P&Z Commissioners Question Gas Station Representatives

Stop & Shop supermarket wants to open a gas station at 528 Monroe Turnpike.

Monroe Gas LLC wants to obtain a special exception permit from the Planning & Zoning Commission to allow a five-bay, 10 pump gas station at 528 Monroe Turnpike for Stop & Shop. On Thursday night's hearing, commissioners' questions ranged from environmental protections and natural buffers to the aesthetics.

Prior to being abandoned, the 1.9-acre property had been used to store home heating oil terminal with four 20,000 gallon underground tanks. Leaking became a major problem on the site and $1 million in Superfund money used to clean up the property after it was abandoned could not remove all of the contaminants.

Commissioner James Weinberg noted how developing the property is environmentally challenging and asked how a gas station would be better than the previous use of a home heating oil depot or leaving the property dormant.

Stephen Studer, the attorney for Monroe Gas LLC, said, "We have a state-of-the-art system with double-walled everything, monitoring and an alarm system [for any leaks]. We do think we're making it better by removing additional contaminated soil and groundwater and capping it."

Timothy Onderko, the engineer hired by the applicant, said, "We're also proposing stormwater quality measures that don't exist today."

Weinberg asked about a culvert that brings water underneath Route 111 to land alongside the property and an 18-inch drainage pipe that empties into the same spot. Onderko said the Connecticut Department of Transportation wants to join it as one pipe with a manhole, adding that the drainage will exist with or without the gas station.

Weinberg asked more about the alarm system and how any gasoline spills could be handled on the property.

Onderko said there would be a red button in the kiosk that shuts off the pumps and a separate alarm system outside. He said the pipes in the drainage system could be closed off to prevent fuel from flowing into the wetlands during a clean up.

Weinberg asked what measures were in place in the event of a fire.

Onderko said there would be a fire suppression system underneath the canopy activated by a heat sensor or by the attendant pulling a lever.

Commissioner Cathleen Lindstrom asked what would happen if someone drove off with a gas nozzle still in the car's tank. Onderkno said the lines for gas pumps are designed to disconnect when a high enough amount of pressure is applied, and that the valve automatically shuts off when that happens.

Lindstrom also asked how traffic would be at the pumps if vehicles come in facing different directions. Onderko said all pumps would have stretchable hoses reaching gas tanks on either side of a vehicle. He added there would be enough space at the center pump for cars to pass through while it's occupied.

Lindstrom asked Onderko if he would consider having cars enter and exit from one direction for a better traffic flow and Onderko said he would.

When Lindstrom asked what would happen if there was an explosion, Onderko went over the safety measures on the site again.

Onderko said attendants at the gas station would not be the equivalent of grocery store baggers. "Everyone of the attendants is trained at Stop & Shop to know where the shutoff is," he said.

Sean O'Rourke asked if a pollution management service has been contacted by the applicant and Onderko said no, but that one will be if the gas station proposal is approved.

Aside from having a shut off switch inside the kiosk, O'Rourke asked if there would be kill switches at the gas pumps should the attendant not be present for any reason. Onderko said the attendant has to activate the pumps for every fill up, so a customer could never turn on a pump without the attendant being present.

When it comes to potential pollutants, Weinberg pointed out that MTB should not be a concern, because it has been outlawed from being used with gasoline.

Aesthetic Considerations

Most of Chairman Patrick O'Hara's questions dealt with the appearance of the proposed gas station. A long-term goal of the commission is to improve the appearance of businesses along routes 111 and 25.

O'Hara noted how Monroe Gas LLC's plan called for a wooden Dumpster enclosure and asked if the applicant would be open to using composite materials. Onderko said they would.

A 15-foot-high, illuminated pile-on sign was proposed for the gas station and O'Hara asked if the applicant would instead agree to a monument sign on the ground surrounded by plantings. Because room on the sign would be the same, Onderko agreed.

O'Hara also asked about hedge plantings between the parking lot and the street. Onderko said, "We've agreed to it. If there's a desire for certain plantings, we will do it."

O'Hara the applicants if they would be "willing to go with nicer looking lampposts" that have cutoffs to prevent the light from spilling into the wetlands. Onderko said they're only planning for four light posts.

If approved, there would be a 150-200 foot vegetative buffer to the east side of the property. O'Hara asked how it could be kept in perpetuity for when ownership of the property changes hands. Onderko said it is covered by wetlands buffers and setbacks and that any cutting down of trees there would have to be approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission.

A Request for Flexibility

O'Hara noted how the gas station would sell motor oil and washer fluid from an outdoor display and asked if they would agree not to sell antifreeze. Onderko said they would, but that they hope to sell it.

