Many believe the tenant for the 160,942-square-foot store will be the retail giant Walmart, but the applicant, Kimball Land Holdings LLC, declined to say so in the application and during the public hearing. However, during the first part of the hearing, architect Gabriel Massa said "Walmart" before quickly catching himself.
P&Z Chairman Patrick O'Hara alluded to how much of the testimony in opposition came from residents against Walmart. Then he explained how commissioners must vote on whether an application meets Monroe's zoning regulations — not on who is applying or would be the tenant.
O'Hara said it would be the same as the commission denying an application because it's for a Muslim church, adding a judge would overturn such a decision within 30 seconds.
"Speaking to whether something is appropriate based on the 'who' is not something I'm going to be engaged in," he said.
O'Hara said the retail application, which is proposed in an industrial zone, is in line with the regulations and subject to higher standards than in a designed business zone.
"I don’t have a problem approving this," he said. "I think the lot is zoned for what it's getting."
The permit was approved 3 to 2, with O'Hara, Vice Chairman William Porter and James Weinberg voting in favor of the application and Brian Quinn and Cathleen Lindstrom voting against it.
Lindstrom asked to make a statement explaining her "no" vote.
She said the commission is responsible to plan for the physical, social and economic well being of the town — not private developers. If commissioners believe the industrial property should be used for retail, Lindstrom said the P&Z should change the zone to commercial as part of the planning process.
Lindstrom said a lot of townspeople are concerned over the size of the building being proposed. She criticized the commission for relying solely on the traffic study performed by the applicant's own experts, asking if commissioners would only listen to testimony from the tobacco industry if they wanted to know if cigarettes were good for them.
"We also didn't know the name of the user," Lindstrom said of the tenant. "I don't [ever] remember anyone saying, 'We're going to bring a business here, but we won't tell you what it is.'"
Among the conditions of approval, Quinn successfully pushed for an amendment to require Kimball Land Holdings LLC to build a fence along the boundary of residential properties. Another condition will be noise monitoring once the store opens.