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UFCW Seeks to Block Big Y-anchored Construction Project

STRATFORD, Conn. -- Leaders of Westport, Conn.-based United Food and Commercial Workers Local 371, which represents 11,000 grocery and foodservice workers in the state, say they'll ask the Fairfield County Labor Council, an AFL-CIO affiliate, to seek a meeting with new Stratford mayor James Miron to prevent a 118,000-square-foot construction project that would be anchored by a Big Y Supermarket.

"We hope such a meeting could help avoid what appears to be a growing legal fight to stop the Big Y from coming into Stratford," Local 371 representative Brian P. Truini told the Connecticut Post. "But we are also going to contact our 250 members in Stratford [at Shaw's and Super Stop & Shop] to let them know how important this legal battle could be to saving their jobs, earning ability, and free health and pension benefits, because the Big Y is a nonunion shop and would provide unfair competition."

Local 371 president Brian Petronella told PG that at the local's request, the Fairfield County Labor Union was drafting a letter to request the meeting.

According to Truini, the UFCW represents about 1,200 workers within a five-mile radius of the proposed construction site.

The project has also faced legal opposition from local residents and the Conservation Commission. Both are concerned about the environmental impact of the construction, particularly on sensitive wetlands and area wildlife, while residents further cite "quality-of-life issues." Additionally, Stratford Protect Your Environment is "seriously considering joining the lawsuits" in the role of an intervenor, as the Conservation Commission already has.

In other legal news, a Superior Court in Alfred, Maine will hear oral arguments today in a lawsuit filed by Scarborough, Maine-based Hannaford Bros. attempting to block construction of what could be the first Stop & Shop in the state, according to a published report.

The Kennebunk Marketplace project consists of a 65,665-square-foot supermarket with two retail stores and a restaurant built on 22 acres on Route 1.

Hannaford contends that the project doesn't comply with the Kennebunk Planning Board's own zoning ordinances or its comprehensive plan, and therefore shouldn't have been approved.

"We have said from the very beginning that there were traffic issues and there were planning board review issues that had not been adequately addressed, and we felt it was critical that those issues be addressed," Hannaford spokeswoman Caren Epstein told the Portland Press Herald.

Town officials and the developer's attorney maintain that the project underwent an "unusually exhaustive" process and should be allowed to proceed.

Justice G. Arthur Brennan will preside over the arguments.

Since the Kennebunk Marketplace project was first submitted to the board in October 2003, it has been controversial, with opponents arguing that it would be too big for the area and have a detrimental impact on downtown commerce.
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