead to no adverse impact on traffic.

Solli also said Kimball Land Holdings is looking at ways to improve its own driveway and is proposing to widen the intersection of Victoria Drive with Main Street with two through lanes northbound.

"We're working with the owners of Vishay to expand the right-of-way in this area with the capacity for future widening if needed," he said of a neighboring commercial property on Route 25.

A traffic study by Solli Engineering estimates the store would generate 210 (190 entering and 20 exiting) new trips on Route 25 during the p.m. peak hour and 659 (336 entering and 323 exiting) new trips during the Saturday midday peak hour.
 
Putting Monroe on the Map

Thomas Peete of Countryside Drive spoke in favor of the development.

"I think we need this in Monroe," he said. "It's economic development that we’ve lacked. Trumbull has plenty of development along 111 and 25 up to Monroe. This is something we need in town to spark economic development, so I'm all for it."

Davinder Heslin of the Monroe Economic Development Commission expressed support on behalf of the EDC.

"We are here tonight supporting the project on 2 Victoria Drive pending approval of all other boards and commissions," she said.

Heslin said the EDC believes the project could spur more economic growth five, 10 years down the road.

"Hopefully this will put Monroe on the map," she said.

'Monroe For Sale'

Sally Lundy of Little Fox Lane expressed concerns over impacts on traffic, small businesses and over services from police, fire and EMS being stretched too far. She noted how town fire companies and the EMS are run by volunteers, adding there should be a study on it.

James Romaniello of Pheasant Lane showed photos of his property from the last time Kimball prepared his land for development.

"My first concern is no one talked about the process," Romaniello said. "Walmart is gonna come in here and bulldoze and neither you or I have a say in this. The last time construction work was done, there was no consideration for people [living nearby]."

Romaniello said explosions from dynamite cracked sheetrock in his house, broke windows, popped nails, led to dirt collecting in his gutters and mud in his swimming pool. When he complained to state officials, he said he was told the work crews had water trucks — though Romaniello said he didn't see any. He also claims no lawyers would take his case.

Now he said dynamite would be used again after he paid $5,000 to fix his home.

"I know this is coming," Romaniello said. "My rights are as important as Walmart’s rights, and what I'm asking from you is to protect my rights and the rights of my neighbors."

Romaniello also said neighboring property values would go down and showed video of Walmart employees complaining about work conditions. It ended with a photo of the Town Gazebo and the words: "Monroe For Sale".

A Space Landing

Ronald Bunovsky said in order for a business like the one described in the application to survive with Monroe and Trumbulls' combined population would be to "completely consume and dominate" both.

Others worried about nearby wells and the character of the small New England town being compromised. 

Lois Spence noted how every 60 feet of the store's roof — which some elevated properties would look down upon — would have a skylight for a total of about 150 to 160.

"No matter how opaque you make it, there's gonna be a glow," she said. "It's gonna look like a spaceship landed in this town."

