Norwalk roundup: Redevelopment chooses law firm; ‘City-wide Uber;’ dam removal

The Flock Process Dam. (File photo)

Updated, 6:53 a.m., 11:17 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. — Here’s a roundup of Monday Norwalk news:

  • Redevelopment Agency selects outside law firm in ‘POKO’ lawsuits
  • GGP’s ‘circulator’ evolves into ‘cross’ of transportation options
  • Removal of Flock process dam begins

Redevelopment chooses Shipman & Goodwin

The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency unanimously voted to hire the law firm of Shipman & Goodwin to represent its interests in a lawsuit filed against two developers.  The Agency and City of Norwalk are suing a legal entity managed by Rich Olson of POKO Partners and a legal entity managed by developer Jason Milligan.  The lawsuit contends that a transfer of properties between the entities without City and Agency approval violates a Land Disposition Agreement describing how the properties will be developed.

The Agency turned to an outside attorney because Agency Attorney Marc Grenier has worked for Milligan.

The selection sought to resolve a disagreement with the City; Mayor Harry Rilling on July 17 blasted the Agency in a letter expressing concerns about the judgement of Agency’s leadership.  Rilling also expressed concerns about the attorney selection process and noted a conflict of interest involving the law firm originally selected to replace Grenier.

The Agency originally selected Russo and Rizio to stand in for Grenier, but the firm already represents JHM Group, which has been in talks to become involved in the development.  Citibank is moving to choose JHM as its developer in restarting construction on Wall Street Place Phase I, a.k.a. “POKO.”  Rilling’s letter said that Russo and Rizio would have a conflict of interest if it represented both JHM Group and the Redevelopment Agency.

Shipman & Goodwin also represents the Norwalk Board of Education.

“I thought they gave great answers on how they would educate the Commission and lead us through this process,” Redevelopment Commissioner David Speirs said.

NancyOnNorwalk was not present at the Redevelopment Agency meeting but was provided with a recording.


‘City-wide Uber’

The Redevelopment Agency also approved a $50,000 marketing budget for a service said to be “similar to City-wide Uber.”

The new service evolved from the “circulator” originally proposed with The SoNo Collection, intended to connect the new mall to other Norwalk business districts.  It will be focused on the East and West Avenue corridors during limited hours, so it is not really City-wide, according to Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan.

“Transportation has changed so much in a short period of time,” Sheehan said. “What was the circulator was fixed-route service so that you had to actually walk to a stop. This is more direct in terms of you being able to get the service ultimately coming to your location and picking you up, as opposed to you having to get to it.”

The service debuts in the second week of September and runs Thursday through Sunday, in a four-month pilot program, from 5 p.m. to midnight Thursday-Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“It’s basically to enhance the transportation options that are available within the urban environment in general. I think it’s a little bit of a stretch to say it’s even comparable to an Uber service because it’s not as private as the Uber service,” Sheehan said. “It’s basically a cross between what is traditional public transportation services and a more direct service to your door.”

The service is funded from the GGP transportation account, he said, with another official commenting that the Transit District has budgeted for an entire year, for four vehicles. If two are used, the budget will go further.

Rides will cost $2 a person. The plan was developed by using a simulation, which showed very good results in the target area of West and East Avenues, between the train station and Wall Street, Sheehan said.

NancyOnNorwalk was not present at the Redevelopment Agency meeting but was provided with a recording.


Bye, bye, Flock Process Dam

Removal of the Flock Process Dam began Monday, according to a press release.

“The Flock Process Dam once served a major role in Norwalk, but now is in disrepair. By removing the dam, we are improving public safety and increasing the natural habitats in the river,” Mayor Harry Rilling is quoted as saying in the release. “This project only became a reality due to collaboration and partnership between Norwalk staff, the DEEP {Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection} and the {U.S. Fish and Wildlife} Service. Thank you all for making this happen.”

