The proposal to move the Westport outlet of a national pharmacy chain to a site just over the Fairfield border in the Southport section of that town is getting a chilly reception from neighbors there.
"Go away," in a nutshell, was the reaction of Southport neighbors to the plan to build the new Walgreen's on a site comprising 3553-3571 Post Road and 886 Kings Highway West in Southport.
The pharmacy is currently located at 1870 Post Road East in Westport.
Many of those on hand expressed opposition to the proposed construction on land bordered on one side by a consignment shop and on the other side by a soon-to-be-built Garelick & Herbs gourmet food store, another business planning to relocate to Fairfield from Westport.
The new Walgreen's would face the Post Road, but a residential neighborhood on Kings Highway West is behind the proposed building.
Some of the loudest opponents at the meeting declined to give their names, and one man referred to former Fairfield Selectman Sherri Steeneck, principal in the LLC that owns the four lots comprising the parcel, as a "bimbo."
"We will not give up our property values. We will not give up our neighborhood. We will not give up our community," Kings Highway West resident Suzanne Marziotti told John Knuff, the lawyer representing the developer.
Marziotti said traffic is already bad in the neighborhood, and because of that it's dangerous for her to go out and get her mail in the morning.
"Don't tell me, don't tell us, this is not going to increase our traffic," she said. "They're not here to listen to us."
William Staeger bought his house on Kings Highway West in Southport a year ago for $1.175 million.
"I wouldn't have bought the house, and I'm a major taxpayer in this town, if I had any knowledge the town of Fairfield and the town of Southport would be willing to change residential zones at the drop of a hat," Staeger said. "It's decidedly insulting for those of us who work our ass off ... You will not see approval from me. It's criminal in my opinion."
Staeger said if the project wins zoning approval, he will "personally sue the town and Walgreen's and the property owner. Go away."
One of the lots in the parcel is zoned for designed commercial use, another is light industrial and the other two are designated residential. The application filed asks the Town Plan and Zoning Commission to approve a zone change to make all the land designed commercial, as well as a special permit, for the project. A TPZ hearing on the application has not yet been set and Knuff said it likely won't be until July or August.
Knuff said he would let Walgreen's know about the vehement objections by neighbors to the proposal. He said it was possible that an entrance-only driveway planned for Kings Highway West could be eliminated, but said he doesn't see the pharmacy chain eliminating a drive-through window in the plans.
"This is the entrance into Southport," said Gaylord Meyer, a Fairfield Representative Town Meeting member from District 1. "Parts of it are in a historic district."
She called the proposed 9,000-square-foot building "huge."
"I know you have to prove a hardship," she said. "Look at the historic homes along the back side ... I hear nothing but angry people right now."
An applicant does not have to prove a hardship to win a zone change from Fairfield's TPZ.
"We don't want it," another neighbor said. "We don't want the zone change from residential to commercial."
Many in the audience expressed doubts that Knuff would convey their feelings to Walgreen's.
"You're not writing anything down," one man said.