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Moccia appoints former BOE candidate to Norwalk Zoning Commission

Norwalk RTC 062013 013

Linda Kruk speaks to the Norwalk Republican Town Committee on June 20. She was seeking a nomination to the Board of Education.

NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk woman who had been trying to get a Republican Party Board of Education nomination is instead being appointed to the Zoning Commission.

Political newcomer Linda Kruk has been appointed by Mayor Richard Moccia to fill the seat previously occupied by Democrat Adam Blank, who said last week that his vote last year on a “big box amendment” has resulted in the mayor’s refusal to reappoint him.

“The mayor wanted people on the Zoning Commission that he can control,” Blank said. “I was going to remain independent.”

The Common Council will vote on the appointment Tuesday evening. If approved, her term will run from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2016.

Kruk was one of five potential BOE candidates vying for four slots on the ballot. All the potential candidates addressed the Republican Town Committee on June 20. On July 1, the field had been narrowed to four candidates, sources said. RTC Chairman Art Scialabba refused to confirm that, but said in an email, “I can say that it appears that we will avoid a primary fight.”

In selling herself last month, Kruk said she always gives her best effort in an effort to leave things better than they were before her involvement.

“Whenever I have had the chance to serve in my community, it has always been in service to schools – throughout my entire life,” said Kruk, who has lived in Norwalk for five years.

District E Chairwoman Kelly Straniti announced at the meeting that her district’s endorsements for the BOE did not include Kruk.

Kruk said Sunday that she had stepped out of the BOE in deference to the other candidates.

“I’m not political,” she said. “So I felt, if there were four other individuals with a desire to do it, I was willing to step aside.”

On Sunday, she said the mayor asked her to serve on the commission.

“The mayor asked me to participate,” she said. “I told him that if he needed my help, I was willing to assist.”

Moccia said last year that he always tries out new volunteers on the Fair Rent Commission to see how they do before moving them on to other commissions or boards. He said he had started on the Fair Rent Commission, and felt that was a good way to check out a person’s performance, given that it involves a lot of involvement with the public.

NancyOnNorwalk sent the mayor an email Saturday asking what Kruk’s qualifications were to be on the Zoning Commission.

“Read her resume,” he replied.

He subsequently forwarded a July 17 email from Scialabba that had Kruk’s resume attached.

Asked if he had seen the resume prior to the appointment, he replied, “I had a personal meeting with Linda. I had read her resume when she first had talked about the Board of Ed but had not kept a copy. It is the mayor’s appointment. Mrs. Kruk is interested in serving the city and I am confident that she will a good job.”

Kruk’s resume is attached below.

While the resume reflects her experience in the IT field, there is nothing that indicates any tangible experience or education in the area of land use or zoning law. Kruk describes herself as an accomplished manager, agile multitasker and skilled researcher who “takes the time to read, absorb and apply critical thinking which produces solid solutions to complex problems.”

She works in Information Technology and has been the owner and principal of LSA Consulting LLC since 2003, the resume says. She has been doing IT consulting to a medical firm in that capacity.

Blank is an attorney with Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin and Kuriansky in Stamford. The company’s website describes him as a civil litigator whose practice includes commercial litigation and real estate-based litigation, including land use and tax appeal litigation. He has been selected by New England Super Lawyers Magazine and Connecticut Magazine for inclusion in Super Lawyers-Rising Stars – Edition 2012.

He said he had hoped to serve on the commission for three more years, and assist in revising some zoning regulations.

Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak brought up Blank’s departure from the commission at the end of the July 11 Zoning Committee meeting, making assertions that prompted Chairwoman Emily Wilson to adjourn the meeting. Other commissioners said that Blank was a good member.

“I was shocked” to hear Blank was not reappointed, Commissioner Michael O’Reilly said.

That recording is below.

Blank said Moccia contacted him about a year ago before the vote on the zoning change that was widely described as a “Big Box Amendment,” as it revised the minimum height requirement of retail buildings that contain more than 80,000 square feet.

“He very much wanted us to all vote for that,” Blank said. “He expected that’s what I would do. He called me afterwards and expressed his displeasure that I would make a compromise that would be just Connecticut Avenue, not Westport Avenue and Main Avenue.”

