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.
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.”