"Can you agree to no charity car washes on the property?" O'Hara asked.

Onderko said yes.

A condition of the Inland Wetlands Commission approval was that the gas station would only be open during store hours in the event of a leak or other emergency. Hours of the supermarket on Monroe Turnpike are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Onderko told the P&Z Commission that Stop & Shop's store hours are subject to change and asked the commission to allow the gas station's hours to increase if the supermarket's hours do.

Jim beam January 06, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Shaun: If you do your research you will find that this property is a brownfield that has never been fully remediated. Burial of 40,000 and 10,000 gallon fuel tanks will do more to disturb this property than a building and foundation will do. You have to dig deeper for the tanks. Why do you suppose Aquarion Water Company opposes this project if they didn't feel that it imperils their water supply? If you drive on Rte 111 now, there is no denying that placing this project where it is proposed with the volume of traffic expected (5 times the Prushko station's volume) can only create a traffic clusterfudge. No traffic light can be placed here because of the close proximity to the light at Big Y. The dangers created by this traffic should be quite obvious. It is quite illuminating to see how many are willing to risk the degradation of property values, the deleterious impact on future commercial development, and environmental repercussions all for the sake of 10 cents a gallon discounts. It's rather sad. Blocking a new station doesn't fix the existing traffic problems but it will keep it fro, getting worse.
Walt January 06, 2013 at 08:04 PM
I'd be curious to know how old and what kind of tanks are in the ground at prushkos? The new tanks S&S will install are double walled plastic with monitoring sensors. All the anti-development moaners seem to have no problem with the current gas station next to a brook with tires and crap piled up behind it, why is that?
Jim beam January 06, 2013 at 08:07 PM
There were no long lines unless you were one looking to top off your gas tank? I know how to prepare a bit better for emergencies, apparently. there are web sites that can help you with that, Shaun. From what I can see, Monroe readily accommodates businesses in this town; perhaps to a fault. The primary limitation is on the lack of sewers and city water and the fact that the road isn't as wide as on the Trumbull line. Widening the road will not happen in our lifetime due to the lack of governmental funds for this project. I prefer the patch of weeds to a project that causes environmental harm and a dangerous traffic nightmare.
Jim beam January 06, 2013 at 08:09 PM
It is a done deal; grandfathered so to speak. What's done is difficult to be undone. What's not difficult is refusing to exacerbate the problem.
Big Boy January 06, 2013 at 09:43 PM
S&S gas is currently selling at $3.54 a gallon. Once I deducted the .40 cents off per gallon for S&S gas points, points obtained for food I normally would have purchased over the course of several weeks, I ended up paying $3.14 a gallon to fill my tank and two gas containers. The points I obtained were for food purchased at S&S for less than the other competitor in town. Had I purchased my family's food at Big Y, my bill for food would have been higher and the cost of running my car would have been higher. The other gas station taking S&S points down the way on 111 starts at $3.69 a gallon. After deducting my points, .40, I am at $3.29 a gallon.
Jim beam January 06, 2013 at 09:59 PM
Gas is selling at $3.54 in Ansonia. It won't sell for that price in Monroe because it can't because of zone pricing as previously explained by Prushko in an earlier thread. S&S grocery prices are more expensive. That's a fact. That's how they afford to discount. Your paying higher grocery prices allows them to offer discounts. It's called a loss leader. It's simple business economics. We know you're not earning 40 cent discounts per week. If you are, that means you're spending $400 a week for groceries which is further proof you're being robbed by S&S. Having said all this, you can redeem your discounts at 111 Monroe Tpke for the same discount you'll get at this projected site. Having said this, just because you can get discounts for overpriced groceries doesn't mean the town of Monroe has to enter into a deal that's loser for town taxpayers. Why should the rest of us subsidize you?
Shaun January 06, 2013 at 10:22 PM
Jim your facts are wrong , S&S has the cheapest prices overall and the reason Big Y has lost sales and S&S has gained tremendously since opening . The gas is a separate entity and has nothing to do with food prices in their store , it's only used as an incentive to shop there . Prices in store are set by market area just as products in store cater to that area . Contrary to your belief , gasoline has no bearing on prices in the store .
Jim beam January 06, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Shaun: It's not possible for you to be more wrong. Gas and groceries are inextricably related in S&S marketing plan. This is readably observed by the fact that gas discounts are predicated on grocery purchases. All one had to do is comparison shop and price differentials are easily observable. Gas is a loss leader for expensive groceries. Again, simple business economics. Customers become "invested" in S&S in pursuit of gas discounts. Because of this investment, they will pay higher prices for items leading to discounts. Much market research. Still, why should Monroe taxpayers accept a bad deal in this project just so you can think you're getting cheaper gas? I shouldn't subsidize your bad choices.