Among the applicants currently being considered by the Zoning Commission is the proposal to build a BJ’s Wholesale Club at 272-280 Main Ave. Blank said the mayor had communicated his desire to see the application approved.

Zoning Commissioner Harry Rilling has recused himself from commission activities on the matter on the advice of Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan, because of his op-ed article criticizing the encouragement of big box stores in Norwalk.

The Zoning Commission is currently defending itself in federal court from a lawsuit brought by the Al Madany Islamic Center in the denial of its special permit application to build a mosque and community center at 127 Fillow St.

Linda Kruk resume

Adam Blank resume

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26 comments

Suzanne July 22, 2013 at 9:34 am

I hope Ms. Kruk is a quick study. Reviewing this article, her resume and the two recordings show that she has no background in zoning, urban planning or land use. She does have the sympathy, apparently, of the Mayor which seems to qualify anyone for anything at the Norwalk Town Commission smorgasbord.

Mea July 22, 2013 at 9:57 am

This is all extremely troubling to me as a resident in the vicinity of 127 Fillow Street. The residents have nothing against the religious community as it is a very culturally diverse area of town. This has nothing to do with religious beliefs. They are proposing to tear down a historic home in an effort to build this mosque. The integrity of the neighborhood will be extremely compromised. The proposal will create even more traffic in an area adjacent to four schools. Norwalk has so many under utilized spaces that should be suggested for this Mosque. Furthermore, in a democratic society why is a democratically appointed mayor forcing his will on the city of Norwalk when it will not benefit the entire community? This is an outrage!

M Allen July 22, 2013 at 10:16 am

Mea – recheck the issue of tearing down historic home. I’m pretty sure the home stays and they are cramming the hug structure on the remaining parcel.

As for the section about a democratically appointed (elected) mayor forcing his will on the city, uh, what is it that you disagree with to the point of outrage? Its not really clear.

Mary Webb July 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Mea- check again and you should get happy. Adam Blank voted in favor of the mosque. Good bye and good luck to him.

It was pointed out very clearly on the Hour web site that Blank is an attorney fighting the city on tax appeals on a daily basis. This sort of conflict of interest is something to be avoided.

Suzanne, the only requirement to be on any commission is to be a citizen of Norwalk. There is no one on the Zoning Commission that has a back ground in Urban Planning to the level you seem to be talking about. and there shouldn’t be, because they would most likely be a developer or attorney and see my previous point on conflicts.

Suzanne July 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Mary Webb, Sorry. But I don’t want someone who doesn’t have a clue deciding about land use in the Town of Norwalk on the Zoning Commission. Look where that has got us. When someone applies for zoning or planning permits, they are required to get expert opinions on a host of issues including wetlands regulations, setbacks, zoning types, etc. If a citizen has to do this as a constituent, there should be some level of expertise on urban planning (not necessarily a developer or attorney’s forte) and land use on a Commissioner for Zoning. I don’t care what the “city requirement” is – clearly that is not working for us!

M Allen July 22, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Suzanne – what is yur take on congressional representatives or even the President, who make decisions about much bigger issues every single day when they have little in the way of professional training regarding what they are deciding upon? How about a President with no military background sending troops to war or giving instructions on how war is conducted? That is why these groups hold hearings and enlist input from professionals. While it would be nice to have experts sitting on every commission and committee, the fact is that civilian government is often made up of common citizens. Its been that way for 200+ years.

Hobbes.the.Calvinist July 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I’m sure the new zoning commissioner is a dedicated individual. That doesn’t make the politics part stink any less.
Moccia prevents a primary in the Board of Ed and gets another commissioner to stifle debate and do his bidding.
BTW, I understand the “citizen-commissioner” idea. But there are lots of people with some zoning or land use experience who can make a contribution from day one. That board needs to make complicated decisions. They need commissioners who have some skills in addition to common sense and a love of Norwalk.

RU4REAL July 22, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Mary Webb,
Let’s not forget Maslan, city attorney, is also Moccias personal attorney if we are speaking about conflict of interest.

