NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s what we have for you in political notes this Monday:
- Planning Commission quietly begins POCD process
- Former Norwalk Superintendent Rivera has retired
- Arts Commission formalized
- Planning and Zoning Commission slots filled
Planning Commission kicking off POCD
“It’s a kick off meeting to start the process of updating the Plan of Conservation and Development and the public is certainly welcome to attend,” Planning Commission Chairwoman Fran DiMeglio said Saturday in an email, explaining the agenda for Monday’s Planning Commission meeting.
As of Sunday, this information was a little difficult to find. The city website’s calendar listed a Monday evening Planning Commission meeting, and also a Planning Commission Plan of Conservation & Development Oversight Committee Special Meeting at the same time, but clicking on the links for the agendas led you to information for Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting.
The current agenda was listed under agendas.
Public comment is not included in Monday’s meeting.
“There will be many opportunities in the coming months for public engagement and comment, and these meetings will be publicized in many forms. Giving you a quick look ahead, there will be an interactive website totally dedicated to the POCD,” DiMeglio said.
Norwalk is required by state statute to update its master plan, or POCD, every 10 years. The city has hired Stantec to assist with the POCD, in a $195,000 contract.
The agenda for Monday’s meeting:
I. Call to order
II. Introductions and committee member plan aspirations
III. POCD purpose, importance and implementation impacts
IV. Structure of planning process
V. Public engagement process
VI. Stantec initial thoughts on Norwalk
VII. Schedule/next steps
Manny Rivera bows out
Former Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera is exiting New London in much the same way he left Norwalk – as a surprise to the Board of Education, ahead of expectations.
Rivera, in a July 13 letter to the school system, announced that he is retiring.
“Board members reacted with as much aplomb as they could summon because, after all, nobody is indispensable … despite a warning from him a week earlier that he was considering retirement, they must have been wishing that the boat would not be rocked,” The Day wrote.
Rivera’s retirement was mentioned Thursday in Norwalk at the BoE Finance Committee meeting, as an amused aside to budget discussions.
New London’s surge of funding has nothing to do with Rivera, BoE member Erik Anderson said, with a laugh.
“He’s gone, Manny’s gone, so it’s not Manny,” he said.
Rivera lasted longer in New London than he did in Norwalk, with a 2.5-year tenure compared to his 1.5 years here.
“This complex work has not been easy,” Rivera said in his letter to New London. “It has been a 24/7 effort, requiring a significant investment of time, energy and resources.”
When Rivera left Norwalk there was plenty of blame to go around. In March 2015, Mayor Harry Rilling said Rivera had “some very personal reasons.” State Sen. Bob Duff (D-25) said, “I think if the public had the full story they might change their tune a little.”
His departure from New London was mentioned on the Facebook page, Norwalk Parents for Education.
“Looks like NLPS ended in similar fashion to NPS. I hope he has a nice retirement,” Lisa Lenskold wrote. “…He was very positive for the district but not there long enough to see the fruits of his labor. I really enjoyed working with him at NPS and my colleagues in NL did as well.”
BoE Chairman Mike Lyons wrote, “Manny helped us lay the groundwork for what we’ve fully built-out with Steven Adamowski; he left a very positive imprint during his short time here.”
‘New’ Arts Commission
The Arts Commission was made an official governmental body by the Common Council in February, and nine members were appointed on July 11:
- Jennifer Bangser
- T.C. Burtt
- Becki Christopherson
- Janet Evelyn
- Nori Grundin
- Lynn Massey
- Helen Roman
- Danielle Vinci
- Susan Wallerstein
“Although we all know about the arts commission, all of their hard work in our city, a few months ago, many of you know, we voted to make them an official city Commission through Ordinance. I think that’s fabulous because of all their hard work,” Ordinance Committee Chairwoman Eloisa Melendez (D-District A) said at the July 11 Council meeting, pointing out that some new members have been “hardworking for years” while some are new.