Big Boy January 07, 2013 at 12:24 AM
The gas points were accumulated over several weeks worth of groceries. The points are a total of a 30 day period, or one month, of shopping. At the end of the month any unused gas points are not carried over to the next month. 400 points do not reflect one week of shopping but rather several weeks.
Jim beam January 07, 2013 at 12:31 AM
BB: I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. So on an annual basis, these discounts are not very impressive. Given that, Monroe should not enter into a bad deal to subsidize your $100 "saved" by means of purchasing overpriced groceries. This is a losing deal for the town and just because you believe you're "saving" money doesn't mean the rest of us have to pay the tab.
jim laguardia January 07, 2013 at 01:03 AM
We thinks thou doth protest too much....
HappyWife January 07, 2013 at 01:21 AM
Hey Walt--stick with the issue on the table ----they are your buddies---sippin and stop and shop----not pruschko---I am anti development based on environmental concerns but if you live in a place like Fairfield and just visit Monroe on a periodic basis to do things like "check on your business" you wouldn't be concerned with our drinking water. I am not stating that problems do not exist ----I am stating that we need to take one battle at a time---present battle is Stop and Shop AKA Monroe Gas---
Jim beam January 07, 2013 at 01:51 AM
Yawn.... Did you say something Mr. Laguardia? Didn't think so.
jim laguardia January 07, 2013 at 02:08 AM
Ok was trying to tell you again nicely that your constant complaining about this is rubbing everyone the wrong way... But since you think it better to hide behind a screen name, calling people names putting down the people of Monroe and even claiming the votes were bought and paid for (Yes I saw that before it was deleted) and now try to put me down I will stop being nice about it. You and at least one other person are going on on against this claiming it will lower property values, cause traffic problems and cause environmental problems (which after it gets pointed out the contaminated soil is probably from long after the property was vacant, the subject tried to get changed) it is painfully obvious that you are either friends with or are in fact a business owner that will be hurt by this going through..you chose this, I tried to be nice... NO ONE IS FOOLED, YOU ARE AGAINST THIS FOR YOUR OWN PERSONAL REASONS. Did that wake you up??
Jim beam January 07, 2013 at 02:23 AM
Perhaps I'm rubbing you the wrong way, tough guy, but the facts are facts. I hate to burst your junior detective bubble. If circumstances were as you imagine, I would have no reason to state otherwise. So you can stop your yelling. So we adults will get back to the discussion at hand. The deleterious impact on future economic development of this part of Rye 111 by the dangerous traffic congestion that will be caused by this project are dangerously apparent. Aquarion Water Company is opposed to this project because of the perils to the water supply. The impact on the flooding problems to homes on Brookside Drive is quite apparent. That are you so consumed by the prospect of discounted gas which is already available a mile & a half away is a sad commentary on you. My concern is the town that I've lived for 31 years and the prospect of having to pay higher property taxes because of this misbegotten project.
jim laguardia January 07, 2013 at 02:34 AM
Never claimed to be a "tough guy" but I am man enough to use my real name, I only yelled because you were falling asleep, how on earth would we pay higher taxes after something is built on this property? Either it sits empty or a gas station goes in... And MOST of what you say is conjecture NOT facts. A fact is something that can be proven, not quite apparent.
Jim beam January 07, 2013 at 02:56 AM
I've made my points. I believe that Monroe politics have already determined the outcome of this application. Unfortunately, i'm sure I will be proved right on the disastrous impact of this project. It will be too late then. That being said, I'm bored with this exchange because it's devolved into nonsensical exchanges. I love this town and to see it ruined is painful. I hope I'm wrong but I'm afraid I'm not.
jim laguardia January 07, 2013 at 12:23 PM
You are correct it is has devolved into nonsensical.... That usually happens when name calling is brought up.
Sheila D January 07, 2013 at 01:08 PM
I've seen a few comments that resonate with me that cause concern. One, the true savings aren't really there as we'll never get the same price for example, as Milford, due to zone pricing (all stations on Route 111 typically are within about 5 cents of each other). I'm personally not interested in saving only an additional 5-10 cents per gallon in exchange for the traffic hassle. The second concern I note is the volume of traffic for this type of station. Every time I've ever been to a S&S gas station, there are patrons at each pump, and then 3-4 deep waiting in line, but they are in large S&S market parking lots that can accommodate that volume. The only place I can envision 3-4 cars deep waiting for a free pump when the full bay is being used...is on 111 itself. I wouldn't object so much if there was a way to put it over by the S&S market. Putting politics aside, I would like to give our P&Z commissioners some credit and assume that this is being dragged on so long due to the concerns and risks around the project.
