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Trumbull Intervenes With Monroe's Big Box Proposal

A plan for what many believe will be a Walmart has intensified relations along the Monroe/Trumbull border.

Trumbull Town Engineer Frank Smeriglio and attorney Darin Callahan testify before the Monroe P&Z Commission Thursday night.
Trumbull Town Engineer Frank Smeriglio and attorney Darin Callahan testify before the Monroe P&Z Commission Thursday night.
Historically, Monroe residents complain about neighboring Trumbull allowing commercial development on its borders along routes 25 and 111. Now that Monroe has a proposal for a big box retail store at 2 Victoria Drive, off Main Street, Trumbull officials have twice lodged criticism of the plan many believe is for a Walmart.

When a Planning & Zoning Commission hearing for Kimball Land Holdings LLC's special exception permit application started on Nov. 21, Jamie Brätt, Trumbull's director of planning and development, 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.

Then, when the hearing continued Thursday night, Darin Callahan, an attorney hired by Trumbull, filed for intervenor status on the town's behalf. After the P&Z granted the request, Trumbull's engineer, Frank Smeriglio, expressed flooding concerns.

He said the development would speed up stormwater runoff from the site, which would empty into the Pequonnock River and make flood conditions worse for Trumbull properties downstream.

Smeriglio said he does not oppose the development, but believes there are solutions for handling the runoff.

While Kevin Solli, the engineer hired by the applicant, says the property is in the lower reaches of the watershed, Smeriglio says Monroe is north of the watershed and Bridgeport is actually at the lower end.

"I would agree with the applicant's engineering report 100% if we were within a mile of Long Island Sound," said Smeriglio.

But Solli contends the volume of stormwater runoff from the site will actually be less than it is now — making conditions better for neighbors downstream.

Robin Pearson, Kimball Land Holdings' attorney, told Patch there will be less volume because more water will be retained on the site.

The Burden Of Proof

An intervenor must have a specific environmental concern and has the burden of proof to make its point.

Callahan questioned why there was no pre- and post-construction analysis of the impact to neighboring properties in Trumbull. He also charged that increased flooding causes pollution issues.

Pearson said, "There are some general allegations to how this report was reviewed, but there is no specific analysis."

Callahan countered that Smeriglio did give analysis, but it was oral rather than a written report.

Solli testified that the drainage plan for the site complies with all of the requirements of the 2004 Connecticut Stormwater Quality Manual.

At one point, Monroe Town Engineer Scott Schatzlein said he had spoken with Solli when the property was in the wetlands approval phase and some of the things they talked about could be conditions of approval — changes he believes Trumbull will be happy with.

A Border Battle 

With Trumbull representatives asking pointed questions about a proposal in Monroe, the hearing was heated at times.

P&Z Chairman Pat O'Hara complained about Trumbull coming forward to file as an intervenor at the eleventh hour. Then there was an exchange over the regulations.

"We’re only asking the applicant what we would ask a developer in Trumbull," Callahan said of the questioning.

O'Hara said, "You don’t get to come into Monroe and say we want the Trumbull regulations to apply."

Callahan quickly clarified, "Trumbull is asking Monroe to consider analysis of the impacts on a neighboring town. It's not asserting that Monroe is bound by Trumbull’s zoning regulations."

