Norwalk BJ’s neighbors want help, ask public to attend meeting

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.


24 responses to “Norwalk BJ’s neighbors want help, ask public to attend meeting”

  1. Tim T

    I will try to attend, however I will speak in favor of BJ’s as most of Norwalk is in favor of this improvement..

  2. Lifelong Teacher

    Don’t be fooled. This is no improvement. BJs in this location will be detrimental to traffic and safety, and an environmental nightmare. Property values for the surrounding neighborhoods will plummet. Noise, air, and light pollution will get much worse than they are now.

    I cannot imagine why anyone, other than the developers and their attorneys, would be in favor of it.

  3. EastNorwalkChick

    Tim, many of us are not against having a BJ’s in Norwalk, it’s the location of it that we are against.

  4. Suzanne

    I love this. It is constituency participation in the best sense. It requires that those appointed and elected to our city government listen and hear what the taxpayers are saying about a project to which they object. And to act in their best interest. Activism is a tried and true resource for any citizen in America – and these people are participating in it. Yay! Now if only these same people and thousands of other qualified Norwalk citizens would VOTE……

  5. jo.b

    I would love to sign this petition. We live off Silvermine Avenue and plan to attend the meeting. James Street (which we don’t live on, but is is a very pretty road) already gets a lot of through trafic, despite the speed bumps. What’s next, traffic lights? What kind of “jobs” is BJ’s going to offer? Most of the larger retail establishments regularly solicit hourly help.You can find these jobs offered a quarter of a mile away at Stop & Shop, Bob’s and the big-box wine store that recently opened. And those aren’t the jobs that frustrated middle-class professionals want and need. Thanks for your coverage of this, Nancy, and thanks to Sally Dodd for being such an involved citizen.

  6. M.Mac

    It will interesting to see 1. how many people show up (We are def going) 2. If either Mayoral candidate shows up or any council people 3. If this has any impact on Attorney Zullo (who seems to wield a lot of power) 4. and if ultimately this public hearing has any swagger or swaying/staying power and can resonate with those making the pitch for BJ’s?

    It would be nice to see, from perhaps Mr Mushak or other locals, some alternate ideas or uses for this 5 acre tract of land? And not bike lanes. Something sustainable/Usable/taxable. Additionally, will an alternate use also attract large numbers of people and affect traffic? Cause then it’s just a big old NIMBY.

    Sadly, I believe that the money involved here far outweighs what we are trying to accomplish as citizens of a town that we live and pay taxes in. Poko, Seligson, the Putnam/Reed St 95/7 sham are just 3 ‘little’ examples.

  7. EveT

    I keep wondering if it’s a conflict of interest for Frank Zullo to be the head of the First Taxing District Commission and also be privately representing the BJ’s developer. If it isn’t a conflict of interest under law or under the city charter, shouldn’t it be? It seems unethical.

  8. Suzanne

    M. Mac, one of the writers on another thread concerning this issue suggested a grocery store, such as Trader Joe’s, because the nearby assisted living residents had to gather in shuttle buses to do their grocery shopping. With the pharmacy not far away, this seemed like a good idea and, in addition, would appeal to a large segment of the population at a lower scale than a BJ’s. I still don’t understand why there hasn’t been more research done into an alternative occupant for the site or, if there has been, why this has not been shared by the City Council.

  9. M.Mac

    @Suzanne Trader Joe’s would be great but would you’d be looking at roughly the same amount of people going through there on a weekend, perhaps more? Anyone could just drop in as they pass it as opposed to having to be a member of BJ’s. Additionally, would Trader Joe’s have an interest in this location? They seem to be very selective about where they expand. Bottom line: that is a great suggestion.

  10. Diane C2

    EveT – outstanding point, especially if Main Ave is 1st District Water

  11. Suzanne

    M. Mac, This is just one of the alternatives I have read about in contributions by thread writers. Others have been some kind of “light” industry, space for a call center or computer based activity, maybe an internet business, etc. The TJ’s I go to most frequently do get traffic but not at the capacities being described by the traffic study. They do not require special turn lanes to my knowledge and parking requirements don’t seem to be huge (I am wondering if this is because the turnover at such a comparatively small grocery is so fast.) Anyway, I guess the point is at this juncture is why the Commission has not researched other, more appropriate options to this BJ’s. Like many others, I am not opposed to a BJ’s and can think of at least one other, better, location for one and wonder why other locations are now being considered as well. It feels “funny” in that it seems like there is greater interest by those who are supposed to be representing Norwalk in supporting the BJ’s factor rather than the citizens who are all making excellent points (along with Mr. Mushak) against it. Why?

