Selda Dworkin, a resident of Huntington Turnpike, says the Mark IV construction company has no permit to construct a shopping center just a few feet from her home. “We don’t need a shopping center there,” she said. “Hawley Lane is just around the corner.” She was referring to the shopping mall located just blocks away in Trumbull.
“On the opposite side, there is a huge space where Food World supermarket used to do business,” she said. “That place has a big parking lot and is deeper into Bridgeport, which means it serves better the local residents.”
Juan Rivera, another resident on Huntington Turnpike, said that he is opposed to the project. He added that “Bridgeport has many locations ideal for that type of project — including downtown, where it’s really needed. But for years they have been locating big retail centers at the border in Bridgeport, so residents of surrounding towns don’t have to come inside the city. To me, this project is designed to serve the suburbs,” he said.
According to Dworkin, Mark IV Construction is not supposed to construct at that location because the area is classified as residential by the city’s Zoning Department.
“It’s not the first time we engaged in this battle,” she said. In 1991, the Zoning Department approved a similar project, but in October 1992 it was overthrown by a judge.
Meanwhile, Elaine K. Ficarra, the city’s communications director, said “The city’s Zoning Enforcement officer has delivered to the property owner an order compelling them to stop the activity at the site. The owners of 1234 Huntington Turnpike have appealed that order to the Zoning Board of Appeals. A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 14 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, and any interested party, including neighboring property owners, may attend and testify on this matter. The ZEO has documented the activity at the site on a daily basis, but can only act in accordance with zoning law, which allows the property owner to continue regrading their property until the appeal is heard.”
The company is in the process of cleaning the area. Dworkin, 70, who uses a wheelchair, said she sees trucks coming in and out with a lot of dirt. She also can hear construction equipment digging into the ground. She points out she gets her water from a well. “Who knows if the digging can escalate to contamination in my backyard,” she said.
She added that because of the digging there is the potential for flooding damages in the area.
Dworkin said that a master plan from 2007 listed her neighborhood among the fourth best in the city. The plan didn’t list a future shopping center. “It listed a development on Remington Woods,” she added.
“I have lived here since 1964. I enjoy nature. Today I went outside and saw a turkey. I like it here because it’s a park-like atmosphere and they are destroying it.”
Rose Meekins lives behind the site of the proposed shopping center. She said she opposes the construction of the shopping center for several reasons, including traffic, loss of property values and crime.
She said, “The project would create heavier traffic for the community when attempting to access Route 8 and Route 15. It would bring more people to the area for shopping right at my backyard. The increase in traffic could also increase noise, pollution and crime. With a shopping center in this close proximity to our homes, the value of property would most certainly be diminished.”
Records show that a Zoning Department official issued a letter to Manny Mouthino, principal of MTM Family Limited Partnership, the developer. The letter, hand delivered, said:
“It has come to my attention that there was in fact an appeal, docket # CV91-279597, which overturned the decision on Zoning Board of Appeal by Judge Melville, on October 6, 1992. Therefore, as of this date, I am rescinding your application for a certificate of Zoning Compliance and am recommending to the Building Official, your foundation permit also be canceled.”
The letter states that last summer a construction manager at Mouthino’s company was aware of Melville decision.
Less than 500 feet from the proposed development is a mutual housing complex that belongs to the town of Trumbull. According to state law, municipalities legally can approve or disapprove construction of any project if it is within a distance of 500 feet or less from a residential site.
The Fairfield County Independent contacted the director of property management at Mutual Housing of Southwest Connecticut across the street from the proposed project, but she couldn’t give details.
Less than half a mile away is a small shopping plaza with seven businesses. The owners are opposed to the project because they fear it will decrease their business.
Tien Nguyen, owner of Sexy Nails at that plaza, said a shopping center at such a short distance will affect his business.
More information about the project may be obtained by calling (203) 576-7217.