Brooklyn, CT. Court Finally Allows A Wal-Mart To Grow In Brooklyn
This week, after almost three years of delay by anti-Wal-Mart activists, a Connecticut judge has given Wal-Mart a green light to build in Brooklyn,Connecticut. Wal-Mart officials told the Norwich Bulletin they will begin construction of the store in the spring of 2012.
On October 26, 2008, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart had filed to build a 162,000 s.f superstore in the small community of Brooklyn, Connecticut, a community that describes itself as "a town in flux." If Wal-Mart thought it would walk into town and set up shop, they seriously misjudged the stamina of local residents who wanted nothing to do with the project.
This small community of roughly 7,900 people likes to say it is located in Northeastern Connecticut, the "Quiet Corner" of the state. But things are not quiet any more in Brooklyn. The town website's video tour of Brooklyn is full of bucholic, pastoral scenes of open fields, red barns, and white wooden fences. But the town says it has become one of the fastest-growing rural communities in the region. However everything is relative. In 2007, Brooklyn only had 1,205 more people than it had 17 years earlier. That's an average of 6 new people a month arriving in town. The community welcomes visitors to "our little world in Eastern Connecticut, but it's not so little anymore is it?"
Town officials say Brooklyn has "a rural look," but it also has "a modern day commerce center" on Route 6, close to Route 395. It only took a few hours after the radio announced that a Wal-Mart was coming for residents to sound the alarm. "As of October 22nd, the residents of Brooklyn were informed via WINY that a Wal-Mart would be coming to town, abutting a wetland area," one resident wrote to Sprawl-Busters in 2008. "Apparently a zoning committee to fight this had been formed and mysteriously disbanded. We are gathering info and preparing to fight." Another resident wrote: "Wal-Mart has just announced through a press release that they will be destroying our beautiful, rural town. We feel paralyzed...I have contacted many and I know we have a large group to fight this."
Residents fought this project all the way to the Appellate Court level, which this week decided not to hear the lower court appeal. The town's attorney told the Bulletin: "I'm not aware that there's any further remedy available to them. That should end it." The Putnam Superior Court was the first venue for the applea of the Inland Wetland Commission decision to approve the plan. Wal-Mart would only say it was "pleased that the court did not...allow it to go on."
A pro-big box group called "Welcome Walmart" had fronted for the giant retailer. "It was pretty obvious from the beginning that (the plaintiffs) weren't going to win it," apokesman for Welcome Wal-Mart told the Bulletin, "but they've been able to stall it for a while." In fact, the group Brooklyn for Sensible Growth has cost Wal-Mart at least $240 million in lost sales because of the three year delay in this store opening.
Lisa Arends, one of the plaintiffs who brought the wetlands appeal, called the court's decision a "sad day" for Brooklyn. "The harmful consequences of this sprawl agenda with its accompanying traffic and pollution in our quiet town will forever negatively impact our rural, agricultural and historic quality of life in Brooklyn."
What you can do: When this project was first announced, then First Selectman Roger Engle admitted that Brooklyn was at a critical crossroads, "consistently striving to maintain it's rural charisma and atmosphere while keeping an eye to the future."
The town's Economic Development Commission's 2007 goals included a statement that the town should "Maintain and encourage the growth of business on Route 6 both retail and commercial." But a project of this scale is way beyond the demographic needs of little Brooklyn -- no matter how fast if grows over the next twenty years.
The Brooklyn retail trade area already has a Wal-Mart 10 miles away in Putnam, Connecticut, plus a supercenter 14 miles away in North Windham, and another supercenter 14 miles away in Lisbon. Town officials in Brooklyn left local taxpayers and homeowners out of the loop on this new Wal-Mart superstore. A town -- even a growing town -- with only 7,900 people does not warrant a huge superstore nearly the size of three football fields -- especially with existing Wal-Mart superstores in North Windham and Lisbon. The town of Brooklyn needs to carefully balance its "rural charisma" with suburban sprawl. You can't buy small town quality of life on any Wal-Mart shelf, but once they take it from you, you can't get it back at any price.
The citizens who created Brooklyn for Sensible Growth took on not only the world's largest retailer, but the good old boys who run Town Hall. These residents stopped China Mart far longer than most locals ever thought they would, and they scraped together what little resources they could to fight the monied elites and power brokers in little Brooklyn.
In the film "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington," the lead character (played by Jimmy Stewart) is asked at one point: "This has been a tough battle, hasn't it?" To which Congressman Smith replies, "The tough battles are the only ones worth fighting." Frank Capra would have loved the citizens who took on a tough battle in Brooklyn.