  12. Suzanne

    Without the capacity to edit, the above comment should read “…locations are NOT being considered as well.” Apologies.

  13. Anna Duleep

    @jo.b: If you email me your contact info, I can get that petition to you to sign ([email protected]).

    I will be at both meetings this week (NASH on Mon and the public hearing on Thurs). I know at least one new candidate for Common Council (Nick Sacchinelli)has been researching the issue and commenting on his FB page. I cannot speak for him, but think it is likely he will attend the public hearing.

    -Councilwoman Anna Duleep

  14. Herb Eaversmels

    The owner of this site does not have any interst in making Norwalk a better place. During a presentation last week to Norwalk residents Mr. Gurevich (property owner) made repeated threats to the residents what he would do on this site if his plan was not approved. One of the threats was opening a 50,000 square foot Strip Club instead. When Mr. Gurevich was asked how he would react if BJ’s were to open near his Westport home, he made it clear that he would not allow it. He and Attorney Zullo went on to characterized Norwalk as a “Dying town” and that no developer wants to build in Norwalk. They said we should be thankful. For BJ’s this is quite the opposite! BJ’s said they have been looking to build in Norwalk for 20 years. BJ’s also said they have few options in lower Fairfield County. Also, Attorney Zullo keeps saying BJ’S will clean up a contaminated site that has been a scar on the city. Not true, what he did not tell you is the site has already been cleaned and anyone can develop it now. So, with thes facts in hand, why not demand the infrastructure improvements necessary to support BJ’s rather than accepting the bare minimum? Let’s do the right thing for Norwalk, demand the proper infrastructure from the developer and BJ’S or find an alternative site.

  15. Suzanne

    Mr. Eaversmels, Excellent information. The developer is acting like most developers do, I am afraid. They want their money and they don’t care what happens in terms of the context. It is a rare developer who examines the appropriateness of building out a site based on existing or planned neighborhood infrastructure. The problem I see is that BJ’s, based upon their business model, cannot possibly accommodate such a small site without a negative impact on the neighborhood and the existing traffic corridor. I don’t know what the “proper infrastructure” would be to mitigate that. My hope is that BJ’s is allowed to develop in a more feasible site, like at the empty 95/7 location where development is at a stand still and financing vague. That the developer is threatening the populace with a strip club? Well, just try getting that through the planning and zoning process. Norwalk needs rejuvenation not a Pottersville.

  16. Tim T

    Herb Eaversmels
    Please provide a link to the minutes of the meeting where you claim these comment were made. It seems you are the only ones that heard this…HUMMMMM

  17. Tim T

    It seems the only ones against this improvement to a 20 year vacant site are 5 anonymous posters on the internet and Mike Mushak .
    I thought Mike Mushak was kick off zoning…when will he be gone so we don’t have to be subject to his long winded ramblings and obsession with this matter.
    Mike have you considered getting a hobby?

  18. Herb Eaversmels

    @Tim T. Anonymous? Why don’t you tell us your whole name? You have mine. Is it Tebow? Anyway, ask Zullo for the minutes. He has them. As a matter of fact, the meeting was recorded by his team. I bet he will not let you near it since there was a lot of cringe-worthy quotes from his side. It will confirm everything I wrote too.

  19. Herb Eaversmels

    The last election was decided by 750 votes. The condo’s effected have 3 time that amount in potential voters alone. BTW- they are against BJ’S at that location. Moccia’s political career is on the block it seems. Maybe it was a good thing this came up when it did…

  20. EastNorwalkChick

    Mr. Eaversmels, thank you for your input, karma works in weird ways, maybe this is a good thing that this has come up when it did….let’s hope the residents effected by this show up at the polls.

  21. Tim T

    Herb Eaversmels
    So in other words the minutes of the meeting as you quote them do not exist. If I were asked to provide something I quoted I would be happy to shove it in the oppositions face..

  22. Tim T

    Herb Eaversmels
    I just checked and don’t see any such converstion


    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Tim T and Herb Eaversmels

      Editor’s note: You won’t find minutes on the city website because it was not a city meeting. It was an invitation-only meeting called by the pro-BJ’s folks and involved the property owner, the attorney and other hand-picked guests, including neighbors. We will have more on this.

  23. Tim T

    Oh I thought it was a zoning meeting…
    thanks Mark

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