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Norwalk political notes: Busy Common Council

Demolition continues early last month at Loehman’s Plaza.

Stantec has agreed to do an architectural review of the Transit Oriented Development proposal for 230 East Ave.

NORWALK, Conn. – Here’s what we have for you in political notes this Tuesday:

  • Conroy, O’Toole Giandurco and former Himes staffer among Rilling’s appointees
  • Communications manager on docket
  • Stantec selected to do design review on East Norwalk TOD project
  • Waypointe infrastructure project up for vote
  • A grant-funded historic resource inventory?

 

 

Rilling’s latest appointments

Mayor Harry Rilling has 10 appointments and one reappointment on the agenda for Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. The list includes former Republican mayoral candidate Andy Conroy, former Common Council member Shannon O’Toole Giandurco (R-District D) and Tyrone McClain, former district director for U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Greenwich).

Appointments:

  • Steven Klocke for the Conservation Commission
  • Shannon O’Toole Giandurco for the Facilities Construction Commission
  • Samuel Pride for the Fair Rent Commission
  • Dr. Norman Weinberger for the Board of Health
  • Colin Hosten for the Human Relations Commission
  • Andy Conroy for the Zoning Board of Appeals
  • Tyrone McClain for the Public Library Board of Trustees
  • Andy Conroy for the Zoning Board of Appeals, alternate
  • David Heuvelman for the Zoning Board of Appeals, alternate
  • R. Richard Roina to the Zoning Commission as a regular member

Being reappointed is Redevelopment Agency member Lisa Cooper. Roina has been on the Zoning Commission as an alternate.

Some biographical facts:

  • Klocke is a senior sustainability consultant with Steven Winter Associates, according to his resume.
  • O’Toole Giandurco was on the Common Council for four years before falling victim to the Democratic tidal wave last November, and is an executive assistant for Tengram Capital
  • Pride is a selectman and a Democratic Town Committee member
  • Weinberger is a pediatrician at Optimus Health Care in Bridgeport
  • Holsten is president of the Village Creek Association and an editor with Disney Press
  • Conroy was on the ZBA for six years before resigning last year to take on Rilling.
  • McClain left Himes’ office last year to become Pfizer director of public affairs for oncology.
  • Heuvelman teaches a course in basic stagecraft techniques at Sacred Heart University

 

Communications manager question returns 

The Common Council on Tuesday will consider changing the job description for the grants coordinator to make it a grants coordinator/communications manager role.

“This initiative is a position description change to an existing and fully funded Ordinance position and is not a request to establish a new position. The proposed annual salary range for this position is $56,315 to $81,344. This is an approximate $35,000 reduction in salary costsfrom the existing salary range of $93,858 to $118,886,” Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney wrote to the Council.

Burney originally brought the proposal to the Council in December but received pushback. The Personnel Committee has since reworked the job description.

 

Stantec chosen to do TOD architectural review

Also on the Council’s agenda is the authorization to allow Stantec, the city’s consultant in the drive to create a new city-wide master plan (also called the Plan of Conservation and Development), to review Spinnaker’s proposal for a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) apartment complex next to the East Norwalk train station.

WSP USA is doing a peer review of traffic engineer Michael Galante’s analysis of the project, but there’s no on-call consultant for architectural and design review, Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin wrote to the Council.

“As you are aware, Stantec is updating the city’s POCD,” Klepping wrote. “As part of their Scope of Work they were going to conduct a preliminary assessment of TOD at East Avenue, provided we didn’t receive the grant, so they have a working knowledge of the area and understand TOD potential at tbis location.”

Stantec will be paid a maximum $7,500 to do the work, and Spinnaker will pay the fee, he wrote.

Kleppin recently obtained a $125,000 grant to do an East Norwalk TOD study. Some Norwalkers object to a TOD project being considered before that study is complete.

“In a perfect world we would not move ahead with any projects of  this magnitude until the study was conducted, but given the nature of the proposal, staff’s position is that the future TOD study will conclude that higher density is appropriate in close proximity to the stations,” Kleppin wrote. “Given that, we are comfortable that this proposal  can  be properly  evaluated  before the East Avenue TOD plan is conducted or the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) update is complete.”

Stantec Principal Larissa Brown, in a memo to Kleppin, promised that the company would:

Evaluate “the project in the context of POCD planning directions based on existing conditions analysis, existing City policies and plans, results of the POCD community process so far, and the draft vision and principles”

Evaluate “the project in terms of best practices for Transit-Oriented Development”

 

Waypointe utilities project

The Council will also consider approving $4 million of infrastructure work for the Waypointe Loehman’s plaza project, a.k.a. The Pinnacle, a mixed use development to include an iPic movie theater, and on Berkeley Street, next to Waypointe’s The Berkeley. Work would include street lighting, streetscape and utility improvements, with $3 million of the funding from a state grant and $1 million in Norwalk funds.

“The proposed improvements are to facilitate the removal of overhead telephone, electric and cable wires and also includes utility capital investment foes for water, sewer and electric. …  It is anticipated that construction for this work will be completed by mid-2019,” Norwalk Redevelopment Agency Senior Project Manager Susan Sweitzer wrote to the Council.
 
 

Historical Commission seeks info

Finally, the Council will consider the Historical Commission’s request to apply for state grants:

  • A $30,000 grant to pay consultants to update a portion of Norwalk’s historic structures inventory of 250 structures between West Avenue and Golden Hill Streets, last done in the 1970s
  • A $5,820 grant to fund ground penetrating radar of the Kellogg-Comstock Cemetery.

“This is a small city-owned cemetery located at the corner of Ponus and Nursery Streets,” Norwalk Historical Commission Chairman David Westmoreland wrote to the Council. “The survey will determine if there are additional unmarked burials within the cemetery for research purposes only.”

5 comments

Piberman February 13, 2018 at 11:31 am

Will the Mayor use a Prof. Search to hire a Best Availale Grants Co-ordinatior.

Or is it business as usual in Norwalk ? Hire a former Norwalk City employee ? Like the new Health Director.

Donna Smirniotopoulos February 13, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Saying that stantec was “chosen” to do an architectural review of the East Norwalk TOD proposal suggests there were others in the running for this work. There were not. Stantec just happened to be hanging around doing other stuff—sort of. They were the easy choice. Not necessarily the best one.

Donna Smirniotopoulos February 13, 2018 at 1:39 pm

@Piberman, look at the list of appointees. Ever heard the mayor ask for nominations? Any real vetting? Hard to say. It all happens behind closed doors, including pre-approval by the CC so no one, including the mayor, is embarrassed. Also with so many appointments, it’s easy for some to believe they’re above reproach. No elections to hold them accountable. Seemingly no rules on public conduct either. It’s a free for all. When something goes wrong, blame others. And let’s not forget the closed door negotiations! The hallmark of transparent government!

Bill Nightingale Jr February 13, 2018 at 5:37 pm

In Bell Island we are looking to put power lines underground. Many of us invested in the community by building or rebuilding our homes 100% at our own cost. We had to put up bonds to cover connection costs to utilities during our home construction – which we paid for 100% without any consideration of subsidy whatsoever. Yes we contributed immensely to growing the grand list and tax base.

Now, now that we want to put power lines underground can we please have Norwalk pay for that? Why does a condo developer get to have the city subsidize that for them and not the rest of us – especially when many of us don’t even want to see condo projects in this town to begin with?

Andrew February 14, 2018 at 6:17 am

@Bill – Norwalk cannot afford to help you out. The money is needed to subsidize the work on the work on West Ave while considering giving those same property owners a tax break for the next 7 years in order to help out their profit margin.

Sorry homeowners – you are on your own.

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