Monroe leader responds to ongoing legal battle over Walmart

Monroe’s First Selectman Steve Vavrek said he holds no ill feelings toward Trumbull officials, despite an ongoing lawsuit based on plans for a super Walmart.

Vavrek spoke to The Monroe Courier this week, a sister paper of The Times, regarding a story last week citing tensions within Trumbull’s Republican Party, based on a lawsuit the town has filed against Monroe.

As The Times reported in a story last week, an email from Town Council Republican Cindy Penkoff sent to other members of the party was blasted by First Selectman Timothy Herbst, who said Penkoff had facts incorrect and accused her of “going rogue.”

The big box store is slated to be built at 2 Victoria Drive, directly off Route 25. Trumbull filed the lawsuit after the project received approval from Monroe Planning and Zoning in January. The lawsuit cited flooding concerns and environmental issues on the Pequonnock River.

While Trumbull announced a settlement in early July, misunderstandings since that time have kept the lawsuit against Monroe open, Vavrek said. Nevertheless, the first selectman said he bears no ill feelings toward any of Trumbull’s officials and hopes everyone’s energy can soon be concentrated on fixing the intersection in question.

In an interview with The Courier, Vavrek said be believed all of Monroe’s engineers and developers had “done everything right” since the project was introduced.

Although Trumbull continues to cite concerns regarding the environmental impact of the impending Walmart at 2 Victoria Drive, the big box store has mentioned several times that it plans to do plenty of environmental work on the site, Vavrek said. It’s now time to focus on the real problem, which is traffic, he said.

Vavrek’s focus all along, he said, has been more regional because it concerns rebuilding the corridor at Routes 111 and 25. Since there will be development near that intersection, whether it is in Trumbull or Monroe, Vavrek said his biggest consideration is revamping the area to reduce traffic congestion.

Nearby towns such as Newtown and Bridgeport have already said they are onboard with such a project, he said.

In the past, Herbst has cited concerns about traffic and the impact on Trumbull, but the lawsuit is based strictly on environmental concerns.

“As a former chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission and current first selectman, I take environmental protection of our natural resources very seriously,” Herbst said last week. “So, when the Town of Trumbull found out that a commercial developer was going to construct a retail facility the equivalent size of eight and a half football fields, on a septic system, adjacent to the Pequonnock River which flows downstream into Trumbull, naturally any reasonable person would want to take action to make sure environmental concerns are addressed and Trumbull’s natural resources are protected.”

Recently, Penkoff said she was concerned about terms she believed the town was imposing on its neighbor, as told to her by Monroe officials.

“The settlement that we are prepared to sign incorporates all of the conditions imposed by land use agencies within Monroe and guarantees that our environmental concerns have been addressed and incorporated into the settlement,” Herbst said last week.