Norwalkers’ preferred path for Manresa Island would be costly

A page from a PowerPoint prepared by Fitzgerald & Halliday to show the pros and cons of open space on Manresa Island.

An illustration of the Manresa Island power plant, prepared as part of an economic impact analysis.

NORWALK, Conn. — Most people who offered an opinion on Manresa Island would prefer a passive reuse of the property, with open pathways through marshland and forests.

Problem is, that use would generate no property tax revenue from a property that currently provides Norwalk with $565,000 a year.

That’s the word from Fitzgerald & Halliday, a firm hired by Norwalk and the Manresa Association to do an economic impact analysis of the island and its mothballed power plant, at a $150,000 cost that was split by the city and the Association. The idea of the analysis is to get ahead of the game and be ready with information should NRG, the current owner of the 155-acre island and its closed power plant, decide to sell the property.

Fitzgerald & Halliday is looking to present a refined conceptual plan to the public in October, followed by more public input and a final plan in December, according to a PowerPoint presentation from a Sept. 25 workshop in City Hall, provided to NancyOnNorwalk by Manresa Association President Charlie Taney.

The PowerPoint presents much information, including a review of estimates for remediation of the coal ash that were announced at the last workshop session: according to a 2013 document, it would cost $32.8 to $35.8 million to take down the power plant and do what was referred to in July as a “shallow excavation” of the coal ash.

The PowerPoint states:

  • The 2017 assessed value of land and structures of the southern parcel, which includes the power plant, is $22,575,661. This is 0.189 percent of Norwalk’s grand list.
  •  This generates $565,000 in property tax revenue per year ($6.38 per capita).
  •   A transfer of the property to a non-profit entity would result in a loss of property tax revenue that would likely require an increase in the city’s mill rate to replace the lost revenue.

An online survey drew 674 responses, with about 80 percent of the opinion favoring public passive open space, i.e., a nature area that people could enjoy; about 68 percent preferred conservation land, 20 percent said residential development would be preferable and 6 percent preferred office space.

Fitzgerald & Halliday went on to explore various options, concepts that “are geometrically feasible, but may not be feasible from a financial or environmental basis,” according to the PowerPoint.

A marina could generate a nearly the revenue that the property produces now and a high-value, low density housing development could bring in a little more than the dilapidated plant, the PowerPoint states. But the most lucrative development for the site would be the one almost everyone abhors – a series of six-story apartment buildings.

A theoretical 400 residential units spread out in four buildings could bring in $5 million a year to Norwalk, according to the study.

The PowerPoint states:

  • The property could accommodate a 20 acre 4.3 MWh solar farm, which would power approximately 600 homes, producing $1.5 million per year of electricity (at $0.222 per KWh). This solar farm would not be readily visible from surrounding properties, but solar farm equipment is exempt from local property taxes.
  • A diagram showing how a marina would be placed on Manresa Island.

    A marina with 64 boat slips and 16-acre boat yard could fit on the property, with a club house or resort building on the southwestern corner of site. This could generate more than $500,000 per year in property tax revenue. While this is based upon valuations of comparable development types in Norwalk, the actual appraised value of development and tax revenue could be negatively impacted by site conditions and perceptions associated with historic use of site.

  • A low density/high value residential development would feature 11 two- to four-acre parcels and could generate approximately $600,000 per year in property tax revenue, which would fully replace the existing tax revenue from the site. Again, the actual appraised value of development and tax revenue could be negatively impacted by site conditions and perceptions associated with historic use of site.
  • A medium density residential development could feature 68 lots, 33 at water’s edge and 35 inland, with lot sizes between .25 and .75 acres. This could generate up to $1.4 million in tax revenue per year, a 240 percent increase over existing tax revenues. (Once again, the actual appraised value of development and tax revenue could be negatively impacted by site conditions and perceptions associated with historic use of site.)
  • A high density/mid-rise residential development could feature four six-story buildings with 100 residential units in each building, a total 400 residential units and 1 million square feet of floor space. The assessed value could be as high as $500,000 per unit for a total assessed value of up to $200 million, which would generate up to $5 million in tax revenue per year. (Don’t forget, the actual appraised value of development and tax revenue could be negatively impacted by site conditions and perceptions associated with historic use of site.)


