A special meeting of the Monroe Planning and Zoning Commission last Thursday night resulted in a narrow 3-2 vote in favor of approving a Special Exception Permit for the construction of a 160,492-square-foot retail stored believed to be Wal-Mart. But Trumbull may not take the approval lying down. First Selectman Timothy Herbst has voiced opposition to the project, citing environmental and traffic concerns. Following the permit approval, Herbst said this week that the town is exploring its legal options. \u201cWe continue to have those concerns and I will be coordinating with town attorneys to see what our options are as far as protecting the best interests of our town,\u201d Herbst said. Trumbull is worried about the environmental impact of the development on the Pequonnock and exacerbating traffic issues on Route 25, Herbst said. The Monroe commission made a handful of minor alterations to the terms defined in its letter before putting its approval to a vote, with Planning and Zoning Chairman Patrick O\u2019Hara, Vice Chairman William Porter and James Weinberg voting in favor and Cathleen Lindstrom and Brian Quinn opposing. Karen Martin recused herself from the vote because of a conflict of interest. The decision comes after the commission heard community input on the issue at two public hearings, held in November and December. Despite residents\u2019 concerns over the impact on smaller businesses in town, the effect of a large commercial structure abutting residential zones, traffic, and other issues, O\u2019Hara reiterated statements made at the previous zoning meeting. The commission\u2019s job, O\u2019Hara said, is to ensure the applicant is conforming to zoning regulations, and not to determine whether certain types of businesses are qualified to be built in town, as was argued during the public hearings. Furthermore, he said, most of the statements made about the project during the hearings weren\u2019t backed up with hard evidence, and would require expert testimony in order to be considered, which was not provided, he said. Additionally, O\u2019Hara said, the application is consistent with the town\u2019s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), has a storm water management plan, has been approved by the Inland Wetlands Commission, and abides by parking regulations. He also reiterated that Monroe zoning regulations allow for the kind of large-scale retail development that has been proposed in the application. O\u2019Hara also criticized the neighboring town of Trumbull for its objections to the big box store. At a fall meeting of the commission, Trumbull Director of Planning and Development Jamie Bratt insisted the store would cause too much of a traffic burden for Trumbull on Route 25, but O\u2019Hara argued that \u201cTrumbull is forever building on our border,\u201d and adding more traffic to the area than Monroe businesses do. \u201cI\u2019m not impressed with our friends in Trumbull and I\u2019d like to think in the future they\u2019d be better neighbors,\u201d O\u2019Hara said. Herbst responded to O\u2019Hara\u2019s criticisms, saying the commissioner\u2019s comments were \u201cignorant and devoid of fact.\u201d The first selectman noted that all the Trumbull development on the border with Monroe, including the Route 111 shopping plaza and Home Depot, are well-planned. \u201cHome Depot is set back so people of Monroe can\u2019t even see it and there is a traffic signal for proper ingress and egress,\u201d Herbst said. Trumbull\u2019s border development and land-use has not caused traffic issues with any of its neighboring communities, unlike Monroe, according to Herbst. \u201cMuch of the traffic problems on 25 have been a direct result of poor planning by the Town of Monroe the last 40 years,\u201d Herbst said. \u201cI really don\u2019t think it\u2019s appropriate and I think it\u2019s insulting to suggest we have not shown consideration for our neighbors.\u201d Monroe meeting Not everyone at last Thursday\u2019s meeting was as enthusiastic about approving the project as O\u2019Hara was, however. Commissioner Lindstrom spoke in opposition to the big box store application, arguing that the existence of the retailer would change how people enter and exit Monroe, thereby changing the nature of the town plan as a whole. If the commission feels that it is important to reflect the changing times by becoming more commercial, then the town plan should be changed and residents should be informed that that\u2019s the direction in which Monroe is heading, Lindstrom said, adding that it was part of the commission\u2019s obligation as a planning body. Lindstrom also said it was both rare and \u201cunsettling\u201d to be kept in the dark about which retailer had submitted the application. While the applicant and those in the know have been coy about the identity of the mystery retailer, evidence from the public hearings has always pointed to Wal-Mart. The project architect, MMA Architects, lists Wal-Mart among its retail clients, and the building in the application bears a resemblance to Wal-Marts on the firm\u2019s design portfolio, including splashes of the retailer\u2019s signature blue. Architect Gabe Massa of MMA Architects even referred to \u201cWal-Mart\u201d at the first hearing when answering a question, causing more than a few chuckles from the audience, before catching himself. Still, the applicant has avoided admitting what retailer would use the space, to the point of putting stand-in signs that say \u201cRetail Name\u201d in the application in lieu of the store name and \u201cEntry 1\u201d and \u201cEntry 2\u201d instead of what it will say over the doors. Creative euphemisms used in place of naming the applicant have included \u201cthe operator\u201d and \u201cthe retailer we\u2019re working with.\u201d Developer John Kimball acknowledged that the generic words on the architectural renderings looked odd at the first public hearing to address the application. \u201cIt looks silly to have what we have on the building, I know,\u201d he said at the November hearing, but he said the secrecy was what the unnamed retailer wanted.