Bryan Meek July 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Widgets it is not, but being a software product manager requires a variety of skills that can be readily applied here. The ability to understand and anticipate market needs. Ability to understand complex technical issues that you may have never encountered or trained for in the past. Strong project management and budgeting skills to deliver projects on time in a cost effective way. All of this is enhanced by a foundation of common sense. Linda has this and more and will be an effective commissioner and asset to the city.
Not to diminish the credentials of licensed landscape architects or land developers or whatever, but some here are making a bigger deal out of it than should be. Look at Linda’s eventual appointment and different background as an opportunity to bring varying view points to the conversation.

Diane C2 July 23, 2013 at 12:05 am

Forgive me if I missed it in the article or comments, but how many Zoning Committee/Commission meetings has Ms. Kruk attended?

Joe Espo July 23, 2013 at 3:12 am

These zoning commissioners absolutely should be qualified with unimpeachable credentials. I petition that Ms. Kruk buy a lawn mower and attend on-line lawn cutting school before she accepts her appointment. That’s the penultimate qualification for a zoning commissioner -er… like Mushak the grammar weed whacker.
.
Short of that, she can go to the police academy, grab a Glock and learn how to shoot up builders of big box stores – er… just like what qualifies zoner Harry who says you can’t arrest yourself out of a crime problem but he still managed to arrest half his democrat voter base and a good chunk of the democrat town committee during his enduring career.

M Allen July 23, 2013 at 8:37 am

First, my preference would be for the highest quality, most educated and knowledgeable members possible to sit on these commissions. But I think we may need to face some facts that the best and brightest aren’t always what we have access to in government. Not at the local level anymore than we do at the state or federal level. Maybe before criticizing one particular individual appointment or another, we look at who is even raising their hand to participate. Do we have a long line of civil engineers and urban planners who are willing and able to be appointed in the first place? If performed properly, some of these commisson positions require a significant time commitment. They also require individuals willing to put up with the political scrutiny, not to mention the whining masses of anonymous commenters lurking behind every web site. Not all candidates for these positions will be acceptable. There is a degree of politics involved as the Mayor probably isn’t going to appoint people who are going to fight him at every turn. But that is his right as Mayor. So beyond the political aspect, who are the qualified candidates that are being overlooked?

Mike Mushak July 23, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Joe Espo, I have never met you, have no idea why you would insult me like you are doing, and I know you have no idea what I do for a living or even what a licensed landscape architect is, based on your comments about me. As the ONLY licensed design professional (architect, landscape architect, engineer, or certified planner)on the Zoning Commission, which is surprising for a city the size of Norwalk, I am proud of the contributions I make to the city as a volunteer both on the Commission and to the neighborhoods, parks, trails, cultural institutions, medians, and public spaces all over town. I suggest you send me a personal email and I can explain it to you, available on my website here: http://www.tuliptreesitedesign.com/
or you can read my brief bio here:

Michael Mushak, the founder and design director of Tuliptree Site Design, Inc., has over 30 years of experience in the field of landscape architecture. He graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, and is a licensed landscape architect in CT, NY, and NJ. His career has included work on a variety of projects, including public parks, museums, urban planning, corporate buildings, neighborhood improvements, and a wide range of residential projects across the country.

Over the last two decades, Mr. Mushak has focused primarily on serving residential clients in the northeast, and has completed over 800 projects. He has particularly enjoyed developing strong and long- lasting relationships with many of his clients, some for over 20 years, based on a professional ethic of maintaining consistently high quality and value.

He has traveled extensively visiting important landscapes around the globe, finding inspiration in the historical and sensual traditions of both the East and the West. Whether traditional or modern, he believes that strong landscape design should appropriately reflect the environmental and cultural conditions presented by each unique site and client.

Mr. Mushak’s landscape designs have been featured in Architectural Digest, Bedford Magazine, Country Living, Greenwich Magazine, Home, Hudson Valley Magazine, Metropolitan Home, and the New York Times.

