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Norwalk roundup: ‘Tip of iceberg,’ education funding and the West Ave./Wall Street plan

A photo posted Oct. 5 on the City’s Facebook page.

Updated, 3 p.m.: additional information; 7:39 a.m.: Copy edits

NORWALK, Conn. – Some political developments for you:

  • Torre lists flood-prone areas as Council approves $1 million appropriation
  • Ad Hoc Committee on School Funding set to begin work
  • West Avenue-Wall Street plan ready to unveil – again

 

 

 

‘Preliminary’ list for flooding work consideration

The Common Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a $1 million special appropriation requested by Mayor Harry Rilling to begin addressing flooding issues.

The conversation was brief, with Minority Leader Doug Hempstead (R-District D) asking Department of Public Works Superintendent of Operations Chris Torre for a “preliminary list” of projects under consideration.

Mayor Harry Rilling said he’d met with Torre and DPW Principal Engineer Lisa Burns on Tuesday morning, and they’d gone over the list.

The $1 million is not for the tidal flooding that you see on Water Street or Calf Pasture Beach Road, Torre said, going on to list “long-term” projects that include:

 

  • Lloyd Road
  • The Friendly Pond area, Assisi Way, Saddle Road, Surrey Drive
  • West Avenue
  • Clinton Avenue
  • Christy Street
  • Benedict Street
  • Sention Avenue
  • North Taylor Avenue
  • Teakettle Place
  • Kettle Road
  • June Avenue Area
  • Glendenning Street
  • Heather Lane
  • Fitch Street
  • Raymond Terrace

 

Torre said there are also “short-term things we are looking at”:

  • Williams Street
  • Cavanaugh Street
  • Stonecrop Road
  • East Rocks Road
  • Smith Street
  • Margaret Street

There are “major cleanings” that would need to be contracted out:

  • Bouton Street
  • Scribner Ave, Chatham Drive
  • Thorp Lane
  • Harstrom Place
  • Columbine Lane

Torre also said DPW will be “monitoring and observing for pipe sizes and some infrastructure improvement work”:

  • Rebel Lane
  • New Canaan Avenue
  • Strawberry Hill underneath the railroad bridge
  • Harstrom Place
  • Glover Avenue

 

 

Torre and Rilling stressed last week that the work will be guided by consultants, as previously reported.

“Their plan is to identify the areas that have the most serious flooding issues and prioritizing each of those in order,” Rilling said Tuesday, clarifying the situation by explaining that some flooding is caused by private issues, not the City’s infrastructure, and property owners will have to be told that repairs are their responsibility.

“Don’t forget our infrastructure in some areas is over 100 years old and woefully inadequate to accommodate the amount of rain we’ve been getting lately,” Rilling said. “So this is going to be an ongoing project probably for many years because it’s been ignored for many years.”

“I don’t disagree,” Hempstead said, and Rilling replied, “This is just the tip of the iceberg, believe me.”

District C has been flooding for decades, Council President John Kydes (D-District C) said.

“It would have been easy, say ignore it, hope for the best, fingers crossed, not going to have another 200-year storm for years to come but I am very happy to see we are actually being proactive, we are actually addressing this, rather than ignore it, like it’s been for a very long time,” Kydes said.

The appropriation does not involve raising the City’s debt but rather reassigns funding that had been planned for Keeler Brook, as reported in Tuesday’s NancyOnNorwalk story.

 

Education funding task force formed

“We are cautiously optimistic that we have all the members” for the Ad-Hoc Committee on School Funding that was promised in April, Mayor Harry Rilling said last week.

“The problem was putting together a Board where people were willing to serve,” Rilling said.  He explained that people would indicate a willingness and say they would think it over but then decline because “it’s a daunting task to really start to work on how we can fund the Board of Education but still be aware of the fact that we have residents who are being taxed to a point where they are struggling.”

The City and BoE agreed in April to create an Ad-Hoc Committee on School Funding, a task force which would study “the historic underfunding of Norwalk schools and long-term education financing in Norwalk,” a statement said at the time.

Norwalk needs to get the state to give it a fair share of education funding, Rilling said.  He added that he was an advocate for tax reform long before he was Mayor. Connecticut is one of four states that is heavily reliant on property tax and “we cannot continue to do that and be able to sustain ourselves as a state,” he said.

 

 

RPA’s Wall Street-West Avenue Neighborhood Plan – 2.0

The Wall Street-West Avenue Neighborhood Plan is ready, once again, for your review.

A January version of this plan was pulled back for revisions, and the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC) subsequently performed a market study and economic analysis, Director of Community Development Planning Tami Strauss said in an October memo to Council members.

The Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday approved a public hearing on the new plan, for Jan. 8, Strauss said Wednesday.  The Planning Commission is expected to review the draft plan for compliance with the Plan of Conversation and Development – the 2008 plan and the plan now under development – in December.

This plan has been posted on the City’s website. It will be posted Wednesday on the Norwalk tomorrow website, Straus said.

7 comments

Jason Milligan November 14, 2018 at 7:10 am

One thing is for sure, Norwalk has too many studies.

Holy cow. I barely got through ready the draft POCD report.

There is so much fluff and bull {…} in these reports.

Who are the reports written for?

Is an average person supposed to read the reports and then do something?

Do these reports have any teeth?

