In the mid 1990s a Stop & Shop was the subject of a series of contentious zoning hearings in which many North End residents thought a super store was being shoved down their throats in a heavy residential area. This past week 130 employees at Stop & Shop have been notified the Madison Avenue store will close and they will be relocated to positions at other stores. September 20 will be the final day of operation, according to the company.
Stop & Shop also has Bridgeport stores on Main Street in the North End and Fairfield Avenue in the West End. The property is on the former Dewhirst Dairy site. In the mid 1990s, property owner United Properties, a Fairfield-based commercial real estate firm, proposed leasing the space to Stop & Shop. Former City Councilman Tom White was among many neighbors who vehemently opposed the super store in a heavy residential area. The city’s Planning & Zoning Commission approved the site for development. Years later two principals of United Properties would enter guilty pleas to unrelated charges in the federal probe of former Mayor Joe Ganim. In fact, the Stop & Shop zoning matter was the reason federal authorities began a municipal investigation.
During the heated zoning hearings White was the president of the North End Association, the neighborhood group that opposed the development on grounds that it was spot zoning and out of character with the neighborhood. White was speaking too loudly for United Properties and in an effort to silence him officials led by Al Lenoci Sr. sued White for slander forcing him to hire an attorney. White received assistance from the ACLU as a result of a First Amendment issue. The lawsuit was dismissed with a settlement covering White’s legal fees.
Ultimately a Superior Court judge ruled the P&Z Commission had the power to change zoning for the development.
Stop & Shop officials say poor sales led to the decision to close the Madison Avenue store. This came as a surprise to many neighbors who believed the store had lots of activity.
Did you forget to mention the fire? You know, old Mr. Dewhirst’s house? It was historic and in the way … what a shame.
Basically for the deal to go through the Dewhirst house had to disappear and disappear it did. It was an arson fire, there was a suspect but not enough evidence could be gathered to support an arrest warrant.
Tom White fought valiantly on this one, as did many others. The same thuggery continues today in many forms. Tom was also an asset in City government including the position they just eliminated.
Wasn’t Tom White the victim of a vexatious lawsuit instituted by Willinger on behalf of United Properties?
Wasn’t there a rumor about an unnamed zoning board member taking a bribe?
After Stop & Shop stops milking the old Dewhirst site, look for a fire sale by United Properties!
Yes. United Properties filed a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) against Tom. It was a very difficult two years until the whole thing was over and done.
And Chuck Willinger and Sonny Lenoci are first cousins, as are Sal DiNardo and his sister Nancy, our state Democratic chairperson …
Chuck Willinger is a scumbag.
That’s Mr. Scumbag to you.
The FBI indicated someone or someones indeed got a kickback for approving the zone change–and the neighbors raised $18k for the legal fight. Now who knows what will go in the building? 68,000 ft of retail space, with the correct retrofit maybe it could be converted into an attractive school. It’s not going to be another grocery store as long as S&S is obligated on the lease, it would be sublet to a business that will not compete with S&S.
*** Who pray tell “benefited” by the decision and was it actually proven by the FBI back then? Also, let’s hope no one loses their job due to this store closing either. What are the experts at BEDCO or BRBC and the city’s economic development dept. have in mind besides another non-profit? *** ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK! ***
The FBI indicated kickbacks were received but they were not going to prosecute and the names were not released–it was pretty evident on the final night of the hearing–over 13 hours of adverse testimony and then at the end of the night someone read a one-sentence motion supporting the zone change.
If I recall, Pat Fardy and Dotty Guman missed the first night but read the transcripts but were told they couldn’t join in on the decision. I have always had my guess on who got the kickbacks–may have been more than one–the best comment was about pickles at King Kole–quite a few of the Commissioners on that decision are also dead–and dead bodies tell no tales–in the words of Mojo–not saying there is a relation.
Common Good; it was Dottie Guman and Lucille Sullivan who reviewed the tapes.
Common Good: I won’t mention the name of the person who is alleged to have received the bribe but I will tell you this. The spouse of the person who allegedly received the bribe had stated publicly if his/her spouse goes down everyone else would go down too.
There was never any follow-up by the authorities; I wonder why?
The spouse stated this publicly? WOW–I’ll have to search the internet!!! Gimme a hint–is the spouse dead or alive? It’s not defamation if it’s true.
CG: It was said in public but not to the press or in the presence of the press. I can tell you this, I was there when the statement was made.