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Nowalk ponders tomorrow at master plan outreach session

Darlene Young expresses an opinion, Saturday in the Center for Global Studies, as a community outreach session for Norwalk’s next master plan comes to a close.

Norwalk Tomorrow is the Norwalk Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) effort.

NORWALK, Conn. — Protecting the coastline, supporting the schools and preventing overdevelopment.

Reportedly, there was a consensus at Saturday’s Norwalk Tomorrow meeting, the first public outreach session to develop a new master plan, otherwise known as the Plan of Conservation and Development.

The state requires a new POCD every 10 years; Norwalk has hired Stantec to be its consultant and partner in the year-long effort.

Up to 200 people attended the three-hour session in the Center for Global Studies, collaborating in small groups to offer their thoughts about what priorities Norwalk should embrace as it moves forward.

There should be incentives for renewable energy, an effort to create a less-auto dependent Norwalk and a move to protect the waterways, one woman reported as the session came to a close, adding that development should be controlled and Zoning regulations enforced.

She also suggested that there be a master plan session available for high school kids.

“They are the ones we hope are going to be here in 40 years,” she said.

Schools are very important, a man said next, going on talk about infrastructure and to advocate for diversity in population and businesses, and “promoting our shared community culture.”

“But I think the overriding theme at this table is ‘how do we get the young people to stay?’” he said.

“One of our biggest topics was sidewalks,” Mike Barbis said.

Attendees of Saturdays’ master plan forum made notes on maps of Norwalk as they brainstormed.

Barbis said he’d spoken to Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin about big box stores, and been told that a 10-year moratorium on stores with more than 10,000 square feet was possible. Signage control on Connecticut and Westport Avenues would be nice, and there should be solar panels on as many public buildings as possible, he said, suggesting also, on behalf of his group, that Norwalk create a system of incubators and angel investors to create a friendly environment for new business and technology.

Darlene Young spoke on behalf of South Norwalk, complaining that it is bisected by industrial zoning as a remnant of the past, that every contractor yard seems to be in South Norwalk.

“I am happy to hear there is a possibility, or there can be a discussion about a moratorium,” she said.

“You have to be worried about assuming a solution is the only solution because there can be a variety of solutions to the kinds of problems that people are talking about,” Larissa Brown, Stantec principal, warned.

Another group seated around a table suggested further development of bike and walkways and increasing public access to waterfront.

Preventing overdevelopment, protecting the coastline and open space, reinforcing Norwalk’s historic and maritime identity and economic development directed at high tech, green biotech and IT jobs were the priorities listed at another table.

The event concluded with a raffle, with $50 gift cards for local restaurants among the prizes.

There was a general consensus expressed over the course of the morning, Barbara Meyer Mitchell said, as people filtered out of the room.

Most tables suggested protecting the coastline and the river, and there is a desire for high tech, high-paying jobs, she said.

Almost every table listed schools as a priority and many mentioned Zoning or charter reform.

“We said integrate the taxing districts so we are one city going forward but I think everybody talked about streamlining city government so we are one city going forward,” Meyer Mitchell said, of the table that included Lisa Brinton Thomson.

Diversity was mentioned by about 30 percent of the tables, and affordable housing was mentioned by 20 percent, although “one person made a good point, define what affordable housing is,” she said.

“There was so much consensus in the room and that is what sometimes seems missing in the public conversation,” Meyer Mitchell said. “When you sit down at a table, even with people we don’t usually get along with, it’s, ‘Oh, we really do agree.’ It’s just that we are taking positions.”

a group of brainstormers for Norwalk’s next master Norwalk Tomorrow hosts a master planning session, Saturday in the Center for Global Studies.

5 comments

Piberman November 19, 2017 at 8:06 am

Nowalk’s 2 big changes in recent decades have Big Boxes displacing local small businesses, bringing severe traffic congestion, and a much greater transient population with renters displacing multi-generational families. Few homeowners retire here or see their children live here. Since 90% of the Grand List is residential reducing the punitive property tax burden requires either professional mgmt. at City Hall or greatly expanding out business sector. A stagnant County/State economy precludes the latter. So Nowalk’s future is an ever more transient City. Planning can’t change that outcome. The City’s basic economic structure precludes major alteration. Our “first in first out” label looks secure.

Rick November 19, 2017 at 1:14 pm

This was great start for the city preserving what hasn’t been destroyed its long over due.Thank you to all those trying to save and will all corners of the city.Support from the taxpayers to those working on this should be overwhelming.

Did the city furnish any of the old court case documents on zoning nightmares, mistakes or real estate giveaways? Those type of documents may have been useful to see how mistakes were made and by whom. All resources should be given to those who went and worked on this historic task.

I will still say Stantec is a poor choice to use in the city ,they have a poor track record and probably had information not given to the city as far as growth. Im sure given the fact Stantec and GGP inc are tight even in the same building in Canada the information flow probably could of been better for the city.Has Stantec ever admitted working for GGP inc?

Trust the redevelopment auth doesn’t use Stantec on any mall work,or studies that involve outfall from the mall it may be a conflict of interest. A red flag should be thrown in anything the city does with the mall and Stantec.

Where GGP now has been uncovered as a poorly run company bleeding cash I image Stantec will distance themselves from any outfall.

Stantec ended 2016 with 49.5% increase in gross revenue and announces 11% dividend increase but left a slight path of destruction the following year on poor planning and court cases from cities like NY, some say got too big too fast and didn’t have the best people working on projects leaving some studies in the hands of unqualified employees.

Larissa Brown, has Conway School of Landscape Design under her belt among other credits I just think Norwalk deserves better for those Norwalkers expecting this to be a good start this is where the best resources should be given to those working this hard for our city.

I argee with Mike we(parents) fought for a sidewalk on the RR overpass in Rowayton in front of the middle school for years ,during this bridge replacement a fence for the mansion instead of a sidewalk for the kids show only a real estate agent may barter better for the city.

Adolph Neaderland November 19, 2017 at 9:54 pm

Although I thought the session was reasonably well organized and the map “concept” interesting, several points could have been better:

1- the audio was poor, and as noted, many folks were not prepared for an interactive voting process.
2 -the presentation was hard to follow since there wasn’t a hard copy hand-out available. (I felt there were a couple of “questionable statistics” quoted.
3 -the full scope of POCD, as described, did not include issues of governance that needs to be addressed, such as the convoluted relationships between the various Authorities, Commissions, Planning & Zoning and POCD.
4. How will the underway (prior to POCD)Parking and Redevelopment Authority Plans be “integrated” into the POCD Master Plan?
4- How will the POCD approval process take place? and how will the stakeholders be represented in that approval process?
5 Who would be responsible for implementation ?

Considering the depth and scope of the 2006 Plan (which has not been adhered to), will this Plan be as complete?

Elsa Peterson Obuchowski November 20, 2017 at 10:53 am

@Adolph Neaderland’s 5th question is key: “Who would be responsible for implementation?” A good POCD is only as good as the extent to which it is followed.

Lisa Brinton Thomson November 20, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Excellent aspirational session – with shared community goals that were fairly consistent with the 2008 POCD.

However, as others have stated, how will this effort be any different? Without long standing politicians and those newly elected advocating for a strategic city plan that 1) makes the necessary structural changes to our governance structure, agencies, boards and commissions or 2) at a minimum, commits to reconciling our zoning and enforcing our ordinance regulations to the POCD (even the 2008 one) this will go down as a feel good session that will ultimately be special permitted out of existence.

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