Commercial brokers meeting news includes construction of an AutoZone on Route 111

This property at 345 Monroe Turnpike may be the future site of an AutoZone store. Field Card photo

MONROE, CT — A developer plans to tear down a vacant law firm building on a property overgrown with weeds at 345 Monroe Turnpike and build a new AutoZone store.

Dean Apostoleris, of Kimly Horn: Engineering Planning & Design Consultants, revealed the news at the Fairfield County Commercial Brokers Network meeting at Whitney Farms Golf Club & Event Venue earlier this week.

The luncheon was hosted by the Monroe Chamber of Commerce on Monday. Chamber President Ray Giovanni and Monroe First Selectman Ken Kellogg spoke from the podium and brokers shared listings, deals and what types of properties their clients are looking for.

“We meet monthly at different Fairfield County locations,” said Winthrop E. Baum, owner of WEB Realty Company in Norwalk, who formed the Fairfield County Commercial Brokers Network 22 years ago. “We have 1,600 brokers on our meeting list.”

The group holds meetings in Westchester, Fairfield and New Haven counties. Monroe hosts an FCCBN meeting annually and members have been gathering inside the dining room at Whitney Farms Golf Club for the past five years.

“We always look forward to coming here, because the venue’s so nice: the hospitality, good food and an atmosphere where people can relax,” Baum said.

Members and guests mingled in the dining room, before lining up for a buffet and finding a table.

“People are networking and discussing certain deals,” Baum said. “People have listings they want to share, customers they need help with and talking about deals they have done.”

At one point in the meeting, several members stood up at their tables and shared listings and success stories with the rest of the room.

A 6,500 square foot building on a commercially zoned parcel near the Westport train station and 11.5 acres of industrial property in New Milford were among the available listings shared. Two examples of success stories from brokers were the Chipotle building under construction on Route 111 in Monroe and a beauty salon in Orange.

A diversity of tools

Winthrop E. Baum, left claps as Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Ray Giovanni, center, introduces First Selectman Ken Kellogg to the podium.

At the podium, Monroe Chamber President Ray Giovanni introduced First Selectman Ken Kellogg.

“He’s done an absolute sterling job trying to create the environment for Monroe to grow,” Giovanni said, “and no one’s done it better than Ken’s done it. He’s just tireless in his efforts, his strategic initiatives that really panned out, as you would see if you traveled 111 and 25.”

“Everyone knows that when we have responsible economic development it brings jobs, it grows our local economy and really contributes to a diversified tax base and grand list,” Kellogg said, “and my message today is about continuing that commitment.”

Both Giovanni and Kellogg recognized Community and Economic Development Director William “Bill” Holsworth.

“The team is what made us successful,” Kellogg said, while also calling for a round of applause for Giovanni for his work as Chamber president and chairman of the Monroe Economic Development Commission.

Guests at the meeting received complimentary Swiss Army Knives produced by Victorinox with the Monroe Chamber of Commerce logo on it.

“A couple weeks ago, Bill very perceptively pointed out to me that the Swiss Army Knife is very symbolic of the tools we brought here to Monroe for economic growth,” Kellogg said. “You don’t always need all the tools in the tool box, or in this case the tools on the Swiss Army Knife, at the same time for one job. But you do want to diversify the tools available when the opportunity arises.”

“The most important thing we can do in Monroe as local government is to foster the right environment for growth,” he said.

Kellogg said nearly every land use department in Monroe Town Hall has new staff members. “We’ve brought in people dedicated to making the process less cumbersome and to focus on solutions to overcome obstacles,” he said.

Among the changes he made in the past six years, was to change the oversight of land use from the engineering department to Holsworth, and to move the engineering function back to public works.

“We’ve changed processes, whether it’s online permitting, pre-application meetings or pre-construction meetings, the goal is to discuss projects in totality, lay out requirements up front, set expectations and have no last minute surprises,” Kellogg said.

The first selectman also touted a good relationship with the Planning and Zoning Commission, which allows small details of site plans to be approved at the staff level, speeding up a process that used to take months, according to Kellogg.

The commission adopted a Stevenson 2 District, providing flexibility to encourage redevelopment of the former Stevenson Lumber site on Monroe Turnpike.

“We now have six new businesses in that location and plenty of room for more,” Kellogg said. “We’ve adopted mixed use regulations — the first time ever in Monroe.”

The regulations allow residential apartments, usually above a commercial use. The Main Street Design and Special Development district overlay zones work hand-in-hand to provide flexibility in land use development along routes 111, 25 and 34, according to Kellogg.

The first selectman cited examples of when it was used “successfully”, including the Pond View luxury apartments at 127 Main St., and the shopping center at 10 and 36 Main St. with four buildings on the 14-plus-acre site.

The shopping center, which was recently approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, calls for the construction of four buildings, including a grocery store, a three-floor retail building with self-storage, and two restaurants with drive-thru windows.

A third example was the recently approved Starbucks location with a drive-thru at 255 Monroe Turnpike.

“We want to be your partner to place appropriate and responsible projects in Monroe,” Kellogg said. “We’re gonna be responsible and flexible.” Holding up Swiss Army Knife he added, “and we’ve got the tools to find the right solutions when it’s appropriate.”

Baum asked Kellogg what Monroe’s current mill rate, which is used to calculate tax bills, is. The first selectman said it is 37.55 mills.

“No one likes high mill rates, but I’m proud that in my tenure I have kept the average mill rate increase year-over-year to be less-than-one-percent, which in the environment and the economy we have here, I think it’s a good place to be,” Kellogg said.

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