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Norwalk readies outreach for forward-thinking master plan

Mayor Harry Rilling thanks volunteers serving in a Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) Oversight Committee on Wednesday in the South Norwalk Library, as a prototype of the new Norwalk Tomorrow website is broadcast on a screen behind him.

A drafted logo for the Norwalk Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) effort.

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.”

David Snyder of the Snyder Group demonstrates a page from Norwalk Tomorrow, showcasing surveys to solicit public opinion.

15 comments

Sue Haynie November 2, 2017 at 6:27 am

Thank Mayor-candidate Lisa Brinton for Rilling’s new focus on city planning. Lisa for Mayor.

Rilling’s been in office for 4 years with no plan. Now, right before an election, he rolls out this. Lisa for Mayor

Rilling says, “…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.” That’s his input? What does that have to do with all the big issues like Wall Street decay, POKO, blight, Walk Bridge, illegal apartments, over-burdened taxpayers?

Lisa for Mayor. She had a plan all along.

Tony P November 2, 2017 at 7:21 am

Sue, this has been in the works for over a year. And, Rilling did hire a city planner. But, dont let facts get in the way of an opinion. Still haven’t actually seen a plan from candidate Brinton, either.

David McCarthy November 2, 2017 at 7:31 am

Only Harry Rilling can think that starting a Facebook group (or having a savvy 23 year old do it) means that he is doing something or that the city is being professionally run.

The POCD is a document that people can point to in 5 years and claim it supports or opposes their point of view. It is so high level that the same sentence can serve both those purposes.

Rather than actually doing the work to manage the city, bringing together the handful of willing people will do nothing more than create a tyranny of the minority, and demonstrates the absolute lack of vision and leadership this administration is known for.

Sue is right. This is a political mayor making a sound bite so he can say he is doing something to get re-elected. No leadership, no vision, collecting money from out of town developers because they just “like the way Norwalk is run”

Pamela Parkington November 2, 2017 at 8:00 am

@Sue – The COPD is State mandated and comes up every ten years, Lisa had nothing to do with this, to believe she did is disingenuous at best.

BTW, like Tony P. I too am curious to know what Lisa’s plan for all us will be. Because the only thing that I have heard from her is how grand it is and that the rest of us plebs here in Norwalk have no clue to what we are doing…Only she knows what’s best for us.

But it GREAT! It’s gonna be HUGE!

Don’t worry she’s got this….whether we like it or not.

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 2, 2017 at 9:39 am

This article is about the POCD Oversight Committee’s meeting last night. The link above is to the PARKING survey, but that is not crystal clear until the end of the survey where you can find attribution to the NPA at the bottom. Also Snyder Group is the consulting group hired by the NPA to develop a city-wide parking plan. Stan Tech is the group doing the POCD work.

None of this is clear. But all of it is typical. And I don’t think this is a reporting problem. It’s a problem with spending nearly half a million dollars on planning consultants who don’t seem to be working in concert. It’s a problem of poor communication.

So a few questions:
How much did the City have to pay for that hideous logo and theme?
Who is on the steering committee?
What interests do those people represent?
What is the purview of the steering committee?

I’ve attended three CNNA meetings to date. The questions asked on this survey do not relate in any way to the topics we have discussed at these meetings related to the POCD. I’ve attended Zoning Commission hearings, ZBA hearings, CC Planning Committee hearings and CNNA meetings. Hands down, CNNA is better run than most City committees and commissions. Neighborhood activitsts are keeping Norwalk moving in the right direction more than any other single entity in the City, including the mayor’s office.

Lisa has a proven track-record of success as an activist for better schools, accountable government and thriving neighborhoods has extraordinary value as Norwalk creates the next POCD. Lisa’s plan has been well articulated by the way. Professionalize City Hall. Make Norwalk easier to do business with. Grow the grand list. Step up enforcement. Seize upon Norwalk’s advantageous location between NYC and New Haven to attract biomed, pharmaceutical and finance businesses to the City.