Crown Royal December 06, 2013 at 11:16 AM
Paul, It seems you are correct. My apologies. It seems I was thinking of a combined sewer, which does not appear to be utilized in Trumbull.
Bob Loblaw December 06, 2013 at 11:19 AM
The article says "Historically, Monroe residents complain about neighboring Trumbull allowing commercial development on its borders along routes 25 and 111." Has Monroe ever sent an attorney to a Trumbull town meeting to try and stop a commercial development? Honestly if this project was 1/2 mile south on Rte 25 the foundation would have already been started.
Jacob's Mama December 06, 2013 at 11:19 AM
Great Points Bruce and Crown Royal!
Nick Kapoor December 06, 2013 at 11:22 AM
I'm smelling a lawsuit... or two...
Gerald M. Gaynor December 06, 2013 at 11:23 AM
Two things are going to happen in Monroe despite the best efforts of the NIMBY crowd: sanitary sewers are going to be installed; and, 25 is going to become a four lane road for its entire length in the Town of Monroe. The sooner the Town accepts these realities, the sooner that Monroe can move into the 21st century. Monroe is not a farm town and it hasn't been one for a long time. It is a bedroom town with a tax base that is strapped by the ever increasing demands of improvements, education and services.
lmf59 December 06, 2013 at 11:34 AM
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/walmart-crime/
Vito Moscato December 06, 2013 at 11:41 AM
Voice of Reason - the Big Y complex on the Stratford border is in Stratford.
lmf59 December 06, 2013 at 11:47 AM
So tired of hearing the argument that "Monroe is not a farm town". That is the talking point of several people on these posts. I haven't heard anyone argue that they want to import cows and goats. What I have heard, is that many of us don't want to sell out to a company that attracts and encourages a culture of greed, entitlement, lawlessness, and disrespect under the misguided premise that our taxes will go down. I have heard that some of us would like to retain a little bit of dignity and pride in our town. People, do the actual research on the proven effect of Walmart on neighborhoods and towns. Research the actual, not the misleading, tax benefits. And, I assure you. Crime in Monroe WILL go up. I am not excited that our limited police force will be tied up daily at Walmart.
Bob Loblaw December 06, 2013 at 11:53 AM
Kind of funny that when I opened the main page for Monroe Patch there are two adds for Sams Club
James Romaniello December 06, 2013 at 12:05 PM
I am NOT against a development on that property. Swiss Army is back there. They pay good wages, pay into our taxes, and I really don't even notice that they are back there. No big traffic problems, no police/fire/ambulance increases. A good neighbor. This is a far cry from a 24/7 operation like Walmart. Why allow such a huge store in such a small town? Why 24/7? Why allow the developer to dynamite AGAIN? We already endured this for years. Is the town in such bad shape that we have to sell out? I'm afraid that we are in a rush to compete with other towns. The taxpayers were allowed to speak at 1 P&Z meeting. Only directly after learning the plan. Here's the plan, formulate your argument NOW. That's it.
James Romaniello December 06, 2013 at 12:12 PM
Bruce, Hunter College report: http://advocate.nyc.gov/files/Walmart.pdf Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/economic-impact-walmart_n_1449429.html Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB117027500505994065 MarketWatch: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nlrb-to-sue-wal-mart-over-labor-issues-reports-2013-11-18 Business News Daily http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2405-real-cost-walmart.html
Gerald M. Gaynor December 06, 2013 at 12:17 PM
Imf59, it doesn't really matter if you are tired of hearing the fact that Monroe is no longer a farm town. It is not now, nor has it been one for a long time. Some of us who have done our own research do not agree with your characterization of development in general and Wal-Mart in particular. Pretending to an imaginary moral high ground doesn't change the reality of our need to move into the 21st century. For every poster who bemoans what has happened to the town since they moved in there are as many people who preferred it before a huge portion of the current population moved in as well. All functioning systems evolve, those that do not, die.
Crown Royal December 06, 2013 at 12:22 PM
Thanks James, I understand. I guess what I am sick of is people complaining that Walmart does not pay their employees enough, or provide benefits, etc. Why is that Walmart's problem? They are paying what they are legally allowed to pay, and furthermore, it does not seem like there is a shortage of people willing to work for that wage. I guarantee, Dunkin, Subway, McDonalds, and any other successful retailer in town pay similar wages. This is not Walmart's problem. This is a government problem. If you are so upset about people making a certain wage, write to your government leaders and demand people be paid a living wage. If you ran a business, you would pay your employees as little as necessary in order to keep them as well. You wouldn't just pay them more for the sake of it.
James Romaniello December 06, 2013 at 12:32 PM
CR I do own a business and usually pay at the top of the scale for this area. Better pay gets me the best people and retains the best people.
Gerald M. Gaynor December 06, 2013 at 12:34 PM
Those who advance the euphemism "living wage" as a justification for castigating the conduct of others rarely think it out. If two employees were hired on the same day, in the same town, for the same job, working the same shift, with the same experience most would agree that they should be paid the same wage until such time as they exhibited a skill set, aptitude or ambition that surpassed that of the other. If one of those employees was a twenty-something single male and the other was a 38 year old single Mother of three, it is fairly obvious that the concept of a "living wage" would be rather different. The devil is always in the details when one is making an economic argument based on fluctuating social values.
Gerald M. Gaynor December 06, 2013 at 12:36 PM
JR, you pay your employees what you have determined they are worth; not what someone else has decided that they are worth to you.
James Romaniello December 06, 2013 at 12:38 PM
I guess you are right. I'm headed over to Walmart to apply now.
lmf59 December 06, 2013 at 12:42 PM
Gerald- Reread my post about the farm town. If I need to clarify it in simpler terms for you, I will try to do that. No one is calling for a "farm town". "Moving into the 21st century". The 2nd of the factually unsupported talking points. I didn't realize that a town without Walmart is a town in the dark ages. Can you please explain to me how this would bring us "into the 21st century"? As far as researching the effects of Walmart on a town, I will repost my link, and a couple of very legitimate links that James R posted. If you didn't take the time to break his post apart into individual links, you missed the info. Hopefully, you will take the time to read this information. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/walmart-crime/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/economic-impact-walmart_n_1449429.html http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2405-real-cost-walmart.html http://advocate.nyc.gov/files/Walmart.pdf
