Trumbull's objections to potential Monroe Walmart don't sway commissioners
Trumbull’s objections to plans to build a 160,000- square-foot big box in Monroe held little sway with the Monroe Planning and Zoning Commission recently.
Zoners directed staff Thursday to draft a letter of approval for the mystery big box retailer, rumored to be Walmart. Though those in the know have not disclosed officially who the retailer is, and even submitted renderings of the proposed building with generic signs that say “Retail name,” the architect for the plan lists Walmart among its clients and even referred to “Walmart” by name before catching himself and backtracking at a previous meeting.
On Monday, First Selectman Timothy Herbst said he first heard “through the grapevine” that a “super Walmart” would be going in at the 2 Victoria Drive site. Herbst told the Trumbull Times that he is concerned about the Monroe proposal for traffic and environmental reasons.
He sent the town engineer and planner to Monroe’s Planning and Zoning hearings on the development and, on Dec. 5, town attorneys filed for intervenor status on behalf of the town.
“The traffic assessments show no negative impact on roads in Monroe, it’s all on the Trumbull side,” Herbst said Monday. “The impact on Route 25 and Route 111 brings those roads from a D grade to an F — failing.
He proposes the applicant make traffic upgrades.
“Wal-mart is a billion-dollar corporation,” Herbst said. “They should be making upgrades, widening the roads, adding more lanes.”
Members of the Monroe commission weren’t without reservations about the plan, but weighing the intervenor petition submitted by the town’s southerly neighbor, they said it was flimsy.
Trumbull Town Attorney Darin Callahan successfully petitioned on Trumbull’s behalf to gain intervenor status at a Dec. 5 meeting, citing environmental concerns. Trumbull’s engineer Frank Smeriglio said he thought the project would cause flooding along the Pequonnock because water will run off of the property faster after development under certain circumstances.
However engineer Kevin Solli, for developer John Kimball, said in all cases the volume of water coming off the property would be reduced, and it would be a net benefit to downstream neighbors.
The commission wasn’t impressed with Smeriglio’s verbal testimony, which Commissioner Jim Weinberg characterized as unconvincing.
Weinberg said he “felt the intervenor did a luke warm job” and provided “no information that would actually support [his case].”
Weinberg added “but I’m not dismissing it.” He said the intervenor didn’t make much of a case but he still thought a hard look needed to be taken at the stormwater management situation.
“I think the applicant did a very good job kind of coached by our own engineer of explaining that 100% of the runoff … is trapped before leaving [the property].”
Additionally, Weinberg pointed out that the comparison the applicant made was very conservative, since it use water runoff when the site was wooded as a baseline, rather than it’s current state.
Weinberg said he was “a little offended” that Trumbull would complain about Monroe’s environmental standards.
“They suggested, maybe more than suggested ... they were presenting themselves as better stewards to the environment than we are,” Weinberg said.
Monroe officials long cited buildings in Trumbull that dwarf what is allowed in Monroe as a reason Monroe needs to become more competitive and encourage development. Encouraging more development was cited as a major motivation behind the town’s recently adopted zoning regulations that became effective in October. Some officials have grumbled that Trumbull just wants Walmart to relocate within its own borders.
“This project does not do the things that they would have you believe it does,” Weinberg said.
Commission Chairman Patrick O’Hara held his tongue.
“The [intervenor] showed up with his engineer and his opinion … the intervenor did not meet the burden of proof as required,” he said. “I’ll say no more on the subject as much as I’m wishing I could.”
In addition to filing for intervenor status, Trumbull Town Planner Jamie Bratt spoke before the commission during the public comment session to say the project would be a burden on the already overburdened Route 25, and that plans to synchronize traffic lights wasn’t enough to remedy the impact of a huge retail store.
Trumbull staff will be working with Monroe officials to find a solution, Herbst said Monday.
“I have a moral obligation to make sure this won’t negatively impact Trumbull,” he said.
Monroe First Selectman Steve Vavrek said Friday that he anticipated Trumbull might be uneasy with project, “So I took the liberty of inviting First Selectman Herbst, his Planner, Town Engineer along with representatives from Trumbull EMS and the Trumbull PD to a meeting with our staff to address these concerns earlier this week.
“We feel Trumbull’s concerns were heard and have been addressed. This project and any future growth on this corridor, including future development on the Trumbull properties on the Monroe borders (both on Rte 25 and 111) were also discussed.
“I can assure the citizens of Monroe and Trumbull that this project improves the operations at the intersection of Route 25 and Route 111 from the background condition. This project does not cause the intersection to go from a D to an F — background traffic growth causes that to happen.
“We are working with regional and state departments to develop these corridors responsibly. This includes working to remedy the traffic congestion issues on the borders leading into Monroe due to Trumbull’s current and future development.”