It is all so confusing and redundant.

Edited to remove a vulgarity. https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/comment-guidelines/

Piberman November 14, 2018 at 9:01 am

One report we’re not likely to see from City Hall is “How to Reduce Norwalk’s Punitive Property Taxes”.
Or “Why are City Housing Values Falling”. Or “Why has our Grand List Been Stagnant for nearly a Decade”. Or “Why does Business avoid investing in Norwalk”.

Rick November 14, 2018 at 1:49 pm

Torre and DPW Principal Engineer Lisa Burns should be replaced. They ignored common sense and the counselors bought it. Simms and Dumas still rep South Norwalk?

Its not just the streets its the homeowners who now have flooding caused by the city and its street improvements .

The $1 million is not for the tidal flooding that you see on Water Street . its not a tidal flooding issue according to the Army Corps. Someone is lying and Rilling was never an expert in city induced flooding where raising streets and land in the flood zone created some of these problems.

Water use to come in shorefront park towards Water st Now it comes from Woodward ave and Concord down to Shorefront park the storm drains no longer work.

This was the best Dumas and Simms could of done for South Norwalk ?

Property owners should start a legal stance against the city for what it has done.

Those who live in that area of South Norwalk should be concerned you were all just sold out. If the problems go back that far why not make them first to work on? It use to be just personal property now it effects the safety and lives where was the fire department in all this ? Working on their contract?

This was for just studies and not any work correct?

Redevelopment Agency is now working on another red herring and no one sees this?

Adolph Neaderland November 14, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Peter, as an observation, and an issue we are pushing to be included in the 2028 POCD, economic criteria for all “major” city projects/plans; a 10 year ROI based on increasing the Grand List by (my suggestion) 7%/year, to be reported (publicly) annually.

As noted at the most recent POCD Advisory Committee meeting, there hasn’t been an economic criteria included in the city’s agencies approval process.

Such an ROI would include the financial impact of any and all infrastructure investment made by the city and any tax incentives to developers.

A formal ROI, signed off by the appropriate city official would go a long way to raise public awareness of development activity.

Interestingly, an article in the NY Times this morning concluded that tax incentives for development do not generally pay off.

Michael McGuire November 15, 2018 at 11:42 am

Great to see that Redevelopment is turning their interest toward the Wall Street/West Ave area. But I’m wondering why in RPA’s Wall Street-West Ave Neighborhood Plan there was no strong support for reactivating the train station at Wall Street. It only mentions a train station on the very last line of the report.

A train station located in the center of a downtown CBD is arguably the most potent of all economic incentives/generators that a municipality can bring to the table. It is the key link in attracting business (access to workforce for innovative companies) and commuters (as in live here work there – there being NYC).

What I find intriguing is the lack of general understanding about the Wall Street area. It’s not economically stagnant as most proclaim. Nor is it a desolate retail wasteland. For what it is (the 3rd largest CBD in Fairfield County) it’s doing on par with the rest of lower Fairfield County.

The only difference is that it caters to the office and retail users that are attracted to the lowest cost location in lower Fairfield County (other than Bridgeport). Said another way – we are the cheap seats.

But why is the Wall Street area the lowest cost place to do business in lower Fairfield County? Answer- because it does not have a train station.

Consider this, other areas that are on par with the Wall/Main Street area (worn out and tired looking) are Stamford (East Main and West Main outside the walkable distance to the train station); Port Chester (west and north side outside the walkable distance to the train station); New Rochelle (North Ave area outside the walkable area to the train station); Mt. Vernon (any area south of the Lincoln area and not within walking distance to a train station). Common theme to all – no train station access which results in lower rents, lower values, populated by low cost businesses.

So unless the underlying infrastructure is enhanced (i.e. by a train station) the Wall Street area will continue to look tired and worn out simply because the rents are too low to warrant new investment. And any investment that does come in will be huge grand slam projects like POKO, Waypointe and 95/7 (see page 21-25 of the plan which assumes investment in grand slam projects).

Norwalk – we need a train station at Wall Street. Business will not invest around a bus stop, no matter how fancy the bus or the stop looks.

Mitch Palais November 16, 2018 at 10:35 pm

Disappointed that the base of Witch Avenue, at the intersection of 136 was not included in the flooding list.

Surface water ponds at this location for days after every rain, iced in all winter, and under water during every bite aster high tide. A couple of weeks ago I watched multiple cars/ trucks/ suvs get severely damaged by driving thru salt water.

Lisa Brinton Thomson November 17, 2018 at 7:58 am

Question for Mike McGuire and Jason Milligan, (although based upon the latest posted editorial opinions, I’ll assume a NO from Jason 🙂

Were either of you consulted in the West Ave – Wall Street Plan by redevelopment? You both have your own businesses located there, along with financial, marketing and commercial real estate expertise that extends beyond Norwalk and does not exist at City Hall. You have far more skin in the game than city hall. If you weren’t consulted you should have been.

Getting tired of the arrogant ‘city hall knows best mentality’ – particularly as it relates to downtown and creating businesses or economic success. City Hall’s job is to protect taxpayers and look after resident’s interests; not sure business or financial acumen is part of the equation. I think that stems from using other people’s (taxpayer) money. It usually, doesn’t net out the best decisions.

Tim Sheehan – who were you allowed to speak with when preparing these plans?

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