I understand Lisa’s plan. The Norwalk Tomorrow plan, however, is as murky as the harbor at low tide.

Fran Di Meglio November 2, 2017 at 10:07 am

@Sue Haynie – Mayor Rilling’s comments were part of the opening remarks with some thoughts towards some subject areas. On the initiative of Mayor Rilling, the Oversight Committee, as a much smaller group, started meeting two years ago on how to structure the update of the Citywide Plan (The Plan of Conservation and Development) as required by the State. Since the inception of this process, more members have been added (by Mayor Rilling) in order to be as inclusive as possible and have as much representation from all areas of the City. The interactive website for access by all residents will soon be launched and there’s a public input meeting scheduled for November 18 at Brien McMahon. There will be many opportunities for members of the public to be heard. Update to this Citywide Plan did not “just get rolled out” and it was not just put together to come out before the election. I urge all residents to attend the 11/18 meeting and help shape the new Citywide Plan of Conservation and Development which is due to the State in late 2018.
Thank you
Fran Di Meglio
Chair – Planning Commission

Education101 November 2, 2017 at 10:15 am

Bravo and kudos to Mayor Rilling! This is taking command and control and demonstrating real leadership. I look forward to his third term. His temperament should be applauded by staying above the fray during this scorched earth political season. . . class act to say the least.

Diane Lauricella November 2, 2017 at 10:33 am

To clarify, at the meeting, I agreed with Planning Commission Chair DiMeglio that the actual name of Plan of Conservation and Development and the acronym POCD should be prominently displayed up front. The purpose of that is so the public, officials, and the staff are all on the same page throughout this entire process and beyond. The Zoning Commission Chair, Nate Sumpter, was also present at this meeting and echoed Ms. DiMeglio’s suggestion.

If we all begin by using the same terms that we have already been using, the public is smart enough not to be confused.

While I agree with Commissioner King that there needs to be better comprehensive planning in this City, the term “Citywide Plan” can then be the subtitle and is also an important element to explain after the public recognizes and adopts the “POCD” lingo.

In order to assist the City in gearing up for this exciting project, many folks, including CNNA (Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations) have been referring to the “Plan of Conservation and Development” and the “POCD”. I feel that the public is not confused about those terms at all unless the staff and consultants that we pay to help us make this an issue. At the beginning of this process, let’s get on the same page and listen to the people.

I feel that the Plan of Conservation and Development title and the POCD should be the overarching “umbrella” nomenclatures that all other studies, including the Redevelopment Agency update and the Parking Authority study, fall under. POCD updates in other towns already include multiple studies and sections like Development and Parking, etc..

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 2, 2017 at 10:40 am

To backtrack a bit, who’s on the steering committee, why is the survey linked above a parking survey and not related to the POCD, and how is Rilling staying “above the fray”? His donor list puts him right smack dab in the middle of it.

Donald November 2, 2017 at 11:35 am

Tony P
Please tell us whom this elusive city planner is that you say Rilling hired. I have yet to hear anything that he /she is involved in.

Debora Goldstein November 2, 2017 at 3:33 pm

Fran,

Looking forward to the first public session.

There will also be smaller neighborhood sessions in different sections of the city.

Thank the PC and Mr. Kleppin for ensuring that Stantec seeks as much input as possible from the community.

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 2, 2017 at 5:02 pm

Are the steering committee meetings open to the public, and if so where are meeting notices posted? Mission and vision are integral to any long-term planning process. Are these concepts that Stan tech is familiar with?

Nancy Chapman November 2, 2017 at 6:31 pm

Donna, the steering committee meetings are open to the public. Agendas are posted on the city’s website, under the Planning Commission heading, and on the calendar page. It was listed yesterday as “Plan of Conservation and Development Oversight Committee Special Meeting.”

I mentioned in my story about Monday’s debate that there would be a meeting Wednesday.

The Nov. 18 visioning meeting is more highly publicized, with announcements already made through social media.

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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.

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