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Attorney John W. Knuff shares information about a site plan application for a proposed Branford Aldi supermarket with residents from abutting Home Place, including Alana Abbott and her daughter, Helene (both at right) on Jan. 9. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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On the same night he received permission to delay the evening's highly anticipated public hearing, an attorney for the company that wants to bring an Aldi supermarket to Branford worked quickly to meet with concerned neighbors, and quell a rumor that had many of them concerned their dead-end abutting road was going to be turned into a through street and bring in unwanted traffic, including commercial trucks.
Attorney John W. Knuff (Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff, Milford) at first drew some ire on Jan. 9, after the Inland Wetland Commission (IWC) granted his procedural request to delay the night's scheduled public hearing until February. But as the IWC and Knuff soon learned, those in a crowd of about 25 residents who came out for the hearing did not want to wait any longer to voice their concerns. In response, Knuff offered an impromptu question and answer session for anyone who wanted to speak with him outside the meeting's doors.
"We have nothing to hide," Knuff told Zip06/The Sound.
About a dozen residents took up Knuff's offer, gathering with him in a conference room to hear more about plans for the 1151 West Main Street site. Sound Development Group LLC (Trumbull) is proposing to build a new 19,000 square foot Aldi supermarket and a new Chase Bank building of approximately 3,000 square feet as well as associated parking for both businesses.
The proposed development is located at a point on West Main Street that's directly along Route 1 and across from I-95 Exit 53. Some neighboring businesses are CVS/Pharmacy on Short Beach Road and the Branhaven Plaza stores, including a Big Y Supermarket (1060 West Main St.).
"[Aldi] is a quarter to a fifth the size of typical grocery store. It's owned by the same company as Trader Joe's," said Knuff, adding that the West Main Street parcel is "...a huge piece of property for such a small development."
Home Place dead-ends at the back of the property. Neighbors said they were worried that their road was going to be turned into a through street, pointing out that would also impact wetlands at the back of the property.
On Jan. 9, Knuff told them that no such road is in the site plan application. In fact, the plan calls for making improvements to that particular wetlands area on the parcel, he said. The plan does call for filling "unconnected" wetlands on the property closer to West Main Street, Knuff added.
"All the area in the back is remaining as it is; in fact, [the developer will be] creating some additional wetlands to mitigate for some of the work we're doing up in the front of the property," Knuff said.
Showing them a copy of the site plan application filed at Town Hall, Knuff pointed out three abutting parcels, including the area incorporating Home Place.
"So we're not doing anything on these three parcels," he said. "Everything [we're doing] is up along West Main Street and by the railroad."
Home Place resident Alana Abbott and her young daughter, Helene, were relieved to learn their street wouldn't be altered by the plan and that wetlands at the back of the site would remain intact. So was their neighbor, Hillary Mendillo. Most of the neighbors agreed the rumor likely started due to the location of a required public hearing notification signboard, similar to one posted on West Main Street, that was posted on Home Place.
"The rumor was they were trying to make our road a through street," said Abbott.
"That's why we were all fired up in the [IWC] meeting when they said 'We're going to delay this,'" said Mendillo.
On Jan. 9, the IWC also set a date and time for a site walk of the 1151 West Main St. property. The information gathering walk, which the public can attend, will take place on Saturday, Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. As of press time, the IWC was set to take up the application's public hearing at its February meeting. Currently, the commission is scheduled to meet Thurs. Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Community House, 46 Church St.
Home Place resident and mom Kory Evasick lives on property directly bordering the site. She said she was glad to hear about the dead-end remaining intact but also put in a request, through Knuff, to have the developer consider clearing invasive species from the wetlands area that would remain, as well as potentially mitigating its mosquito population. Evasick told Zip06/The Sound she will also reach out to Knuff to learn more about what's involved in developing the property.
"I want to talk to him one more time," Evasick said. "It sounds like a lot of work being done in my backyard."
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