A group of residents from Stony Creek, including some leaders in the Democratic party, are banding together to fight a potential Costco in Branford.
A discussion of Costco took place at the Stony Creek Association meeting, and the issue was raised following a lengthy discussion on the groups fight against the Puppet House. The group is considering forming a subcommittee on Costco, and some of its members, notably Democratic RTM member Josh Brooks, spoke against the development, which has not been formally proposed yet.
In the audience was a group, led by Democrat and former town attorney Penny Bellamy, that had met earlier in the day and is looking to grow in opposition to the proposal. Bellamy is best known for her role as town attorney for Unk DaRos when the town took the Tabor property by eminent domain, a move that courts would rule was illegal and would cost Branford taxpayers over 18 million dollars and over a decade in legal battles.
Last week, an email initially sent out by Bellamy made the rounds among the Branford Democratic party, which included a document entitled “10 Reasons Costco Doesn’t Belong in Branford” and a press release from the failed Andrew Campbell campaign for first selectman in 2013 that pushed for development at exit 53 over exit 56.
Campbell lost to Jamie Cosgrove in a campaign where Costco was a significant talking point.
Also speaking against Costco were Democratic RTM members Josh Brooks and Peter Hentschel. Brooks is also on the Board of the Stony Creek Association.
The Costco proposal is not new, nor is it the first time such a proposal has been made in Branford. In the last few years alone, former first selectman Unk DaRos, a Democrat, pushed Costco to another location just off exit 56, to what is known as the Bittersweet property. Interestingly, despite that proposal getting further than the current one, neither Bellamy nor the SCA organized against it.
The list, “10 Reasons Costco Doesn’t Belong in Branford,” which was written by resident Kate Galambos, was emailed to town officials in January, but largely ignored as much as the information is taken out of context or is simply false. Some of the sources of information include the Democratic propaganda site Branford Eagle, which has routinely published inaccurate information on the Costco topic and produced false articles on Cosgrove. At one point, the Eagle published false plans of the proposed development without confirming it with the developers; the developers would later state the plan should be discarded.
On another point, the list references the Eagle in stating that Charlie Weber, who owns some of the impacted property, is an “old friend” of the Cosgrove family, and implies that this raises issue with the development. The document, and the Eagle, fails to mention that Costco had plans to go to the Cooke property well before Cosgrove was even on the Board of Selectmen, and well before he became first selectman.
The remainder of the issues are generally an attack on Costco, stating that it will hurt the economy, the jobs are part time and pay minimum wage. Interestingly, Costco is well known nationally as having one of the highest wages and benefits for such a warehouse club.
Galambos, who wrote the list, spoke at the meeting. She stated that while she lives on the other side of town, the Costco would impact her ride to Guilford if it was built. When she spoke, she was given an ovation by the audience at the SCA meeting.
At one point, a resident compared their fight against Costco to the fight against Broadwater. “We could stop a pipe through Stony Creek,” she said. “We can certainly stop Costco.”
‘Where is Kiki Kennedy when you need her?” responded Dan Bullard, who heads up the SCA. Kennedy, wife of current state senator Ted Kennedy Jr., played a key role in the Broadwater fight.
Where local representatives stand on Costco is unclear. Kennedy and state representative Sean Scanlon have said little on the topic, and state Representative Lonnie Reed has stated she is not opposed to it during the last election, but the proposed Costco is not in her district.
What has been raised for the last few years is the concept that a Costco, and the development that goes with it, would somehow negatively impact the exit 56 area. The development of the exit has long been a plan of the town, and a key aspect of Cosgrove’s 2013 campaign. The reason is that developing around an exit allows out of town traffic to enter and exit easily, and doesn’t force traffic through town to access the retail stores. For example, Costco in Milford is located between two exits, creating significantly more traffic through town than would be seen if it had been built closer to an exit.
The other consistent argument has been a lingering talking point from the 2013 election that development should happen at exit 53 over exit 56. With the point raised at the SCA meeting, former first selectman John Opie stood to explain that the main reason Costco is not going to exit 53 is that they have not shown any desire to open there, and they prefer exit 56. But 53 also presents significant issues, such as a lack of on and off ramps, and the fact that there are multiple property owners that would need to align to be able to develop the area. At the very least, significant development at 53 is about a decade away.
Overwhelming support has been shown for Costco in Branford over the past year, and especially during the 2013 election. Over 2000 have joined the Facebook page Bring Costco to Branford Now, and the concept has seen strong support in a variety of polls. It remains to be seen if opposition, led largely by political leaders that have opposed the current first selectman in the past election and the Stony Creek Association, which has a history of opposing many projects, including the Puppet House theater and, in past years, even filed losing lawsuits to stop the truck stop at exit 56, will gain any significant traction. Unlike the Puppet theater however, Costco is set to go about 2 miles outside of Stony Creek, in a clearly defined commercial area.