BJ’s withdraws application for 272-280 Main Ave. – for now

NORWALK, Conn. — The application by 272-280 Main Avenue LLC and BJ’s  Wholesale has decided to withdraw their application to build a nearly 110,000-square-foot store on the Main Avenue site.

According to a statement issued by the LLC and BJ’s Wednesday afternoon, public opposition to the project has caused them to rethink their attempt to site a store on the Superfund site.

The statement came on the heels of a press conference in which Democratic mayoral candidate Harry Rilling spoke against the store.  Among other things, Rilling said BJ’s would bring unneeded and debilitating traffic to Main Avenue and low-wage and part time jobs. Both consumer vehicles and 18-wheeler delivery trucks would add congestion and pollution to the neighborhood.

“I think we need to aggressively pursue more appropriate development for some of the parcels of land that we have,” he said.

Shortly before the announcement, Common Councilmen Bruce Kimmel (D-District D), Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) and Jerry Petrini (R-District D) issued a letter to the editor calling for the application to be withdrawn.

Kimmel took the project’s attorney, Frank Zullo, to task for his handling of the application.

“Zullo should have recognized the level of community opposition to the application and should have had it withdrawn much earlier,” he said. “Also, he should have advised his clients to sit down early on with the communities directly affected by the project. You should never take entire neighborhoods or even medium size cities for granted.”

Tuesday night, state Sen. Bob Duff tweeted, “I usually don’t weigh in on zoning issues, but there has to be a higher and better use for the proposed BJ’s Main Ave. location. Bad planning.”

The statement from the LLC and BJs said:

“Over the past several weeks we have heard concerns raised by neighbors and others about our proposed development.”

“The developer and BJs want to review those concerns to see if they can be reasonably addressed before deciding our next steps. There are many people who are in support of this project and we want to thank those who were prepared to speak in support of our project.

“We heard over and over again that people in Norwalk wanted good paying jobs and an affordable place to purchase food. Unfortunately there has been a significant amount of misinformation put forth by those not in favor of the development.”

“We are withdrawing the application at this time and are going to review the concerns raised and as a result of that determination will decide what our future course of action will be for the property at 272 – 280 Main Avenue.”

Spokesman Peter Barhydt of communications firm Aberdeen Associates  declined to say what the statement meant by “misinformation.”

“I think I will let the statement speak for itself,” he said.

Mayor Richard Moccia said Wednesday evening that he agreed with the decision — for now.

“I had stated at the West Norwalk meeting that I felt that the applicants had not done a good job of meeting with neighbors or providing enough info on traffic and remediation,”he told NancyOnNorwalk in an email. “I believe that they have made the right choice at this time.”

“Power to the people,” said Diane Lauricella, an environmental activist and a member of Save Cranbury. “We were laughed at at first. They said ‘Why are you wasting your time, you are such a troublemaker. It’s a big slam dunk.’ I said, ‘I don’t think it’s a slam dunk, I think it’s a horrible project for the site.’”

City officials, including Business and Marketing Director Tad Diesel, should do a better job of attracting developers to the property, she said. There is a brownfield task force, she added, but officials decided to focus more on South Norwalk than on the Main Avenue property.

She said she was gratified to meet so many people as she fought the project.

“They all joined together. It shows you can’t forget what Margaret Mead said: ‘Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’”

She said there would be fundraisers to try to repay residents of Silvermine and Rolling Ridge the $20,000 they have put out to fight the application. Silvermine residents paid for a traffic anaylsis, she said, while Rolling Ridge paid for an attorney.

“But it’s nothing like the amount of money BJs spent,” she said.

A public meeting on the application scheduled for Thursday night has been canceled.

Norwalk BJs 076


28 responses to “BJ’s withdraws application for 272-280 Main Ave. – for now”

  1. Bruce Kimmel

    This should be a warning to other corporations. They should never, ever take the residents of a community or an entire city for granted. Next time, whoever wants to build a major project should hold meetings with the folks directly affected by whatever is being proposed.

  2. Harold Cobin

    It hardly sounds like this is over. They’re reviewing opponents’ concerns, not permanently withdrawing the application. H.F.C.

