Attorney Joel Green recalls a meeting his firm had with Stop & Shop representatives from Massachusetts, while negotiating a lease in the mid-'80's.
"Their business plan at the time was to have a Stop & Shop Super Store every three miles," Green said. "It seemed impossible."
Now he says the supermarket chain is owned by a foreign company and has stores in Monroe, Trumbull, Westport, two in Fairfield, two in Norwalk, one in Shelton, Milford and Sandy Hook to name a few.
At the same time, Green has seen competitors disappear throughout the Northeast — Grand Union, Walbaums, Pathmark, A&P and Edwards locations among them.
Locally, Monroe Supermarket and Walter Stewart's closed their doors.
"Now Stop & Shop has gone into the gasoline business," Green said, before predicting that an approval of one such gas station at 528 Monroe Turnpike would doom every smaller station on the town's commercial strip.
Green represents B&J Reality and the Shell station next door to the property where Monroe Gas LLC plans to build a five-bay-10-pump gas station for Stop & Shop customers to use points racked up on their store cards for discounts on gas.
The Prushko family has owned the Shell station since 1968 and is now fighting to keep the new gas station from moving in. Last Thursday night, Green made a presentation as an intervenor during a Planning & Zoning Commission hearing on Monroe Gas LLC's proposal.
Though Green noted he was following a David and Goliath storyline, he added, "It's not about big and small. At the end of the day it's what your regulations show. Having reviewed this application, a fair reading of the regulations requires this application be denied as it presently exists."
The hearing will be continued to Oct. 17, when Monroe Gas LLC's representatives will present more testimony and answer questions posed by commissioners.
Green's Case for Denial
Green says the capacity of the gas station would cause a traffic issue on Route 111.
Monroe Gas' own experts said the new station would pump 250,000 to 300,000 gallons a month, according to Green, who said with vehicle tanks being an average of eight gallons, there would be about 5,625 transactions a month. A tanker truck would also come out to the station every day or two, he said.
Based on that, Green said he was surprised that Monroe Gas LLC's traffic expert concluded that the increase in traffic can be accommodated without a significant impact on driving conditions with its driveway and parking lot design.
He said the report has no traffic counts nor dates when the sampling was done.
Green said the law says you don't need to hire an expert when there is such an obvious effect. He recalled a time years ago when his car idled in backed up traffic when he worked at Stevenson Lumber on Route 111, while still going to school. (The lumberyard has since closed.)
Green said B&J Realty retained the services of David Spear of the firm DLS Engineering, based in Windsor, and that Spear determined there is unsafe access to the site.
"There is a large issue of traffic and the application must be denied," Green said.
Against the Regs
Aside from a site plan approval, Monroe Gas LLC needs a special exception permit allowing it to use an existing septic tank previously approved for a commercial application in a residentially zoned portion of the property.
But Green says the P&Z Commission is not bound to approve it just because it had approved a permit for another applicant years ago, adding case law would not back that up. He said this new application is working on a clean slate and town regulations do not allow a commercial use in a residential zone.
"This application has to be denied because the use on the residential portion is commercial and not allowed in your regulations," Green told the commission.
The attorney also said the town's regulations on buildings are not being complied with.
"There is not much offered in way of detail about the building," Green said of the kiosk for the gas station attendant. He added that the section in the regulations requires significant detail on buildings being proposed.
It also requires a minimum of 1,400-square-feet of floor area in buildings, Green said, noting how the kiosk is much smaller.
Green concluded, "On Behalf of B&J Reality, I urge you to deny this application."