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Say what? Sell Norwalks city property for one dollar?

By Diane C2: “Things Norwalkers Really Should Know”

NORWALK, Conn. – File this under several of my column categories:

  • This Means That?!
  • You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!
  • Are You Kidding Me?
  • You’re Not Going To Believe This, But…

From the upcoming Jan. 8th Common Council Agenda:

WHAT IS SAYS:

D. PLANNING COMMITTEE

1. Approve as to terms the referenced Day Street Option Agreement subject to final form as determined by Corporation Counsel. Authorize the Mayor to execute the Option Agreement.

WHAT IT REALLY MEANS:

Authorize the mayor to execute an option agreement to sell city-owned parcels valued in excess of $2 million to the Norwalk Housing Authority for $1 dollar, who will in turn give it to a private developer (Trinity Financial – Boston) to develop mixed rate, affordable and public housing priced units. The sale will be automatic if the Housing Authority is the recipient of a 2013 HUD Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Grant.

Note from Diane C2: This item originally passed the Planning Committee unanimously last summer, and was en route to council, but has subsequently been tweaked. It now has been advanced to the council with NO committee discussion, at the discretion of Committee Chair Nick Kydes, in the absence of a quorum at Thursday night’s Planning Committee meeting.

To read more, see the agenda package for the Jan. 3 Planning Committee meeting via this link: Planning Committee agenda 1-3-13

If you don’t think we should be giving away millions of dollars of land for $1, and you question the credibility and effectiveness of the Norwalk Housing Authority, please read the supporting documents that are attached with the agenda, write your council, and show up Tuesday Jan. 8 at Common Council to voice your concerns…..

11 comments

Sjur Soleng January 5, 2013 at 9:58 am

Why not? The city of Norwalk is operating with a major surplus. We also have 100′s of millions in the coffers. -sarcasm off – Why are cutting funds to schools and watching our housing values plummett as young professionals flee the city?!? Why are we throwing money at the hot spots for crime? Norwalk needs real fiscal responsibility and leadership. Time to make some tough decisions for the future of Norwalk.

Diane C2 January 5, 2013 at 4:11 pm

@Sjur – the Planning Committee,and perhaps the full Council, are all apparently gaga-eyed over this development deal, claiming $$ new tax revenue when the entire neighborhood is transformed. They have all been hypnotized by Housing Authority Executive Director Curtis Law; Police Officer, Washington Village Community Police Representative, Housing Authority Chair and Fair Housing Commish Cesar Ramirez (gosh, what part of ALL those titles isn’t a conflict of interest?!) and Redevelopment Director Tim Sheehan.
Perhaps there are millions in revenue to be gained by selling for $1, but you try asking any one of the 15 who will be voting on Tuesday to authorize the Mayor to give away the land “exactly how much in tax revenue?”, and to defend whether this is highest and best use of city-owned parcels, and you let me know what they say.
Ask any one of the 15 to tell you how long the lease with Trinity is for, and what happens at the end of that lease term?
Ask any one of them how they expect Washington Village residents to come up with 1st month rent, last month rent, and security for a Section 8 housing (for those opting not to return to Day Street).

And speaking of the residents, who perhaps are still being sold a larger bill of goods than the Council, Councilman Carvin Hilliard was quoted recently in The Hour: “It’s going to be an improvement in the appearance of the area. Also, it’s going to add to the tax base of the city. And for the residents of Washington Village, not only are they going to have the opportunity to move into a nicer apartment, but they’re going to have a chance to get some skills, too, jobs training and all that.”
Now wait a minute – don’t the prior and current Housing Authority Plans that get submitted to HUD declare that they are already providing skills and job training “and all that”? http://www.norwalkha.org/uploads/files/88.pdf
Some of the 15 will want to talk about saving the residents from living in flooding conditions, but ask any one of them to explain what can be done to mitigate/eliminate flooding under the Choice Neighborhood Plan that couldn’t already have been done through DPW? And ask any of the 15 to explain in detail the steps the Housing Authority took prior to and after Hurricane Sandy to safeguard the residences of their tenants? Do they care about whether their residents lose everything in floods? No.

Suzanne January 5, 2013 at 4:52 pm

I have yet to complete reviewing the 30 page document to which you refer, Nancy, but I have begun and intend to finish. In the meantime, I think about the constant mantra from all of these appointed and elected officials: exactly what would “Tax Base” look like if she were a person? I am thinking like a woman with really luscious looks who sells herself, i.e., a prostitute, with absolutely nothing inside. All saddle and no horse (as they say in Texas.) All promise, no long term relationship.

Has anyone explained the intricacies of this deal? (Thank you to Diane C2 for her comments, especially in clarifying that unbelieveable organizational chart.)