  3. Don’t Panic

    The public hearing should proceed so they can actually hear what those concerns are. This would be a valuable opportunity for the developers to begin the community outreach that has been so lacking and to learn what the concerns are when the pressure is off.

  4. EveT

    Finally, our decision makers are starting to listen to the concerns of ordinary citizens.

  5. M Allen

    It’s good news that BJ’s has reconsidered their application for this property. However, I hope the city works with BJ’s to find a suitable location. BJ’s has every right to find a place in Norwalk that fits both them and the community.
    Mr. Rilling and others can denounce the types of jobs that BJ’s and retailers like them provide, but Mr. Rilling should also consider that he has a core constituency that he is courting that would in fact benefit from the jobs that BJ’s would have provided. How does a candidate explain to those supporters at the lower-income, lower-skilled end of the spectrum that he is against jobs that copuld have provided them with a paycheck. Or does he believe that higher-skilled, higher-paying jobs are where these workers will find a job. There has to be room for everyone, not just those with fat paychecks who want to discourage companies like this from coming to our city out of some warped sense of doing good.

  6. EastNorwalkChick

    “We heard over and over again that people in Norwalk wanted good paying jobs and an affordable place to purchase food. Unfortunately there has been a significant amount of misinformation put forth by those not in favor of the development.”
    How tone deaf can they be? It’s not about not wanting a BJ’s here in Norwalk, it’s about too big of a building on too small of a parcel and the increase in traffic on that part of Main Street. Good grief.

  7. M.Mac

    I like how Bob Duff tweets out a statement. Like a good ole’ Bobby-come-lately. Give me a break. Let’s see where he stands when BJ’s amends the application and re submits it.

    Hats off to those who spoke out against this bloody awful project including front and center take no prisoners Mike Mushak!

    This is a great time for people to come forward with alternate uses. Don’t let up now, Diane Lauricella.

  8. Tim T

    Very sad news.. I hope the ones that pushed them away will be happy when its a strip club.

  9. Adam Silver

    Thanks to everyone who raised their voices whether attending community meetings, writing letters, signing a petition, et al, our hard work has paid off. This is a wakeup call for everyone to be more involved with issues in their community, and with regards to BJ’s, remain vigilant. Chances are somewhere down the road, they’ll be back with a different, smaller plan. However, even if they would reduce their size to the suggested limit of 10,000 sq. ft.(that’s a stretch!), putting a big box store in that location is just a bad idea. There is no overall economic development plan in the works from City Hall, unless you count big box stores, pawn shops, and massage parlors as “development.” Norwalk should be attracting growth industries with good paying jobs and a higher tax base than poorly paid retail workers. If only our Mayor had a vision for the future instead of making a quick buck. Remember that in November too.

  10. Tim T

    Adam Silver
    Another thing the people who support Rilling should remember in November as M Allen said

    Mr. Rilling should also consider that he has a core constituency that he is courting that would in fact benefit from the jobs that BJ’s would have provided. How does a candidate explain to those supporters at the lower-income, lower-skilled end of the spectrum that he is against jobs that copuld have provided them with a paycheck.

    I guess this show how concerned Rilling actually is with his supporters.

  11. M Allen

    I was obviously and quite vocally against this LOCATION, but not this business. But it is simply nauseating how the same people who will work to keep out companies that produce jobs at the lower end of the spectrum are the same people who fight tooth and nail for the work being done at NEON, SNCC and other similar organizations. They should be ashamed of themselves. Their hopes and wishes for higher paying jobs don’t pay the bills of these individuals without a job. But why should they care as long as those poor saps keep voting for the candidates who claim to be defending their interests. I hope to God that BJ’s comes up with a better plan that can’t be stopped. You’re right, this isn’t over.

  12. Diane C2

    Next time, whoever wants to build a major project should hold meetings with the folks directly affected by whatever is being proposed.

    @Mr. Kimmel, well said, but will likely continue to be ignored. CNNA has been asking zoning for years to refer applicants and prospective applicants to the appropriate neighborhood association(s) for discussion and review. Sadly, with this application, their attorney and representatives didn’t seek to engage us or other affected parties until after their former plan reviews and only several weeks before public hearings.