Suzanne July 23, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Mary Webb, Before you give Adam Blank a slam dunk on his service on the Zoning Commission, I suggest you read the letter in today’s Hour, July 23rd, “People of Norwalk Desrve (sic) an Honest Mayor”. It sounds like his expertise was not only appropriate but needed. In addition, it would be advisable before a nonchalant zinger such as “Adam Blank was pro-Mosque”, you check the public record. The Commission was made to sign a resolution by the Corporate Counsel, a very few minutes before a key meeting, that uses the phrase “Vote against a resolution to deny the application” by the mosque representatives (why these double negatives are necessary in Commission-speak, I don’t know.) This is a pro forma procedure for which the Commissioners have little choice but to sign given the conditions that had been met by the Mosque applicants: Mr. Blank signed under protest and made his objections to the Mosque scale and lack of parking known. This is hardly a “pro-Mosque” position. Rather, it is clear from Mr. Blank’s experience that Mr. Moccia has an agenda that meets his need for control with little consideration toward service to the community of Norwalk. It is a shame: the people that would be so qualified as M. Allen would like and we would all appreciate are likely afraid to step up to a volunteer position where clandestine meetings are held with the Mayor pressuring one’s decision to ensure it goes his way. What the Mayor forgets is that Zoning Commission members are not there to serve him. But, it seems another requirement for service in Norwalk at the Commission level is either a strong stomach for histrionics or an ulcer. Good luck to the ill-informed Ms. Kruk.

M Allen July 23, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Suzanne – let me be clear: I am not saying the Mayor should select people who will work against his agenda. It is his right as Mayor to appoint people who will work towards the goals he is championing. My point was that I’m not sure we have all that many experts stepping up to be part of government. Any administration or majority party is going to appoint people who are likely to maintain a certain philosophical tilt. It just goes with the territory. These aren’t nefarious back room deals where one branch of government is trying to influence another. These are political appointees.

Hobbes the Calvinist July 24, 2013 at 6:25 am

A few casual observations- Moccia appoints pitbulls and sheep. Look at his crew on the BET- it’s like the Home on the Range (never a discouraging word is heard).
His “new” blood line is a farce (just look at his perpetual re-appointments of Joe Santo and Jim Feignebaum).
His uneasiness with Adam Blank’s legal work doesn’t ring with much authenticity because it was disclosed prior to his appointment.
Moccia made a deal to save Sue Haynie from a primary (which he had to know she’d lose). He should just admit it’s politics and move on. Or he can continue to fib to us voters and expect that enough of us will be counted among his sheep on November 5th.

Anna Duleep July 24, 2013 at 9:25 am

@JoeEspo: Former Chief Rilling has an MPA according to his website: http://www.rillingformayor.com/about

Harry’s graduate-level degree in public administration is likely more pertinent to his appointment to Zoning than his experience “shooting” as a police chief.

M Allen July 24, 2013 at 9:50 am

@Anna – Actually no. If you follow the logic of the people screaming for relevant professional backgrounds on this and other commissions, even Harry wouldn’t fit the bill as it relates to P&Z. Public Administration is basically a management degree, which is beneficial in other areas, but not so much in Zoning. For those seeking to pillory individual members of one commission or another based on their professional backgrounds, even the Chief can’t get a pass in that regard.

Suzanne July 24, 2013 at 10:47 am

Sorry, M. Allen, that assessment of Public Administration is not accurate. Hate to invoke this but my Dad happened to be a professor of Public Administration at a California University and head of the Department. He regularly looked at the administration of zoning and planning issues as well as issues about urban development in his role as not only a professor but as a consultant to the State government. In fact, I would say from observing his work over many years, it was about the efficacy of GOOD administration of a variety of issues within the confines of a bureaucracy. That makes Mr. Rilling’s MPA not only relevant but, once again, needed as it is not derived from the political will of a single person’s agenda. It is a degree about being of service to ALL of the public.

M Allen July 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I agree to some extent Suzanne. Your Dad was obviously more than just an MPA recipient. Look, I’m not saying its not relevant. It’s helpful, but let’s not place him as a subject-matter expert. You would have to look into Mr. Rilling’s course work to see what if any courses were directly related to zoning and city planning. Within any Master’s level program there are a number of core courses and many electives. I can tell you that while my MBA did contain an accounting course or two, I wouldn’t put myself out there as an authority on corporate accounting. I have a working knowledge in order to facilitate management-level decision making, but I’m far from being a subject-matter expert. Anyway, no point arguing. I’m sure Mr. Rilling is a highly-qualified zoning professional to those who want to see him as such. The problem is that given the standards some people want to use for these commissions, even an MPA wouldn’t be enough.

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