Catamaran November 23, 2013 at 03:00 PM
lmf59, "Trumbull would never allow Walmart. They have more pride in their town than that." Sorry, but that is just conjecture.
lmf59 November 23, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Maybe so. But they don't have one, do they? And it's not for lack of space or the desire to draw business in. Obviously Walmart desires to be in this area. Common sense tells you it may have considered Trumbull. And just look around Trumbull. Not a lot of blighted properties littering the town, unlike Monroe. But they do have some very nice corporate parks and medical buildings. Just sayin.
Catamaran November 23, 2013 at 03:20 PM
lmf, so is your beef with WM the fact that it caters to the middle to low classes? Would a Sam's Club in that spot make you think differently?
lmf59 November 23, 2013 at 04:02 PM
I am opposed to any establishment that by its very nature will degrade Monroe. Walmart will most certainly do that. Wouldn't want a strip club or a biker bar there, either. If I wanted to live in the slums, I would move to Fairfield Ave in Bpt or someplace in Naugatuck . Plain and simple. Call me an elitist, or whatever else you want to. Don't really care. What in fact I am, is someone that takes pride in where and how I live, and work very hard to be blessed enough to enjoy this standard of living. Nobody ever handed me anything. If you don't care to take pride in your town and environment, that's fine, but don't condemn the rest of us for it. I find it completely disingenuous that everyone defending this project is feigning shock at the fact that the rest of us have a true understanding of exactly what Walmart represents. You all know EXACTLY what we are talking about. Again, there are hundreds of Walmart jokes out there for very good reason. Don't you find it the least bit coincidental that NOBODY at the helm of this thing will admit it is Walmart? Don't you think if it was something they knew everyone would be on board about they would be advertising it all over the place? As to your question about Sam's Club, I have never been to one. I assume it is along the lines of a BJ's or Costco. Yes, I would be opposed to either of those going in there as well. I have listed several options that in my opinion would be more desirable and certainly more in line with the Monroe/Trumbull community. No one else has to agree that they are good options (although plenty of people do, for all the same reasons). I would just like everyone to stop pretending that none of you have ever made a Walmart joke or two. If you want to shop there, have at it. There are plenty of them around Just don't stick one in the middle of Monroe.
James Romaniello November 23, 2013 at 04:07 PM
If you don't want a Walmart in Monroe, please sign the online petition: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/organizer
lmf59 November 23, 2013 at 04:10 PM
James, this link doesn't take you to the specific petition about this topic. Do you have another link?
James Romaniello November 23, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Imf59, this is it. I just went there with this link. If it doesn't work, just search Monroe or Walmart on that site. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/organizer
Catamaran November 23, 2013 at 04:46 PM
lmf59, Thank you for your honest answer. I just wanted to know your true reason why you don't want a WM in town. I will have to say, though, I have been to a WM in Falmouth, MA, where I and many other people were shopping for goods before vacationing in Nantucket for the summer. Nice and clean. BTW, did you know that Monroe had an adult video/products store in town years back? I think it was called the Love Shack. It was in business for years because there was a need for it apparently. It caused a small commotion then too. I'm not sure if it's still open though with the advent of the internet.
James Romaniello November 23, 2013 at 10:14 PM
www.facebook.com/standupformonroe
QWERTY November 23, 2013 at 10:31 PM
Who's pretending to not make jokes about Wal-Mart? No one here is saying Wal-Mart is god. No one is absolving them of what they do. What people ARE doing is prioritizing great selection and great prices over anything else. And this is purely IMO here but probably 80% of the town is either in line with my assessment or impartial to a Wal-Mart in town.
lmf59 November 24, 2013 at 12:10 AM
"What people ARE doing is prioritizing great selection and great prices over anything else." BINGO. The epitome of the self centered, greedy, uniformed, sellout American. And: "probably 80% of the town is either in line with my assessment". There you go, QWERTY, pulling your non-facts out of thin air again.
Karen G. French November 24, 2013 at 05:38 AM
FYI, I've lived here since 1957 and it was a great farming community, lots of land, open space etc...That's why most people moved up here in the first place. It's not an elites attitude. It's the previous residents worked and struggled to make this a beautiful small town. That's why they're called suburbs. I also said, but was misinterpreted by some, "So instead of employing Monroe citizens with substandard wages, they're going to bus in Bpt. residents who will go back to Bpt. to spend their money there & not in Monroe. I can't afford the high end stores & do not approve of WM practices. These stores suck the life out of the community. The stores get HUGE tax breaks to come in, & give nothing back into the community. Just remember part time minimum wage earners are all entitled to food stamps, medical & prescriptions through welfare. So Walmart gets to skip out on paying a living wage & benefits while the tax payers foot the bill yet again.
Karen G. French November 24, 2013 at 05:43 AM
Another FYI, most people receiving these benefits are WHITE now, so I'm not being racist. Try finding a good paying job over the age of 55 without a degree.
christine November 24, 2013 at 09:28 AM
James, I can't find standupformonroe on FB, at least not for Ct.
