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Hempstead (R-At Large) and Jerry Petrini (R-District D) issued a letter to the editor calling for the application to be withdrawn.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“Zullo should have recognized the level of community opposition to the application and should have had it withdrawn much earlier,” he said.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.