Suzanne January 5, 2013 at 5:29 pm

A trusted advisor has expressed that my “imagery” was inappropriate on my previous entry. I apologize and hope no one was offended.

Diane C2 January 5, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Here is a litmus test I often use with our Council before they vote on something like this:
Without any assistance from staff, or a committee chair, can you explain, using plain English, exactly what it is you’re voting on, how you intend to vote, and why? If not, ya probably aren’t ready to vote on it….
The intricacies of the deal always seem like a “gosh, that sounds like something we want” conclusion following the dog and pony show by Norwalk Housing Authority (NHA) Consultant EJP, Developer Trinity Financial, and Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. However, if you ask any NHA Board Member to clearly articulate the plan, I bet they can’t. As recently as 2 weeks ago some were asking questions that clearly indicated they didn’t understand the plan. Luckily, one commish who I think is a lawyer, asked some tough questions about our ability to get out of this deal if things aren’t what they appear to be, or if the city or NHA suddenly is expected to kick in some megabucks.
The real guts of the Choice Neighborhood deal can be found online at http://www.norwalkha.org. But the document we all really need to read and understand, especially the Council before they vote on this, is called the Memorandum of Understanding. It is the basis for the contract between the Norwalk Housing Authority and Trinity Financial, and should contain the real details of the deal, the relationship, the who gets what and when.
I requested a copy the other evening, but was told it is being modified and I’ll be notified when it is available to the public. Hmmm.
Here’s my suggestion to the Council – unless and until you can clearly explain to your constituents why we are selling the Day Street properties to Norwalk Housing Authority (NHA) for $1, and what the ultimate use of the land will by Trinity Financial, then you need to table this item. Send it back to committee if necessary, where at least the public may stand a chance of hearing a discussion on the merits of the deal.
NHA has until March 31 to file their final application, at which time they must prove they have or will have site control over the Day Street properties. Certainly that leaves time for our Council to make an informed decision….if not, then once again they are being held hostage and I think we may be hard pressed to find even one of them who has the political will or courage to vote “no” or to table the item.

Diane C2 January 5, 2013 at 7:33 pm

No offense taken. Good analogy to keep in my head whenever I ask the question “what on earth were they thinking?”. And believe me, I ask that often around here….LOL.

oldtimer January 6, 2013 at 9:48 am

Three questions:
This close to New York City, how did Norwalk come to do business with Trinity Financial from Boston ? Was there an RFP and a bidding process ?

Why does the timeline sound like first priority is to move present Washinton Village tenants (poor people), out and then build more upscale (not for poor people) housing for market rate tenants with a few units available for poor people ? Where will the displaced poor live while all this re-development is going on ?

Who gets all the money this project should make ? Trinity or the City ?
If the City is investing millions in real estate, what is the expected return ?
How much, if any, is being invested by Trinity ?

Diane C2 January 6, 2013 at 10:17 am

@OldTimer: some partial answers

Trinity was chosen thru an RFP process. Below is link announcing selection: http://www.norwalkha.org/uploads/files/211.pdf

Phase I is to construct the mixed-rate units at Day & Raymond and begin relocation of some WV tenants. Others will move to Section 8 units or other NHA properties. All of the structures will be mixed-rate housing, consisting of Market Rate (upscale?), Affordable/Workforce and Public Housing Rate. I’ve provided links to the full plan and then a November recap and Q&A session:
http://www.norwalkha.org/uploads/files/275.pdf
http://www.norwalkha.org/uploads/files/259.pdf

As to who gets the money, it will be Trinity, and the city will simply collect property tax, which, by the way, may not even be the full rate. I need some help researching how tax rates are calculated on Public Housing units, and tax credit units. Since I haven’t seen the Trinity bid response to the RFP, or the Memorandum of Understanding, I can’t tell you at this time how much Trinity is paying NHA.

Diane C2 January 6, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I continue to have concerns over what Washington Village tenants are being told versus what is actually written in the HUD Application, especially regarding the timeline of this project.NHA Director Curtis Law constantly tells the tenants that no one has to move right away and that this project won’t be into construction for 5-6 years. The HUD application says otherwise” Section IV, page 20: construction of Phase I starts May 2014 and is complete by July 2015, which means some WV tenants will be moving as soon as 2-1/2 years from now.
And the plan calls for the demolition of Washington in June of 2015!
http://www.norwalkha.org/uploads/files/275.pdf

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

About Nancy

Nancy came to Norwalk more than 2 years ago as the Norwalk reporter for the Norwalk Daily Voice and resigned in October to begin Nancy On Norwalk. She is married to a career journalist, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website) and two middle-aged cats who are still trying to work out a peaceful co-existence.