Demolishing the power plant, which was estimated in 2013 to cost between $6 and $9 million, would increase neighboring property values, the PowerPoint states, going on to state that 288 properties have a view of the Manresa power plant and/or smokestack. Those properties have a total assessed value of $467,780,489 and generate $11,902,207 per year in property taxes.

If the property values went up 5 percent, Norwalk would see an additional $595,110 in yearly property taxes; if it were 10 percent the gain would be $1,190,221; 15 percent would mean an $1,785,331 increase and 20 percent would mean a $2,380,441 increase.

Asked what would happen next, Taney in a Sunday email said, “The consultant is conducting another round of an online survey to get public input.  The first one a few months ago drew over 600 responses. We’re hoping for a similar response for the second online survey. It will go out in the next few days.”


Sue Haynie October 12, 2017 at 6:16 am

Norwalk, a city of ridiculously high property taxes that are soon to get worse given the condition of the State of CT, does not have the luxury of designating this land to non-taxed open space. Keep the discussion going.

srb1228 October 12, 2017 at 8:25 am

Norwalk shouldn’t be shortsighted. Compared to Westchester and Nassau counties, Norwalk taxes are not exorbitant and our services remain strong. Nonetheless some mixed use, recreational and housing or a marina would accomplish several tasks. An unsightly power plant would come down and nearby property values would increase, high end housing or marina would bring in tax revenue and with 155 acres it should be possible to incorporate some recreational activities, even if it’s just a walking path (with parking adjacent- I’ve seen far too many developers who are supposed to provide public easements but then conveniently obscure them or make them difficult to access). Arguing that we can’t afford the loss of tax revenue is akin to Chris Christie’s foolish decision to stop a third tunnel or Stamford’s decision years ago to not purchase Treetops for a $1 (they later paid many times that amount). Just look at the NYC highline to get an idea on the incredible spillover effects provided by a well designed public amenity.

Rem October 12, 2017 at 8:42 am

Sorry, Nancy, but Fitzgerald & Halliday apparently neglected to provide you with the interesting results from the Sept 25th workshop — namely that the majority present wanted to push for a mixed-use scenario (conservation/open space with income generation).

What I find particularly mind-boggling is that almost everyone seems to be ignoring the elephant in the room; that is the site is not only in a “flood plain” but actually is flooded quite frequently. If you take a look at the NOAA / Nature Conservancy map of coastal CT (http://maps.coastalresilience.org/connecticut/) you’ll notice that Manressa Island in particular is most at risk to storm surge. You might think that’s not a big deal — Nor’easter’s and Hurricanes aren’t that common, but… latest climate projections show increasing occurrences of storms ( https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/07/us-coastal-flooding-carbon-emissions-study ) << " New York City is set to get a 100-year flood every 20 years by 2050 but this frequency would leap to a large flood every other month by 2100 " Basically, this means that most likely Manressa Island will be underwater more frequently in the future, and that doesn't account for sea level rise either (I asked F&H about this; they said it was beyond their scope). Even if you had a development that is raised off the ground, there's no guarantee that the foundation will survive a storm surge/ flooding event (or likewise start sinking over time). Really, the best for the future survival of Norwalk, especially the area of downtown that never really recovered from the Flood of 1955, is to turn Manressa Island back into a marsh to act as a sponge for future storm events. You might lose the taxes, but you'll lessen the storm damage that comes after a major storm, which we all know can break a city – (New Orleans, for example).

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 12, 2017 at 9:25 am

This discussion should be part of our POCD development. I hope the folks at Stantec are paying attention. @srb, I’m glad you brought up the NYC High Line. Friends of the High Line paid for the last third of that project and continue to fund 90% of the operating costs through private donations. The High Line is a great example of a successful public-private partnership. Norwalk has an annual operating budget approaching $350,000,000. A loss of $500,000 in tax revenue is less than 2/10ths of 1% of the grand list. Now consider the spillover to Norwalk of adding 125 acres of open space with public trails and amenities. Interesting that the calculations above on tax revenue don’t take into account the increase in city services associated with adding density. Have we learned nothing from the Waypointe? In Norwalk, adding apartment units means adding children. And those children have to go to school. High density housing would create additional burdens on water and sewer service, and first responders. The fire and police budgets would go up. I wish I’d been to this presentation. But it was scheduled during the CNNA meeting at which we were discussing the Master Plan. The Manresa conversation should be part of the Master Plan (POCD) as well. An analysis that focuses solely on tax revenue without considering tax implications isn’t a very good analysis.