jim laguardia January 07, 2013 at 01:44 PM
You make valid points, just wondering since the savings will NOT be as large as Milfordthen will the lines be that long?? In Milford you probably see patrons lines up from other "gas zones" (like ours) while they are shopping I can't see anyone driving to Monroe to get gas here if there is not a substantial savings
Alex January 07, 2013 at 02:34 PM
I drove up to the Milford Stop&Shop on Saturday around 7pm. There was no other cars there to the extent I thought it may have been closed. Lucky it wasn't as I saved over $6 compared (30 cents off per gallon) to if I bought the gas in Milford. No obviously if I didn't have to go up to Milford I would have bought my gas closer by, but I only get gas every 2 weeks and therefore I can usually plan around it. I guess I look at it as, would you pay an extra $6 for the same product if you didn't have to?
Sheila D January 07, 2013 at 02:46 PM
Alex, for me that's 20 miles one way and 20 miles back. With a car that gets just over 20 mpg, I just spent $8 to get up to Milford to save less than that on my fill up. I need a long list of errands to justify me tacking on $8 to my day, but I see your point about planning, and of course I fill up too if I'm there. Other than that, I fill local when it makes sense, and utilize Citgo's 5 cents off on Sunday and Debit same as Cash price, all while they pump the gas for me.
HappyWife January 07, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Jim--The environmental subject did NOT get changed----it is simply. The soil is contaminated with cancer related toxins therefore it should be cleaned up which no one is willing to do or left undisturbed. DEEP Records show that is was contaminated when underground storage tanks leaked. IF additional contamination is occurring I would welcome an investigation and action to stop and clean it up. YES I AM AGAINST THIS FOR MY OWN PERSONAL REASON----I WANT CLEAN SAFE WATER--Before we risk our water supply ---Questions of when it was contaminated, how it was contaminated, what caused the contamination, what poisons are in the soil and where are they coming from and how can we stop and clean up the toxins should be addressed----BEFORE we disturb the soil. The soil is contaminated---I don't care if it is from 1970 or from 2012--IT IS CONTAMINATED AND THAT SHOULD DEALT WITH NOT COVERED BY CONCRETE SLAB--
jim laguardia January 07, 2013 at 03:11 PM
When have you ever heard anyone start a conversation off with .... I drove up to Monroe.... For anything
jim laguardia January 07, 2013 at 03:50 PM
Funny how I didn't mention your name..... But you know exactly the Exchange I was talking about. First it was all MTBE from you then when it was pointed out that MTBE wasn't around before the 80's you said stick to the issue on the table. That IS changing the subject. Your biggest selling point is that Aquarion is against it, use that as your platform and then people won't question your motives. BTW I refused to sign the S&S petition because they couldn't answer m y questions on the project so just in case you think I am pro-sippin or pro S&S you are wrong
Shaun January 07, 2013 at 05:23 PM
Jim I will leave it at this , you don't have a clue as far as what your talking about or how the business runs .. Or you have some vested interest . I can't speak to environmental issues but the business aspect is 100 % accurate as I portrayed . I you believe otherwise I feel sorry that your left in the dark , and sorry that the people of Monroe will continue to be held hostage by high fuel prices just as they were with food prices till S&S came to town .
Jim beam January 07, 2013 at 05:55 PM
Shaun: One last comment because this thread has devolved into a string if nonsensical and irrelevant comments. My business is business analysis so I'm confident my ability to make sound and profitable economic decisions. This deal is a bad one for the taxpayers of Monroe. There is no valid reason why the rest if us should subsidize your quest for discounted gas purchased through overpriced groceries. Even if you believe you're getting a great deal has no bearing on the propriety of this development from the town's perspective. Just a reminder - you can use your discounts now at 111 Monroe Tpke. Is that one mile drive too burdensome?
D. Sickles January 07, 2013 at 06:13 PM
@Jim Beam - in my opinion I think your energy should be directed in helping unseat the current P&Z members. We all know why a change is necessary.
Jim beam January 07, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Sickles: Well said. You're right. Our memories are short. Come election time, our passions and attention tend to recede. We often tend to leave these things to those who are less than competent.
PlumbBob January 08, 2013 at 04:40 PM
So build more gas stations because we may have more storms? Is that seriously a logical suggestion or solution? Should we build new supermarkets to so we don't run out of bread?


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