Council member Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) said Wallerstein had been tasked by former Mayor Richard Moccia to organize the Arts Commission and stayed with it.
“That’s pretty important,” Hempstead said. “I know your intestinal fortitude all too well. They did pick the right person to bring it. You have really brought it to fruition…. I know the Board will be served well, hopefully, by your leadership.”
Council member Rich Bonenfant (R-At Large) urged Wallerstein to guide members ethically, as some have projects that could get funding through the city.
“I think this is a bigger step forward than a lot of us think at first,” Council member Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said. “. … What we are doing is saying in effect that, ‘We need to take the arts and our art history seriously. It’s got to become part of the fabric of Norwalk.’
I think we have a good group of people here, to begin to understand that our … Arts Commisison is going to add to the character and the flavor do the city and it’s going to be a place that we are going to enjoy living in a whole lot, possibly a whole lot more. In the future people are going to be coming to Norwalk a whole lot more often because of that.”
“I am very happy to see that an Arts Commission has finally been formed because to be honest I think that the arts commission has been functioning for probaly 10 or 15 or 20 years, with some of you…. It’s come a long way and it’s about time.
“This is really an important move in preserving the arts, and educating and making people aware of the wonderful things that we have here in Norwalk. We should embrace it but I would really like to thank Susan Wallerstein who really has dedicated herself to this … she is absolutely remarkable.”
The ordinance specifies an 11-member Commission.
Planning Commission gets new members; Zoners reappointed
Also on July 11, the Council approved appointments to the Planning and Zoning Commissions.
Brian Baxendale and Sixth Taxing District Commissioner Tammy Langalis were made new members of the Planning Commission, while Steve Ferguson was reappointed, and Nate Sumpter and Galen Wells and were reappointed to the Zoning Commission.
Baxendale is chapter chairman of SCORE, a business mentoring program, and assisted Norwalk Council members in 2014-15 in the development of an economic plan; he is Board Director of Homes with Hope and is retired from Pitney Bowes, according to his resume.
He’s a former Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now (NEON) Board member and has worked with Habitat for Humanity and Junior Achievement, his resume states.
Langalis is a realtor, has been a Sixth Taxing District Commissioner since 2007, was on the Board of Assessment Appeals from 2008 to 2011 and is a member of the Norwalk Land Trust, according to her resume.
“I think Brian Baxendale is going to be great at issues with the Planning Commission … I know he’ll be able to work with everybody and be a plus for the Commission,” Majority Leader John Kydes (D-District C) said.
“We have appointed her before I know that she works well with both parties,” Bonenfant said of Langalis.
“She is level headed and she can compromise and come up with fair solutions to difficult issues,” said Council President John Igneri (D-District E), who is also a Sixth Taxing District Commissioner.
Of Ferguson, Igneri said,
“I don’t know him well but I have sat in a few meetings with him,” Igneri said. “I am very impressed with the questioning that goes on, seeing in action on the Planning Commission.”
Ferguson is “a great asset to South Norwalk community,” Council member Faye Bowman (D-District B) said.
“I admire anyone who has the patience, the commitment, the time to sit on the Zoning Commission,” Kimmel said, speaking on Sumpter’s appointment. “… Sometimes we think the meetings here go long. Zoning, for some of the major projects, it’s like a never-ending discussion with all kinds of rules that have to be followed. It’s so much more complex than some of the things we do here, which are difficult, because of the laws that govern everything they do, the potential for litigation in everything they do. You’ve got to have the temperament, you’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to be willing to put in the time and I think Nate… has done a terrific job.”
Corsello called Sumpter “a very decent man,” with an amiable nature and said he is a Vietnam veteran.
Simms called Sumpter “a model citizen,” and Bowman said he is also “a great asset to South Norwalk community.”
Wells is a “great continuance to the Commission,” Council member Tom Livingston (D-District E) said; Igneri called her hard working and level headed.