Creating a waterfront public amenity for the city of Norwalk would increase everyone’s property values and would make Norwalk a more desireable place to live, work and do business. If the study the City and the Manresa Foundation paid for focuses solely on potential tax revenue from the property under various scenarios without considering other potential costs and benefits, Fitzgerald & Halliday needs to go back to the drawing board because no one got their money’s worth.

Sue Haynie October 12, 2017 at 11:37 am

@SRB11228, I agree with you, “some mixed use, recreational and housing or a marina would accomplish several tasks.”

I disagree with you about taxes. That Norwalk’s taxes aren’t as exorbitant as Westchester, one of the highest taxes counties in the USA, is little solace.

As for services, I don’t know what you mean by ‘strong’ city services. A Cranbury resident, I use the Westport library (it has parking), the Westport YMCA (Norwalk has none) and go to the city center’s of other towns while I wait for Wall Street to turn in to something other than an eyesore.

Rick October 12, 2017 at 12:45 pm

I think the city has been played, why hasn’t Himes and Murphy been involved ?

Norwalk is low hanging fruit and the taxpayers seem to think studies cure all, I think once the facts are on the table and the people in Greenwich stop laughing at Norwalkers maybe the city will wake up.

Why Himes and Murphy ?why would they get involved good question its not their problem maybe thats where Wilms gets his material.

The company has contributed to the election campaigns of several Connecticut politicians. Among organizations, the company (known as Northeast Utilities at the time) was the third biggest contributor to Representative Christopher Murphy (CT-5),[17] the fourth biggest contributor to Representative Joe Courtney (CT-2),[18] and the sixth biggest contributor to Representative John Larson (CT-1),[19] during the July 2009 to June 2011 period. During the longer four-year period from July 2007 to June 2011, Northeast Utilities and its executives donated $56,900 to Rep. Christopher Murphy,[20] $38,100 to Rep. Joe Courtney,[21] $30,000 to Rep. John Larson,[22] $11,800 to Rep. Jim Himes (CT-4),[23] and $6,000 to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-3).[24]

yes it came from here


But there is more but why rain on anyones parade ,its more like doing it into the wind for Norwalkers

I find after visiting the mothballed plant many times over the last couple of years and seeing first hand on whats been going on best thing Norwalkers can do now is get a refund on the study its nice but is missing the point.

I have other links they are current they show that players involved with this plant from Ct have not been asked nor have they stepped up to the plate to offer any thoughts.

This power plant is a cash cow and mention Millstone and that would throw most lost into whats next four Manressa

taxpayers your answer to the power plant is not at city hall not in any study and not with Charlie.

I wasn’t at the meetings but did Fitzgerald & Halliday went on to explore various options did they use lego blocks for part of the presentation ?

This study bought time for the power company and gave us all disney land feelings

Donna Smirniotopoulos October 12, 2017 at 12:46 pm

@Rem, were the dire flood predictions included in the online surveys or presented at the September 25th workshop? Flood predictions for this parcel are unsurprising, but then why would the consultants put four 6 story apartment buildings on the table? Perhaps environmental studies were not part of their purview or they were unaware of the NOAA maps or the June 2017 Environmental Research Letter cited above.

Adam Blank October 12, 2017 at 1:09 pm

While the tax revenue discussion is worth some consideration, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the $30M+ remediation costs. If the State will take title to the property, pay for its remediation w/the seller and keep it open space, that’s my vote. But if the only way it gets torn down and remediated is with an economically productive use paid for by private sector, I think almost any use is better than current use.

Rick October 12, 2017 at 1:57 pm

No one suggested long island power plant that is connected via Norwalk to the upgrades will never be used?

Eversource Energy has participated in a number of projects to improve the reliability of the power grid in southwest Connecticut. The first project was construction of the $350 million 345 kilovolt Bethel-Norwalk transmission line through the western part of the state, and was constructed entirely by the company when it was still known as Northeast Utilities.

With United Illuminating, an upgrade to the 69-mile (112 km), 345 kilovolt Middletown-Norwalk transmission line was energized in 2009 at a cost of $900 million.

is anyone adding this up?

