NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s effort to build tomorrow will debut shortly with a new website, seeking opinions from the public while it provides information.
The Plan of Conservation and Development Oversight Committee met Wednesday to get a sneak peek at http://tomorrow.norwalkct.org/, which developer David Snyder of the Snyder Group said would go live in a few days. The site is designed to be a “two-way street,” encouraging Norwalkers to “take surveys and engage in an Internet environment” as they provide feedback on what they’d like Norwalk to be as time moves on.
While there was some debate about whether to stick with the old nomenclature “POCD” versus inviting the public to help build a “city-wide master plan,” committee members expressed no objections to the website and offered some complimentary feedback.
The Plan of Conservation and Development, sometimes called a master plan, is state-mandated, with a requirement that a new plan be formed every 10 years. There are widespread complaints that the last POCD is a mish-mosh, not a guiding document for the city.
The aim is to make the new plan as complete and effective as possible, Mayor Harry Rilling said at the beginning of the meeting.
“We want to make this plan like the Bible going forward for the city of Norwalk,” Rilling said, urging that it get done right, a vision for 15-20 years down the road.
“We want people to offer opinions, we want people to think outside the box, we want people to think in terms of individual neighborhoods,” Rilling said. “We want people to think in terms of other areas of the city that we can grow and develop to the fullest potential, whether it’s the industrial zone, whether we need to change some Zoning regulation changes to make Norwalk a little more secure, a little more safe from certain types of developments that maybe we don’t want.”
Rilling said he wanted specific timeframes and specific accountabilities.
“One thing I know we really want to focus on also is sustainability,” he said. “…The city fleet, that was purchased under the Knopp administration, is getting a little tired. Maybe we can get some real savings by purchasing hybrid vehicles.”
Norwalk Tomorrow will consolidate all of Norwalk’s planning documents onto one website, Snyder said.
“This is an opportunity to build something that has legs,” he said. “So as we get more planning, right now we are looking at the parking study, a redevelopment study and the master plan.
There’s going to be other things as time goes by. It can be expanded.”
Making Norwalk Tomorrow a subdomain of the city website has advantages, he said.
“We are leveraging everything that is existing in that domain, for search engines , for the familiarity of the public, but it is its own separate website,” he said.
“The POCD is kind of the umbrella for the site,” Bill Thode of the Snyder Group said, explaining its features, including the video playing subtly on the homepage.
The homepage announced a city-wide plan.
“The name is Plan of Conservation and Development,” Planning Commission Chairwoman Frances DiMeglio said.
“A lot of people out in the public won’t know what that really means,” Stantec principal Larissa Brown said, explaining the rationale for going with a new, more generic title.
“I think the public is smart enough to get it, if we all say the same phrase,” said Diane Lauricella, explaining that activists have already been out in the city educating people.
“I like city-wide plan,” Planning Commissioner Nora King said, complaining of “meaningless names.”
“What we suffer from as a city is we don’t really have a reputation as city planning,” King said. “I think by saying city-wide plan, it shouldn’t be Redevelopment and it shouldn’t be the Parking Authority. The Parking Authority, based on my pulling up here and parking, needs to be revamped and should be part of the city-wide plan. We should be driving parking, not parking driving the city. So I think the city in general needs an overhaul.”
City-wide master plan is “crystal clear,” she said, and, “Moving forward maybe the city can be known as a city that does very strong planning which we have not done in the 10-15 years I have been here.”