Planning & Zoning Commissioners heard public testimony on Stop & Shop's proposal for a five-bay and 10 pump gas station with a kiosk at 528 Monroe Turnpike on Thursday night. Supporters touted low gas prices and tax revenue for the town, and those in opposition expressed concern over the impact on the public watershed, flooding and traffic.
While some see a Stop & Shop gas station as a boost for the local economy, others believe it would put nearby stations out of business and hurt sales at Century Plaza Shopping Center because of the traffic congestion.
The hearing was continued for a second time due to the late hour. The applicant, Monroe Gas LLC, will respond to comments made by the public and deliver closing statements on Jan. 17.
Lou Marino, a resident of over 48 years, said, "I've seen some good things happen in Monroe and some bad things, and I think this is a good thing and I'm in favor of it."
Marino's wife, Janet, said, "No gas company has been tremendously giving to Monroe. They have taken advantage of the fact that we live in the suburbs."
A woman from Easton and another from Trumbull also spoke in favor of allowing a gas station where they could enjoy discounts with their Stop & Shop cards.
Ben Snead of Monroe asked the commission to approve the gas station so long as the plan meets town zoning regulations. "I believe in capitalism and believe free enterprise will be good for all involved."
The owner of Steve's Office Supply on Route 111 expressed support of replacing a weed-covered field with a gas station that will increase tax revenue.
David Sippin, who owns the property as well as the Century Plaza Shopping Center with Big Y supermarket across the street, said, "I feel it is the ideal and appropriate use of this property. It's well-configured, environmentally safe and properly zoned on Route 111 with existing gas stations."
Most of those who testified in the hearing opposed the special exception permit application.
Gene Esares of Monroe said the hearing was "like watching a train wreck in slow motion." He doubted studies presented by the applicant's attorney, Stephen Studer showing the gas station would have no adverse impact on area property values. He also said it wouldn't generate a lot of property tax revenue.
Attorney Keith Ainsworth, who is representing B&J Realty Corporation in a lawsuit to overturn a Monroe Zoning Board of Appeals decision in favor of the gas station, filed a petition for intervenor status on behalf of the corporation. Bernard Prushko, owner of the Shell station next door to 528 Monroe Turnpike, is president of the B&J Realty Corporation.
Ainsworth said Monroe Gas LLC is trying to shoehorn a development on a site adjacent to wetlands and to two watercourses. He said the applicant has offered no letter from the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection approving the results of clean up efforts of the brownfield because none exists.
Ainsworth said the DEEP has more environmental violations from fueling facilities in the state than it can handle.
"If you're under any misconception that the DEEP approved this or it's even on its radar, that would be a false assumption," he said.
Studer disputes the FEMA map putting the property in a flood plain and called it "imaginary", but Ainsworth said unless the FEMA map is amended, the flood plain designation applies to the site.
Flooding and An Egret
Phyllis Kansky presented a letter signed by 10 residents of Brookside Drive in opposition of the gas station. She said most homes in the neighborhood have sump pumps to deal with constant flooding.
Kansky said the Inland Wetlands Commission and ZBA ignored flooding and pollution concerns and asked who is responsible for protecting Brookside Drive.
"We implore you to take a long, hard look at this application and deny it," she said.
Sheila Sportini of Cross Hill Road showed photos of flooding in her yard and submitted photos of an egret she has seen on her property. The bird is an endangered species.
Karen Burnaska, secretary of the Conservation Commission, told the P&Z that the commission agrees with Aquarion Water Co.'s opposition to the gas station because of its close proximity to a public drinking water supply.
Ronald Bunovsky also agreed, saying, "I think this commission should trust the judgement of Aquarion when it comes to protecting the public water supply."
Ed Coffey, a resident of 55 years, said, "I'm not opposed to a Stop & Shop gas station, but not there." Coffey said Stop & Shop should put one on the 7.5 acres it already owns or on the 13-acre-property next to the supermarket on Route 111.
'A Beautiful Document'
Mark Antinozzi, a former P&Z Commissioner, reminded the commission of all the money it spent updating the town Plan of Conservation & Development (POCD), which calls for traffic calming measures such as allowing fewer curb cuts on major thoroughfares.
Antinozzi said traffic already backs up at the light by Big Y, adding a Stop & Shop gas station would only make matters worse.
He said Section 8 of the POCD calls for protecting natural resources and habitats. Antinozzi said the applicant's property is in a flood plain area, is adjacent to a public water supply and to wetlands.
Marion Frost also believes the application violates the POCD. "You have a beautiful document before you," she said. "Please use it?"
'I Almost Died'
Leon Ambrosey, who owns a service station across the street from the proposed gas station, said there would not be enough room for turn lanes on Route 111 and said the town should have its own traffic study.
Jim Gianfelice of L.E. Belcher, a gas supplier in Massachusetts that serves Prushko's Shell station, said Stop & Shop's station would pump 250,000-300,000 gallons a month, requiring 30 to 35 tractor trailer deliveries on Route 111.
John Plavnicky of Wheeler Road said he could have died when a car hit him on his motorcycle at the traffic light by Big Y in 2010. He broke his leg, clavicle, shoulder and ribs, and had a collapsed lung.
Before a gas station or any other development is even considered at 528 Monroe Turnpike, Plavnicky said the intersection needs to be redesigned to make it safer.