  13. Piberman

    Why did it take Messrs. Kimmel and Hempstead so very long to issue their objections one day before major expected protests at Thursday’s P&Z meeting ?
    Shabby election posturing by these “public servants”. Once leading from behind. We desperately need leaders in the Common Council, not Johonny come latelies.
    Why did it take City officials to see the light ? The P&Z stands embarrassed.
    Maybe we need every year an election year to get attention from our elected officials.
    At day’s end BJs is a major embarrassment for Norwalk’s governance. It took many months to see what would be obvious to one and all.

  14. Don’t Panic

    Zoning needs to move immediately to implement the overdue changes to the regs so that we are not arguing about them when the next application is before them.
    Tad Diesel and Frank Zullo should sit down and figure out if tbere is another site that would work for this project.
    Whatever constitutes the economic development team in City Hall should sit down and develop a list of viable businesses for this site and a plan to court them to Norwalk.

  15. eye on the ball

    Moccia supports the application withdrawl? Really? Is there not a quote here somwehere he made that he endorsed the project, what a month or so ago? Smart move by the ole boys club. Push it past November and hopefully the winds will be favorable if certain incumbents remain. Gotta give them credit at least someone is finally begining to think it through. There is no misinformation accept what is coming from you guys. Play straight and you will be treated straight. This community isnt myopic anymore. The folks care and they are awakenig. Listen, for the hard of hearing, no one, no one has ever said BJ’s was not welcomed. Lets repeat that again for the deaf and blind. “NO ONE” ever said BJ’s or any other reasonable business isnt welcomed here. There are other locations that are much more suited for this retail establishment. Glover ave has been mentioned. Its not the store its the location. Resubmiting, with a better location would most likely pass with a breeze, given all the efforts and legal costs expended thus far on a such lame choice of locations, many probably will be receptive to wiser planning and better location for this establishment. Hopefully it sinks in and a better location is submitted. If its just a political tactic, guys heads up, eh, it will FAIL. Save the dough on legal and go get a good location for your store. They are out there. lOOk.

  16. M Allen

    @eye on the ball – I think you should listen to what many of the anti-BJ’s crowd were in fact saying, including all of the candidates for Mayor (except maybe Garfunkel, who didn’t say much of anything). Yes, location was the main argument as traffic was the obvious the obvious issue everyone could hang their hat on. Size of the property was also a concern, but let’s all be honest, if that parcel was double the size, triple the size, the fact is the traffic at that location on Main Avenue was not going to be mitigated by the minor modifications to the roadway in front of the store. But time and again it was referenced that BJ’s brings low-paying, part-time jobs with little to no benefits. Thus they were being demonized for their business practices: big, bad business out to milk Norwalk’s consumers at the cost of their employees. On top of that, warehouse clubs, along with many other retailers do not generate sufficient property tax revenue. How many times was the argument raised that Norwalk doesn’t need anymore big box stores, yet nobody was able to point out better options that we were letting go by the wayside. It was, and will continue to be ridiculous. It’s the same crown who attempts to block everything from Super 7 to the Merritt Parkway interchange modifications.

  17. dianelauricella

    Actually, if anyone wants to build anything, they should first read important professional documents like the Plan of Conservation and Development, and all the Traffic studies that Norwalk Taxpayers paid for over the years that were gathering dust. And on and on.

    In addition, we have discovered a disturbing trend of key senior land use and administration officials who have either withheld important documents from the Zoning Commission and others or claimed that these important documents “did not apply in this case”…Maybe we can finally get the Council Personnel Committee to stop cancelling meetings and take up this egregious dereliction of duties…

    At the last Mayor’s Neighborhood Improvement meeting(an ironic title in this case)the Mayor actually asked myself and another citizen to help him find the Main Avenue traffic study in question and said he did not have it!!?? You just can’t make this stuff up….we decided that he should ask the very staff that our tax dollars paid for to help him find his way….More later.

  18. Suzanne

    M Allen, I think there is a pendulum swing for reasons to not have a BJ’s at that location and you have mentioned some. Most people have expressed a desire for the business just not there. And, yes, the pendulum keeps swinging, there are those who do not believe in the value of big box to the community – they likewise have a point with which we can agree or disagree. Everyone gets to express their legitimate opinions throughout the scope of such a proposal. I, for one, am glad people are engaged enough to do it. This was not a “slam dunk” because of constituency participation. That’s the pendulum swinging to its highest point.

