Norwalk political notes: Appointments, Wilms and tax incentives

Norwalk Historical Commission Chairman David Westmoreland has been appointed to the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. (File photo)

Updated, 6:47 a.m., 10:09 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – Here are some recent Norwalk odds and ends:

  • Two chosen for Redevelopment Agency
  • Three appointed to Oak Hills Park Authority
  • Remson named to Ethics Committee
  • Barbara Smyth to lead Personnel Committee
  • DiScala: ‘Smart money only goes where it is welcome’
  • Wilms announces perfect voting record


Redevelopment Agency slots filled

Historical Commission Chairman David Westmoreland, who is also Second Taxing District Chairman, has added a new title to his list: Redevelopment Agency Commissioner.

Westmoreland and William Speirs, senior director of software engineering at Datto, Inc. were approved for appointment to the RDA at last week’s Common Council meeting, with many positive comments from Council members.

“I think they’re both going to be phenomenal additions,”  Council member Nick Sacchinelli (D-At Large) said.

Neither name was on the agenda when it was posted to the City’s website on Friday, leading one NancyOnNorwalk reader to call them “last minute” appointments, and speculating that they are due to recent events in the Wall Street area.

“A spot on the Redevelopment Agency was recently vacated, and another term had expired, so we’ve been thinking appointments for quite some time,” Mayor Harry Rilling said in a statement. “To characterize these appointments as ‘last minute’ is just incorrect. With so much happening with Wall Street, I felt it was essential to move forward, so the RDA had its full complement of commissioners.

RDA Commissioner Lori Torrano’s term expired in 2016 but she continued to serve.  The Redevelopment Agency allows a Commissioner to continue serving until they are replaced, Chairman Felix Serrano said last year.

Council member Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) was among those lauding Westmoreland, who he said would “certainly bring a different perspective to Redevelopment, maybe hopefully tie in some of the historical aspects that maybe needs a little bit more attention.”

Hempstead also thanked Torrano for her service as “a very engaged person.”

Majority Leader John Igneri (D-District E) noted that Westmoreland is dedicated to Norwalk and “really understands the city” and Tom Livingston (D-District E) said he’s worked with Westmoreland for three years on the Historical Commission and, “It’s amazing to see the work he does there.”

“I think we all can appreciate the things that he has done in terms of preserving the historic aspects of the city as well as maintaining budgets in a very responsible way,” Livingston said. “…There are very few around the city that work as hard as he does. I think he will be an excellent choice.”

“I don’t think there’s many people in the city that loves the city as much as David and he’s proven that time and time again,” Rilling said, further commenting that he was “quite impressed” with Speir’s resume and, “I am sure that he’s going to do a remarkable job.”

Speirs is a Ph.D., according to his resume, which states that he is an “entrepreneurial minded software engineer” with more than a decade of experience “as both an individual contributor and team lead.”

Sacchinelli called him “highly respected” at Datto.

Westmoreland has been a landscape architect at Tuliptree Design since 2009, and was project manager at Daniel S. Natchez & Associates for two years before that, “responsible for all  aspects  of site development  for waterfront residential properties and commercial marinas,” his resume states. From 1981 to 2003, he had a “career in corporate information technology as Vice President, Airport Systems Development at American Airlines and Chief Information Officer at Arrow Electronics.”


Oak Hills Park Authority gains three new faces

Council members also approved the appointments of Joseph Andrasko, Carl Dickens, and Jeffery Taylor to the Oak Hills Park Authority last week.

Dickens will bring media research and marketing skills to the Authority, Hempstead said, commenting, “I hope it’s a different addition but it’s a good addition and the person is also an avid golfer so understands the particulars.”

Dickens is president of Jack T. Wolf LLC, worked at CBS from 1981 to 1991, and “managed struggling CBS Media Properties to number one in their markets and made them profitable,” according to his resume.

Andrasko is a “proven  leader with professional background in consumer finance and formal education in pure mathematics,” and a Vice President at Synchrony Financial, according to his resume.

Taylor frequently plays tennis and golf at Oak Hills and “had an Oak Hills resident pass each year for 12 years,” his resume states.  He is also a business development consultant.

