NORWALK, Conn. – Sally Dodd had never been to government meetings before she found out a BJ’s Wholesale Club might go up next to her Norwalk condominium. She’s now hooked.
“It is so interesting,” she said. “It really raises the hair on my head when these arguments start coming up. Oh my god – wonderful.”
Dodd, a board member of the Rolling Ridge Condo Association, was one of five people speaking to a reporter Friday morning to try to draw people to Thursday’s Norwalk Zoning Commission public hearing on the application to put a BJ’s Wholesale Club at 272-280 Main Ave.
“We are doing our best in a David-vs.-Goliath attempt to show how this building does not meet the standards and requirements of a Zoning Commission special permit,” said Diane Lauricella, a community activist and a member of the ad hoc committee Save Cranbury. “We will present to the commission and the public that almost all of the 13 standards are violated by this application.”
Dodd and two of the others would be looking down at the store’s roof when they go outside their homes. Common Councilwoman Anna Duleep said BJ’s customers from out of town would drive past her Silvermine home in an effort to avoid traffic.
Lauricella said the small group at the press conference represented a coalition of four neighborhood condominium associations and two neighborhood associations. Dodd said she had a petition with almost 500 signatures – and that was just from Rolling Ridge residents. There are other petitions submitted to the Zoning Commission, she said.
Lauricella said the group isn’t against big box stores in general.
“We know that the owner has invested money, but for some reason he was misled into believing that this was a slam dunk by the attorneys that represent him and by the staff,” she said.
Lauricella said the group has been working for two months. She cited traffic studies that Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak has been drawing attention to with the arguments that thrill Dodd – the Norwalk Transportation Plan and the Westport-North Main Corridor Study.
“We feel a lot of this could have been avoided had the city of Norwalk staff, including the corporation counsel, Mr. Maslan, and the Zoning Commission staff and the Planning Commission staff done their due diligence and properly advised the commissioners that this project is not in compliance with the traffic study done … that did not recommend that this kind of project be built in such a tiny parcel on such a busy road,” Lauricella said. “In addition, please do not be fooled when the applicant’s experts and attorney keep advising the Zoning Commission is only advisory — it’s spin of gold and fairy dust. It is a guidance document but it is based upon many viable professional reports.”
Dodd is new to all of this, but she’s optimistic the development can be stopped.
“I have hope,” she said, explaining that BJ’s had lost a Zoning Board of Appeals decision due to neighborhood protests.
“We’re working very hard … If it’s meant to be, I guess it’s meant to be,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to prevent it.”
The Zoning Commission special meeting and public hearing on the BJ’s application is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, in Concert Hall.