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2009-02-28
Brookfield, CT. Costco Withdraws Store Plans Under Heavy Criticism

On December 28, 2008, Sprawl-Busters reported that residents in Brookfield, Connecticut had organized to block the construction of a 158,000 s.f. Costco warehouse store on 37 acres known locally as "the cornfield." The owner of this land, the Berkshire Industrial Corporation, has told town officials that farming "disappeared in the '70s with the development of the Route 7 corridor," and that they never planned on having a long-term agricultural use for the parcel. Brookfield is a small community (population roughly 16,500). Many of the historic structures in town have been preserved and in 1991 most buildings in Brookfield Center's Historic District were named to the National Register of Historic Places. The giant retailer Costco currently has a store on Federal Road in Brookfield, but wants to relocate to a bigger store across Junction Road (Route 133). Brookfield First opposes Costco for three reasons: 1) Home real estate values in traffic feeding areas will drop from any megastore on the site; 2) Traffic problems, stress and accidents will sky-rocket; 3) Common sense says: Do not put a megastore across a two lane road from two large churches with schools. Especially when the same road is the major in and out path for school buses carrying kids and home owners going back and forth to work. The proposed move to Junction Road appears to need special exceptions from normal land use regulations. According to the Danbury News Times, Costco brought their application first to the Inland Wetlands Commission, but withdrew it in January of 2008. They returned to Inland Wetlands in February of 2008 with modified plans that moved their store farther back from the Still River and added water detention ponds. Despite a strong showing of opposition to the plan by Brookfield First, the Commission voted in July of 2008 to unanimously approve the Costco plan. In November, 2008 the plan was presented to the town's Zoning Commission. At the January, 2009 Zoning Commission hearing, Brookfield First turned out hundreds of residents against Costco. A Traffic Impact and Access Study was prepared for Costco. Not surprisingly, the study estimated tax revenue to Brookfield would increase by $900,000, and any traffic increase would be marginal. This week, Costco's house of cards collapsed. The Danbury News Times reports that on February 26th, Costco submitted a letter withdrawing its application. The letter was introduced at the Zoning Commission hearing. "Costco is reconsidering all of its options for future operations in the Brookfield area," said the lawyer representing Costco in the letter to the Commission. Residents were thrilled with the pull out -- but given Costco's in-and-out behavior over the past eight months, no one is celebrating yet. In a communication to Sprawl-Busters, Brookfield First compared the recent actions to a sporting event. "In a last minute play," the group wrote, "Team Costco chose to forfeit the game rather than suffer a bruising defeat in a definitive decision by the Zoning Commission to deny their application. To be sure, Team Costco will return sooner or later in Game 2 with a revised Zoning Application to address some of the myriad of deficiencies in Version 1 of their severely flawed application. The bottom line is that the corporation finally realized that their initial proposal was seriously flawed, and put them at financial risk of a battle. But they will be back, because Costco and our Lower Selectmen are tone-deaf when it comes to hearing what local citizens want." The group adds, "It will be curious to now see which of our esteemed Selectmen and Zoning Commissioners will fervently work to continue to sponsor Costco's and the property owner's campaign to develop the Cornfield Property -- or work to create feasible alternatives. It is incumbent upon our Selectmen to make this work at an appropriate alternative site to create a win-win situation for Costco and the community. Will they?" Brookfield First warns residents not to be fooled. "Be ready for Game 2. It's coming sooner than you think."


What you can do: The owner of the cornfield has said that the town should be pleased to have Costco as an applicant. "They will spend the money and do it right. The Costco project, as presented, is a very beneficial project for the town of Brookfield." It's certainly beneficial for the landowner. But that's millions of dollars in profits talking. Brookfield First's argument continues: "Planning for the growth of our town has been haphazard at best, and generally influenced by local politicians who cater to the special interests of their friends, family and business associates connected with the commercial and residential real estate industry, a private water company and other businesses that support these constituencies. Costco, in complete disregard for local public opinion and the best interest of the community and its local customers, is seeking to exploit the support of the local politicians and special interest groups, and is proposing to build a larger big-box super store with liquor retail on one of the last remaining historic farm properties in our town thereby destroying the rural character of our community and creating traffic congestion of epic proportions. Don't be fooled! Don't let Brookfield's rural character be forever ruined by a major shopping center in our backyard." Readers are urged to contact Brookfield's First Selectman, Robert Silvaggi at: firstselectman@brookfield.org with the following message: "Dear Selectman Silvaggi, It's great news that Costco has pulled the plug on its huge relocation store in Brookfield. But they are not gone. I urge you to oppose the frivolous relocation of Costco to the cornfield. This scale project is totally incompatible with the small town character of Brookfield. While Costco may consider this as a way to gain market share in Brookfield, their project does not mean more jobs or revenue, because they will largely draw their expanded sales from existing merchants, adding little or no value economically to Brookfield. They will also leave you with an empty 'ghost box' store on Federal Road. The community gets more traffic, the homes nearby will suffer a decline in value. That's all you will get. Moving this store a few miles is wasteful of land and resources, and inharmonious with other land uses in the area. I hope you will use this break in the action to sit down with Costco representatives, and urge them to drop their plans for Junction Road. At the same time, Brookfield should now pass an ordinance limited the size of retail stores to 75,000 s.f. -- which is more than adequate for the character and size of your town."










 
 
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