They replace Joe Kendy and Elsa Peterson Obuchowski, who have timed out, Chairman Bill Waters said, explaining that they both finished an existing term and then a full term, with the city counting a partial term as a full term.

Kendy and Obuchowski can reapply after two years, and have both offered to help the Authority as needed, he said. Obuchowski will remain on the Oak Hills Nature Advisory Committee.

There is one more vacancy left to fill, Waters said.


Remson to Ethics Board

Finally, Sue Remson was appointed to the Board of Ethics.

Remson is an eighth grade math teacher at Ponus Ridge Middle School and treasurer and executive Board member for the Zeus Swim team, according to her resume.  From 2007 to 2012 she served as an executive Board member for the Naramake Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).

Council member Barbara Smyth (D-At Large), a Norwalk High School teacher, said she’s known Remson for 10 years.

I have seen her handle her teaching job ethically as team leader,” Smyth said. “I have watched her handle many conflicts between eighth grade students ethically, with parents and sometimes even with teachers. I think she is just a natural for the Ethics Board.”


Smyth to fill Bowman’s slot

Smyth, who is in her first term, has been named chairwoman of the Personnel Committee.

Smyth replaces Faye Bowman, who recently resigned her Common Council seat citing an imminent move out of Norwalk.  Democratic Town Committee members chose Ernie Dumas last week to fill Bowman’s Council seat. 

“I feel honored to have this position and I look forward to the help that I will get from all of you in running Personnel,” Smyth said last week to her fellow Council members.


DiScala touts tax incentives for developers

Other communities offer tax incentives to developers, and Norwalk should too, Michael DiScala of M.F. DiScala recently told members of the Common Council Planning Committee.

DiScala, in a letter that is included in the minutes for the May 3 Planning Committee meeting, said his development company is “in nine states in 23 Cities” and has “experienced what other cities have given to us as investors and developers to attract us to invest in their communities.”

“High on that list are tax incentives,” DiScala wrote. “It is very common that developers receive tax incentives to encourage developers. Norwalk is an exception. We need tax incentives in order to create attractive, well designed developments with the affordable component added as well.”

DiScala recently opened the long-awaited mixed-used development Head of the Harbor South on Smith Street and hopes to build Head of the Harbor North on a parcel that includes a city parking lot.

“Our company was established in 1923, and we are proud of all of our developments and holdings in Norwalk,” DiScala wrote, naming The Trolley Barn at 10 Wall St.; the Marshall’s Shopping Center at 390 Westport Avenue; Sedona Plaza at 295 Westport Avenue; County Mall at 250 Westport Ave.; and 1 West Pine Place, apartments and offices located at the corner of West Avenue and Pine Street.
“Without incentives, we cannot continue to efficiently develop in Norwalk,” DiScala wrote. “In most cases, the taxes charged on new developments, after the incentives, are greater than the taxes that were previously charged so it is a net gain to the City. The Head of the Harbor South property taxes were $16,000. After development, the annual taxes are estimated to be $175,000.”
Although Head of the Harbor South is fully leased, there is only one school child among its 60 apartments, DiScala wrote, adding, “In addition to adding to the tax revenue, our developments generate employment and increased revenue for Norwalk businesses.”

He concluded, “Therefore, we would encourage the City to advance the tax incentives in order for us and other quality developers to continue to enhance the landscape of our City. Smart money only goes where it is welcome.”

The Committee was considering the proposed Central Norwalk Innovation District, which includes tax incentives for developers in the Wall Street-West Avenue area.  That proposal has moved on to the Ordinance Committee.


Wilms present for every vote

State Rep. Fred Wilms (R-142). (Contributed)

State Rep. Fred Wilms (R-142) was among the roughly 34 percent of legislators who were present for every vote in the 2018 legislative session, according to a press release.

“I take my job in Hartford very seriously,” Wilms is quoted as saying in the release. “Public service is a part of who I am. My constituents voted me into office and they expect me to be present for each vote. Every bill we consider is important to someone in the State of Connecticut and it deserves our consideration. I am proud of my record, but even more proud to represent the 142nd House district.”