The Flock Process Dam, four miles upstream from the terminus of the Norwalk River, is thought to date back to the early 1850s. It’s visible from Hotel Zero Degrees, located at 353 Main Ave.

“The dam, the first and largest on the Norwalk River, has been obsolete for years. Removal of the dam eliminates the risk of failure and catastrophic flooding that threatens roads and buildings downstream and reduces the danger of upstream flooding and damage to buildings and roads,” the press release from Norwalk Communications Manager Joshua Morgan stated.

The project is a partnership between Norwalk, DEEP  and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with DEEP contributing $915,000 to the project through its EPA Clean Water Act Section 319 funding and State of Connecticut Supplemental Environmental Projects funds, the release said. Fish and Wildlife contributed $873,000 to the project from federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery and resilience.

“This project also promotes ecosystem health including natural sediment transport which supports coastal wetland and beach development,” the release said. “Furthermore, removal of the dam will provide an estimated $1.75 million in socioeconomic benefit by restoring 3.5 miles of stream and river, which will increase the available spawning and nursery habitat for migratory fish such as alewife and blueback herring and increase the abundance of these species in Long Island Sound.”

“The migratory fish that benefit from this project not only support commercial and recreational fishing, but also feed colonial nesting birds on the island units of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. It’s truly a win both for wildlife and people,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber is quoted as saying.

“AECOM Technical Services Inc. completed all the design and engineering work for the project and is also providing construction inspection and oversight during removal,” the release said. “SumCo Eco Contracting, LLC was hired to complete the removal.”


Lisa Brinton Thomson August 7, 2018 at 7:24 am

“The lawsuit contends that a transfer of properties between the entities without City and Agency approval violates a Land Disposition Agreement describing how the properties will be developed.”

What does the administration want? Do they know? Is this lawsuit a distraction and means to ‘silence’ folks? Intimidate Milligan? Stall until after the state election? How much longer will this property be an eyesore, not producing revenue for the city?

Reminds me of another landuse fiasco – the mosque. Whatever happen to the little red house property? Five years later, I hear it’s still on the city books, not earning any tax revenue. That’s gotta be $100,000 by now, not including the lawsuit settlement.
What’s the status on BJs or Quintard? Anyone see a pattern here?

John Levin August 7, 2018 at 10:41 am

“The service is funded from the GGP transportation account”. Really? What GGP transportation account? How much is in it? Who controls it? What’s it for?

Rick August 7, 2018 at 11:28 am

John The Sono collection has a new sibling.When Trump met GGP it was a week later GGP told Norwalk no hotel. Does anyone see where Norwalk took the money didn’t ask any questions and could have gotten a whole lot more for what was planed a mall just a mall…right. Now with a potential new casino mall and everything else coming to Bridgeport by the looks of it Norwalk got how much for what?

The new mall in Stratford has also broken ground.

Some said Trump has nothing to do with GGP he doesn’t but he has something with Brookfield long before they broke ground in Norwalk.

Harry Norwalk has,,,, well egg on our face while the rest of you have something {…} on your nose , yes be proud Norwalkers when you vote you were taken and none of you knew what was going on,

The Sono Collection has a sibling yes they do

big money Norwalk will never see for anything we have bear in mind the 700 million is just an investment back into the NY property by the new owners of GGP.

the Toronto-based investor is prepared to inject up to $700 million in equity and will essentially take control of the building unencumbered with a 100 percent leasehold

what ever GGP gave Norwalk it wasn’t enough this shows what kind of money Norwalk missed out on, what kind of money the taxpayers lost on a deal that was soooooooooooooooo good.

Norwalk wake up our democrats have no clue how yo make a great deal for us.

The Sono Collection sibling


Edited to remove a vulgar reference, a violation of the comments policy. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Tysen Canevari August 7, 2018 at 11:43 pm

The city gives us a hard time in regards to possible pollutants but they can put a greasy, dirty, excavator in the river to remove a dam. lol

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