Norwalk was always a pivot point to and from Long Island its also interesting the upgrades to a moth balled plant that has been done , were they detailed?

has anyone even suggested how mach waste is on the site right now and if consolidating the waste will eventually open a treatment plant on site? Liquid waste, one bid called for filling one of the round outside tanks to be spun

We know new landfill laws in old quarries have now been given the green light for ash disposal , so has anyone suggested it goes by water and not down woodward ave?

If cleaning it up is what most want this study should of dealt with the contamination and what to expect during cleanup right?

Have to agree with Adam but the cost you can double ,most estimates are made on fridays.

I don’t see any transparency in whats going on with the plant , the city was looking for options some of us wanted the truth for that kind of money the city should of got both.

The Hour ran a photo taken from the Norwalk fire boat detailing heat image ,that pictures shows equipment in the plant on standby is it power from Long Island via the power cable by a trans alantic cable ship? ?

Equipment in the plant some as lager as two story homes are kept powered or they go bad, and probably what the power company is paying some taxes on,can anyone confirm that?

If the pant was to reopen how long do yo think it would take ? Is the pant up for consideration like the others they have sold recently?

I know why ask questions that would impact the area using the game book of the utility company on other sites that had a lot less going on than Norwalks plant.

Michael McGuire October 12, 2017 at 2:01 pm

Be fiscally sound – Since there is a lot of land area to work with swap a few acres of Manresa Land with Devine Brothers (screen appropriately) and another 3-4 acres with United Marine (if they want to move), weld the Walk Street Bridge closed (which won’t inhibit power boats). That should save CT at least a couple of hundred million and create a real head of the harbor for redevelopment.

Make NRG clean the place up (which will be tied up for years in the courts). To create revenue in the interim build out a large boat storage yard/marina with public waterfront uses.

This shifts to clean up to NRG where it belongs, gains Norwalk vital marine related waterfront uses, side-steps the pending disruption of SoNo, monetizes the Manresa land in the interim with marine dependent uses, and saves hundreds of millions of taxpayer money.

When NRG finally does the clean up the land the disruption will be minimal and the land can now be used for something more valuable.

Oh, and don’t forget to thrown in a Train Station on Wall Street!

Non Partisan October 12, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Please be totally transparent and let us know if moving Devine would significantly increase the value of your land holdings.

Mike Mushak October 12, 2017 at 11:40 pm

I’m disappointed that there was no mention of the tangible economic benefits of making Manresa a state-of-the-art nature preserve and birdwatching destination, which brings in a documented $250 million a year in economic benefits to Cape May County, NJ, from a restored birdwatching habitat on the Atlantic Flyway migrating route (which Norwalk is also located on), which the Nature Conservancy helped with on a former degraded industrial site similar to Manresa Island.

Add to that an adaptive re-use of the power station as a large arts venue featuring large-scale sculptures and site-specific installations similar to the wildly successful DIA Beacon, MassMoca, or Tate Modern, drawing a steady but not overwhelming stream of cultural tourists with money in their pockets, and you have a recipe for success.

Oh, and don’t forget a fabulous visitors center for the McKinney Wildlife Refuge, paid for with federal funds that some insider told me once were already allocated, with a dock for boat rides around the islands and a water taxi to SoNo and Wall Street.

As far as the stack goes, how about a nostalgic candy cane paint job to create an instant landmark reminiscent of an old lighthouse, complete with rotating beacon on top. Ok maybe that’s a bit much, but this is the time to think outside the box.

Seriously, please don’t forget the economic benefits of creating a unique venue for cultural and eco-tourism that is the future of tourism, with benefits that far exceed any property tax return from a rush hour traffic-generating traditional development of this property that is totally located in a 100-year flood plain along with its only access roads, Woodward Ave and Meadow St.

I highly respect the consultants Fitzgerald and Halliday from their previous planning accomplishments in Norwalk, but am baffled as to why these proven and creative economically- and environmentally-sustainable concepts I described above were not explored further, which I had presented in previous workshops. Maybe they will still consider them in their final report.

If not, and we just end up with a mediocre solution with a few big McMansions and some solar panels, I will just have to take comfort by paraphrasing the words of the character Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) in On the Waterfront: “Norwalk could have had class. We could have been a contender. We could have been somebody.”