Bruce December 06, 2013 at 12:45 PM
If you don't like what Walmart pays then there are plenty of other places you should protest. Your shopping will be very limited if you don't like minimum wage.
lmf59 December 06, 2013 at 12:53 PM
You get what you pay for. That applies to the merchandise Walmart sells, as well as the people they employ. I am wondering how many people know that the "exact same product" you buy for less at Walmart than another retailer, is really not the "exact same thing". Try searching an ISBN number on a product, say a big screen TV, that you take from a Walmart box. Then search the ISBN number that you take from Best Buy, J&R, etc. You will find a single seller for the Walmart item (Walmart), while you will find a whole host of sellers with the same ISBN as the other retailers. Merchandise is manufactured at lower quality levels for Walmart. But they advertise it as the "exact same". Then people kill each other to be first in line at Walmart to get something they can't afford in the first place. You get what you pay for.
Crown Royal December 06, 2013 at 12:55 PM
James, I completely respect that you pay your employees a fair wage. I get that, and understand that you are looking for top folks and not a random person off the street. Those employees have value to you and have acquired skills that make them good at the job they are doing for you. As such, you pay a premium to ensure these individuals don't jump ship to your competitor for a slight pay bump. Just because you pay above minimum wage, doesn't mean other business owners in town can't pay minimum wage.
James Romaniello December 06, 2013 at 01:17 PM
CR No, I made minimum wage until my first real job. I think that my father paid me minimum wage when I worked for him. I agree. Bottom line. Is this the best fit for our town? Is this the best that we can do? This may be the biggest decision this town has had since they paved the roads. Is this the right direction? Shouldn't the taxpayers have a vote?
Crown Royal December 06, 2013 at 01:20 PM
Well as I said earlier, if you want to do something about this, it needs to be done in the next 2 weeks to avoid Kimball constructing a giant empty building similar to the one across from Mr. Macs.
Crown Royal December 06, 2013 at 01:21 PM
You should also look to other cities/towns that have rejected them in the past and reach out to them for assistance.
Free Speech December 06, 2013 at 02:42 PM
I support a Walmart in Monroe. We need to start building our tax base and welcome new business's in town. Monroe is not a small New England farming community and it never will be. Time to move forward. Many of the same people who constantly go on this forum to complain about taxes are the same ones who want to turn away business. You can't have it both ways. I welcome a Walmart and I hope it attracts more business's in town. Why should we have to leave town to shop. How about being able to do more shopping in Monroe. Bring on the business! Bring on those great Walmart savings!
John R. December 06, 2013 at 03:47 PM
I am a neighbor of James R. I think he and I agree and are resigned to the fact that development is going to happen at some point in our backyard (literally). What we are asking and questioning is "Is Walmart the type of business that is the best fit for Monroe?". Has there been any detailed cost/benefit analysis done on the proposal? From what's been presented to us (the public), the answer is "no". There are lots of factors involved: what actual tax increase will the town get with this Walmart, what is the 'cost' of potential lost businesses due to Walmart coming, what is the 'cost' of potential decreased property values, what is the 'cost' of additional town services (police, ambulance, etc) that will be required for the business, what is the 'cost' to quality of life (during construction and for the years to come when the store is open 24/7). Anything we do in our private life requires us to do a cost/benefit analysis in order to make a INFORMED decision. We are just saying no one (the TOWN) has done this to make a determination if this thing will be a benefit or not, both financially and quality of life. Once this gets a 'yes', there is no turning back. We'll just be able to say "told you so".
Paul Sobel December 06, 2013 at 04:09 PM
John, I don' think it is a question of a cost/benefit analysis because that is not relevant. The property is private property, and an owner is entitled to build whatever is permitted under zoning. For example, if you have a building lot in a residential zone, you have a right to build a house on it and rent or sell it to anyone you choose. Similarly, Kimball has a lot on which he has a right to construct a large retail store per the zoning regulations. As long as he complies with the regulations, the planning & zoning commission is bound to approve his special permit application. The only thing planning & zoning is supposed to do is review the application for compliance with the zoning regulations.
Alex December 07, 2013 at 10:14 AM
@John R. When have you ever heard of a town or city banning a specific corporation or business? It doesn't work like that in this country. Towns can ban a certain type of business (like strip clubs or buildings over 100,000sqft), but they can't make a regulation or ordinance that explicitly states, "No Wal-marts". Wal-mart would sue the town for discrimination if we were to try something like that. If you want to rally to ban all big box stores, you could do that, but I doubt you'll find as much support.
QWERTY December 07, 2013 at 10:19 PM
TVs have ISBNs?! Amazing!
Bryan Henry January 25, 2014 at 05:45 PM
Here we have a classic political chess match where all the players know the end game-certainly there are some who don't and that will be the residents of these towns. Think of it as casino "light." Everyone from the State down gets to yell and scream, get favorable press, political press and financial support but no one talks about the end game-nothing happens without the Feds involved and every issue becomes a Federal case- Trumbull's ability to intervene? environmental, flood plain, traffic, 95, even-the Interstate will find its way in there and a host of real and imagined issues plus Walmart's bevy of big shot lawyers trying their case in the press. Maybe Trump even (ala Bridgeport casino) will fly up to get a little press. In the meantime, anyone, everyone, who can attach themselves to this slow moving freighter will do so. The Feds work on their own schedule and usually not until the parties have fleshed out all of the issues for them. When they come in either by way of the Judicial system or other means everybody has to get in line or go home. The party's over at that point. Ask Chris Christie-although he won't tell you anyway-he can tie the State whatever in knots for years-the Feds are a different story. If they really (a true investigation which it appears it will be) get involved-its game over. The only question is how many Democrats were feeding at the trough with him. "Local" issues once breached are gone. The Federal Government owns them. Period.

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