kay inderdohnen November 24, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Something else to think about: At the hearing, comments were made by the applicant with regard to traffic: "intersection improvements" at Routes 25 and 111, Purdy Hill and Judd, Spring Hill and Tashua, widening the intersection at Victoria Drive with two through lanes northbound "with the capacity for future widening if needed". Sounds like anyone in favor of a four-lane road up to Judd would love this!
QWERTY November 24, 2013 at 10:18 PM
lmf59, welcome to a capitalist society! And you can stop quoting select statements from me. I clearly prefaced my comment with, "And this is purely IMO here...", which is more than you did with all your anecdotal evidence.
Jacob's Mama November 25, 2013 at 09:44 AM
Wa, Wa, Wa! What a bunch of cry babies! Stop lying to everyone saying that you don't support walmart because they "treat their employees like crap". Be honest! You don't like the idea of a walmart because the idea of people working or coming into town with a little COLOR in their skin is the problem. At least be big enough to say it. And those pictures of "people of walmart" are fake. Oh wait, just because it's on the internet it's true right? I am a COLLEGE EDUCATED CORPORATE PROFESSIONAL who lives in Monroe and shops at walmart at least onces a week. I have NEVER seen people that look like that. And even if they did, to each their own. What makes you people think you look so special????? Stop crying. If you don't like it MOVE.
lmf59 November 25, 2013 at 11:41 AM
Well, of course that's it. We're a bunch of racists. When you can't make your point based on the facts, pull out the race card. Why should Monroe be any different than the rest of the country. Get off your high horse, "COLLEGE EDUCATED CORPORATE PROFESSIONAL". Your opinion is no more valid than mine or anyone else's on this forum. I'm pretty sure you're not the only one in town with an education. The rest of us just don't think it makes us special.
lmf59 November 25, 2013 at 11:50 AM
As an aside, beginning a statement with "Wa, Wa, Wa" really doesn't scream"Educated Professional". Just my opinion.
son of gun November 25, 2013 at 12:00 PM
I find it ironic that this "COLLEGE EDUCATED CORPORATE PROFESSIONAL" who is accusing other posters of being racist just assumes that everyone he/she is addressing is white. Sounds like someone has some narrow-minded inclinations of their own.
Crown Royal November 25, 2013 at 01:05 PM
Or the fact that the town is 94.1%(2010 Census) White, would be a safe assumption that the overwhelming majority of the people reading this from Monroe are white. The simple truth is this building is coming to Monroe. Whether you shop there or not, is your own prerogative.
Joe Mancini November 25, 2013 at 01:07 PM
This conversation has "jumped the shark" and is now becoming a name calling rant. Let's move forward and do something more productive like calling a recount on the F/S vote!
son of gun November 25, 2013 at 01:21 PM
Right, just roll over and die because money talks. Can't wait for the "tax revenue". Total garbage. The powers that be are on their knees begging for Walmart to further eradicate what's left of Monroe's character. Monroe won't see a dime, and our taxes will rise on schedule.
Joe Mancini November 25, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Son of a gun-Monroe's character left a loooong time ago. About the same time the 75th pizzeria and 55th nail salon opened, which coincided with the 3rd Walgreens, 3rd CVS and 3rd Rite-Aid. Oh and a town the size of Monroe needs 2 McDonalds, a Duchess and now a Walmart? Wow. Just wow!
Joe Mancini November 25, 2013 at 04:44 PM
And people like Joel Leneker sit around and try to be PC, when they should be kicking ass to restore integrity. Run for office Joel and bring Joan V with you!
Free Speech November 25, 2013 at 05:12 PM
Looking forward to shopping at Walmart. Thank you for bringing this to Monroe and MODERNIZING our community. I guess the town crazies need something to complain about. The town crazies complain about taxes now the town tries to bring in business to help and the crazies complain about business. MONROE WILL NEVER BE A FARMING COMMUNITY WAKE UP CRAZY PEOPLE!
Joe Mancini November 26, 2013 at 08:44 AM
Free Speech-Agreed on Monroe will never be a farming community. But bringing a Walmart to town does not mean "Modernizing". Most of the Walmarts in the region are in larger towns/cities that can better handle the large volume of people Walmart attracts. My opinion is that Walmart does not fit in Monroe.
lmf59 November 26, 2013 at 09:34 AM
I haven't heard anyone on this forum say they want to be a "farming community". What I have heard, is that we want it to stay a rural community with the small, New England feel. That is why we live/moved here in the first place. Walmart will be the demise of that. The fact that you and others call us "crazies" and "racist" doesn't say much about your character nor your ability to make an intelligent point. Resorting to name calling because someone doesn't agree with you makes you look petty and insignificant.
James Romaniello November 27, 2013 at 10:30 PM
http://www.facebook.com/standupformonroe
Kelly Pietro November 27, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Walmart final Amen! Do a YouTube search for "WalMart: The High Cost of Low Prices". Will Monroe welcome a corporation who's net income exceeds $17 billion annually while their employees make so little that they require $1.557 billion in taxpayer-funded aid? For a company ranked #2 in the Fortune 500, I should think they can afford to pay their employees more and offer better insurance plans. They are costing US money! In 2006 it was reported that in CT alone there were 824 WalMart workers have their children in a state health care program. Not to mention that they will put cottage industry out of town, which is one thing that is so wonderful about our little town of Monroe! Listen people, a corporation who has no respect for its employees or nations financial well-being will not have respect for the town it resides in. And that's that. I don't know about you but I would hate to see our town be supportive of such a corporation.

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