Rick October 13, 2017 at 3:07 pm

This was an election tool , now that dust from Mt Norwalk blows over the village creek area from the new contractors yards on Meadow st, and now that the words contamination and noise pollution have been dropped from conversation we have big plans for a power plant.

The money spent on the study came from who? The polluters the democratic wing the dreamers, and the taxpayers some who never been to Manressa Island.

For the money spent for the research Doc Holiday did and the vision from others who actually step foot on the developers paradise?

Some of us feel like village idiots knowing full well nothing was going to happen until after the election.

Those who have are builders savy save your breathe, plans have been made but not by the outreach the taxpayers , but by the maybe a lone wolf that knows selling in the village creek area is impossible now meadow st has become a nightmare.

Fitzgerald and Halliday was hired by the city many years ago for safer sidewalks and even sidewalks near the two Rowyaton schools when the kids went to school.

Study was done safety concerns were addressed and things were talked about, now almost ten years later and some of those kids have done 4 years at college the most of the issues remain the same never fixed never resolved.

Instead of the city asking for things from the MTA and the state for some of those safety improvements while bridge work is planned, we have carrots on a string for things like the wall st station and other ideas that are Norwalks future brought to the table by good private city planners who for the most part are ignored.

Odd how the McKinney Wildlife Refuge came up, fish and wildlife is looking at salt marsh restoration in Norwalk not connected to the power plant but downstream above the contamination from meadow st the old superfund site on woodward and yes the power plant. They agree restoring marshland before cleanup or prevention of further pollution is needed.

Where was the pro environmental people in Norwalk the night the city agreed to a contractors yard that would house empty dumpsters on Meadow st?

We did the math each dumpster having grease on its tracks would come to about a ton of grease on a dirt surface where storm drains had no grease catchers or pollution control within yards of the salt marsh restoration.

It sounds like that other grant Norwalk has chimed in on with the fish and wildlife was important to this power plant study but it was never breached. But the support for the restoration has targeted possible innocent vocal taxpayers simply trying to make the city better.

Where was the report on the shellfish beds , not in the hands of the shellfish commission, its possible they were never asked to be involved where big money from the city attached to a possible vote at election time has been put in place.

Im starting to realize some who reach out and tell us what Norwalk needs are not seeing transparency in a lot of issues that have city taxpayer money involved.

Where in this taxpayer funded report does it detail anything about the power plant when running did their own testing of the village creek area to ensure the pollution there did’nt cone from the power plant?

But instead meadow st or Howes furniture site ringed with test wells recirculation fields (that translates the ground is still dirty)

Where was the list of chemicals that are present at the power plant and where on the propetty they are? DEEP has them why not Doc Holiday?

Yes there is contamination in the area Fish and Wildlife know this only too well but the transparency to the residents remain clouded on this and other things that would suggest the power plant remains along with the billion dollars plus assets to sell the power company plans to make back for its share holders .

two separate transmission lines to Norwalk that have a shelf life of 50 years will just be abandoned that cost over a billion dollars to install so Norwalk can have a new playground.

Why this last report didn’t contain any info from Fish and Wildlife is concerning, they too have money along with Norwalker taxpayers on a seperate active grant.

Chesapeake Bay Field Office
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
177 Admiral Cochrane Drive
Annapolis, MD 21401
Fax: 410-266-9127

Ideas for the power pant years ago included Norwalk using it, if we have to look at it why not get something more out of it like power, that idea seem so practical, so if its sold put back on line as a gas plant the city still loses out again.

Bet the new mall would of bought its power from Norwalk and yes that would of been a win win and outside of the box,

No one said anything about Ct’s only Nuclear power pant hanging on by a thread so this plant one of the dirty five remains very viable for the power company along with its transmission line and still connected to Long Island. Did Holiday mention Ct may lose a large power source and plants like this could take up the slack?

So as we go back and listen to others who name places like Norwalk who did great things to reclaim land for public use lets be reminded this is Norwalk and not Kansas.

This power plant turned into one of the best red herrings out of city hall in a long time.So lets enjoy the ride while Norwalkers lose again.

I still would ask for a refund this study turned out to be another Holiday comic strip.

Barry October 15, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Why dont they propose it to amazon for their HQ2 it’s big enough and sounds like a great ecenomic boost.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>