  19. M Allen

    Suzanne, my point is that some people will use whatever tool is at their disposal in order to further their social agenda. It is why I always tried to separate my remarks regarding this single property, from those who were more generally out to stop another big box store from coming to Norwalk. If traffic didn’t do it I’m sure they would have been happy to look for a spotted salamander somewhere on the lot and go the environmental route. Noise pollution, light pollution, sound pollution. Whatever gets the job done. I don’t abide by those tactics. You choose to live next to the train tracks, you’re likely going to hear some trains pass by.
    Anyway, we’ll see what happens. I do hope BJ’s looks at this and says, we just need a better piece of property. And I hope another developer looks at this property and decides it would be a good place for something that fits. But this is only the continuation of a battle that is ongoing in Norwalk as parts of the city continue to evolve. Main Ave, Wesport Ave and Connecticut Ave will get more commercial. They just will. And they should. We need to do a better job at balancing those areas with places like downtown Norwalk that could be so much more than what it is. Likewise, other parts of Norwalk that should never become commercialized. This battle will never end. Only the names will change.

  20. If Norwalk wants to attract younger, more professional adults into our community, do we honestly think that by bringing more retail (especially big box stores) in here is going to do it?!? By building big-box/mall type endeavors, the low-paying, low/non-educational requirements for these types of businesses will attract just those people. Then, Norwalk will be required FURTHER to house, feed, educate, take care of their children and with the atrocity called Obamacarelessness – we will now be able to cover their insurance…but at whose expense?

  21. Renton

    Love how the people in the Condo complex(s) on Aiken Street are complaining about car traffic, because you guys aren’t contributing to it all at! Grew up off of West Rocks and remember when you guys weren’t around. The traffic was much lighter. STOP BEING HYPOCRITES.

  22. D(ysfunctional)TC

    @Renton. Spot on. And what is with the big pit they are digging out in front on Aiken? I guess its ok in their front yard, but NIMBY.

  23. Herb Eaversmels

    @Renton – I remember when All Saints was an Airport and West Rocks was a dirt road. I used to pick apples with my Dad where Notre Dame is now. My best friend Don lived where the Merritt 7 buildings currently stand. So I’ve been here longer than you and have seen a lot of development. Some made sense, some did not. This BJ’s would have fallen under the “Did Not” category. My advise to you is move out of your parents house and live on your own for a while. Then you will appreciate how the world really works.

    @DTC – The development in front of Winnipauk and Rolling Ridge is a seperate issue. That development is withing the P&Z boundaries. No variance request, no special permits, No complaints…

    Also, guess who was the attorney that pushed Rolling Ridge, Winnipauk and Sunrise Hill through…Frank Zullo. See the pattern? @Renton and DTC – Why don’t you thank him for that…

  24. D(ysfunctional)TC

    @Herbsmel. I would go fishing where Merritt7 is now. The river wasn’t as straight then and would roll slower, staying warmer, and support different kinds of fish that you couldn’t find after they built them. All Development has consequences and unhappy parties no matter what happens. Hopefully BJs can make it work somewhere even if this lot seemed a bit of a stretch. They have a ton of ads for job postings on the various websites. Not entry level either like some would have you believe.

  25. Oldtimer

    Who believes the decision to withdraw the application now was motivated by concerns BJ’s would become an issue in Moccia’s campaign, with the understanding they could re-apply and get their permit right after the election ?

  26. Don’t Panic

    I think something that was going to come out at the public hearing is what prompted this withdrawal. Somebody doing background research on behalf of the opposition found something that nobody wants made public. JMHO.

  27. Piberman

    Why did Mr Kimmel wait until BJs pulled its application before registering his own public protest ? Why did he wait these many months ? Sounds like election year grandstanding ? Does Mr Kimmel have a plan to make P&Z more responsible ? Or just make a gratuitous criticism ?

  28. Herb Eaversmels

    @piberman-what you just accurately described is a “Blister”. They show up after the work is done. Can’t wait until November…

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