There were 317 votes in the House during the 2018 legislative session and, “Only 52 members of the chamber, or roughly 34 percent, were in attendance for each of them,” the release said.

The release said Wilms took the leadership roles on the following bills:

  • “The State Budget – no tax increases, fully balanced plus $1 billion placed into the Rainy Day Fund.
  • “The Special Transportation Fund Crisis – by shifting the Car Sales Tax to this fund from the General Fund, MetroNorth and bus services cuts were avoided.
  • “Education Cost Sharing Funding – protecting against funding cuts by the Governor.
  • “Bioscience sector – creating a strategic plan for this promising economic sector.
  • “Medical Telehealth services – updating our old laws to keep pace with new technologies.
  • “Protecting children with food allergies while away at school.”

Wilms is being challenged for re-election by Democrat Lucy Dathan.


John Levin July 3, 2018 at 9:01 am

I spell Westmoreland with a capital “I” for integrity. This appointment is great news.

David Westmoreland July 3, 2018 at 9:37 am

Thank you, John. It has been my great honor to serve the City of Norwalk on the Historical Commission these past nine years and I am proud of what the Commission has accomplished. I am stepping down from the Historical Commission.

*** Pay your taxes! July 3, 2018 at 10:07 am

No thank you Mr DiScala. If you want to improve your property, build on it or develop cheap condos you are welcome to on your own tab. But in no way are you entitled to pay anything less than your fair share of property taxes. The rest of us residents who have rebuilt our homes and thereby improved our communities don’t get any tax breaks. We don’t get our utility connections subsidized. There is no reason you should either. Pay your taxes!

Rick McQuaid July 3, 2018 at 11:44 am

David Westmorland is a great access to the Redevelopment Agency. I have worked with David on many projects he has chaired and he certainly has the City of Norwalk as his best interest. He will hit the ground running and continue to make Norwalk a better place.
Sue Remson is a breath of fresh air as an appointment to the Ethics Board. Someone who has raised a family, works in the Norwalk School System, and is a tremendous volunteer for many organizations over the years brings a new vision to one of our city boards.
Thank you both for your future time and efforts!

Rick July 3, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Wilms was busy didn’t lift a finger to help us on Quintard ave that makes sense.Laws we needed in Hartford to stop Firetree went unanswered whos job was that?

Getting rid of the RDA has been suggested many times. the damage has been done no one will right that ship. Its a money tree and personal playground someone honest will feel out of place.

PIBerman July 3, 2018 at 12:18 pm

Imagine if every one of Norwalk’s Legislators were as capable as Fred Wilms. Has a good command of economics and finance with a professional background unmatched by our local Party folks claiming they “always stand up for us”.

New blood at Oak Hills may be helpful. Especially if they encourage fulfillment of the original intent to have a first rate Restaurant as envisaged by former Mayor Knopp. Current effort quite disappointing.
What ought to be one of Norwalk’s pride and joys isn’t well attended judging from our visits. Sad.

Patrick Cooper July 3, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Mr. DiScala must be a fan of the movie Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid. Remember this quote?

Butch Cassidy: If he’d just pay me what he’s spending to make me stop robbing him, I’d stop robbing him.

Same philosophy at play here.

Perhaps this too – if Harry would stop taking vacations at Mr. DiScala’s Florida & Italian properties – maybe he would stop giving him freebie’s?

Bill Nightingale July 4, 2018 at 12:23 pm

There should not be a Redevelopment Agency. It needs to be abolished. I hope these new Commissioners are ready to make strong and forceful changes to ultimately winding down the blunder prone agency. It is also time for Mayor Rilling to communicate to the public what his goals are for the agency.

Adolph Neaderland July 9, 2018 at 11:48 am

Including tax incentives or not including the cost of infrastructure in developers contracts simply passes these costs on to the resident stakeholders.

Consider that these practices (incentives and city financed infrastructure) have not moved our grand list (just 3 %) since 2014) although we have had many millions $ of developer developments.

As an aside, it is my understanding that Stamford does not provide any form of incentives.

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