NORWALK, Conn. — Here’s some Zoning Commission news for you:
- The Village expects to move ahead on ‘BJ’s site’
- Waypointe Pinnacle may be tweaked
- West Avenue dirt pile diminished, portions heading for NY
- Zoning regulation overhaul touched upon
The Village set to go, Suchy says
The Zoning Commission on Aug. 1 granted a one-year extension for “The Village,” known to many as “BJs,” but Attorney Elizabeth “Liz” Suchy said it’s likely that one year won’t be needed.
The project has already gone out to bid, she said. Assistant Planning and Zoning Director Mike Wrinn said construction plans are on his desk, waiting for a sign off.
“There’s a few things that need work,” he said. “… I think they are ready to go but (the extension) this is just a safety valve for them.”
“The Village” is otherwise known as “the BJs site” because it was originally pitched as a BJ’s Wholesale Club, then redesigned to create a pedestrian friendly streetscape with a big box store interior, smaller than originally intended, due to a public outcry. Suchy said Aug. 1 that she couldn’t divulge the development’s expected tenant. BJ’s is listed as a possible tenant on the Zoning application, Norwalk Chief of Economic and Community Development Jessica Casey said Wednesday.
“Plans were submitted for a zoning permit to allow the 100,000 Sf retail center named ‘the Village’ at 272-280 Main Avenue to move forward,” Casey wrote. “It does name BJs as a possible tenant. However, the applicants need to provide some additional materials before P&Z can sign off.”
The Village was approved in 2017. Neighbors sued to appeal the approval but lost.
Commissioner Louis Schulman asked Suchy why nothing has happened on the site 10 months after the lawsuit concluded.
Construction documents were missing and the Office of the State Traffic Administration (OSTA) hadn’t issued a traffic report, Suchy said, commenting that a traffic certificate is still needed from OSTA, which involves posting a bond.
The Norwalk Fire Department and the Water Pollution Control Authority have signed off on the Zoning permit application and the project has gone out to bid, she said.
Pinnacle ownership shifts
Toll Brothers has bought a majority interest in Pinnacle at Waypointe, Attorney Jacqueline Kaufman told the Commission on Aug. 1. Belpointe Capital managing member Paxton Kinol is co-investor.
This also involved a one year extension: 60 days were needed for the contract to close, she said.
The iPic movie theater and the L.A. Fitness health facility are still part of the plan, she said.
“We will most likely be back to you with some kind of tweak. We don’t know what that looks like yet,” Kaufman said.
Pinnacle at Waypointe was approved in 2017. It’s designed to be a seven-story, mixed-use development with 330 apartments, 61,482 square feet of residential recreation area, 55,598 square feet of non-residential space (retail, restaurant, iPic theater and health/fitness club) and a 942-space parking garage for a 4.6-acre lot on West Avenue between Orchard Street and Butler Street.
Although Kinol in November 2018 told the Commission that iPic, a luxury movie theater chain, was “on the verge of bankruptcy” and a new tenant was needed, in May he told NancyOnNorwalk that he was actively working with the company.
Construction would start by the end of the year, he said at the time.
On Tuesday, he said the same general contractor is lined up but Toll Brothers “will have control over speed.” The construction drawings are done and “they can have permits and start whenever they choose. It is truly shovel ready. Environmental work restarts on site tomorrow.”
Dirt pile ‘40%’ diminished
Much of the dirt that’s been stored on the Pinnacle site, the former Loehman’s plaza, is still there, although Kinol in November told the Commission that the dirt would be gone by the end of June.
The dirt came from the mall site. It’s still there because there were design changes in the exterior walls for The SoNo Collection, “that we needed to shore up, so we could continue with the backfill,” AMEC Senior Project Contractor for the SoNo Collection Jason Schuler said to the Commission on Aug. 1.
AMEC needed to remove 15,000 yards of material off the mall site, as part of the process of building foundations and retaining walls that are 13- to 14-feet tall, Shuler told the Commission in November. Belpointe was “being good neighbors,” allowing Brookfield’s contractor,VCC/KBE, to store the mall site’s fill on a nearby location rather than truck it all over Norwalk, and the Department of Public Works said no permit was necessary, Kinol said at the time.
The material would have needed to be trucked across Norwalk if Belpointe wasn’t willing to store it, Shuler explained. Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin called the pile a probable technical violation of Pinnacle’s permit, but being realistic, it was “probably the best option.”
Shuler said Aug. 1 that dirt has been removed consistently for the last month and 40% of it has been returned to the mall site. By contract, all of it must be gone within 60 days. However, some will have to go elsewhere.
AMEC is vetting three sites in New York state, a process that requires state approvals, he said.
Two firms have applied to take on the task of recommending changes to Norwalk’s Zoning regulations: Planimetrics Inc. and Goman & York Property Advisors.
“I have a lot of issues with the regulations themselves but they would come in and give their two cents,” Kleppin said on Aug. 1.
The firms are competing for a $20,000 contract to collect feedback from stakeholders and recommend changes, ahead of a comprehensive rewrite. The consultant would “help us develop a budget and recommendations,” Kleppin said. “I have a lot of ideas of what I’d like to see in terms of making it more user friendly, less wordy, less Zoning districts.”
It should also line up with the Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD), the master plan that’s being developed now, he said.
Commissioner Galen Wells said she objects to routine zoning amendments because, “When we amend them, we don’t see all the language, we just see the changed language. I never get a sense of how it fits in the overall section.”
Kleppin said he wants to “move away from one-off zoning amendments.”
He said, “In a perfect world, we would save the zoning amendments for really big picture broad overviews like we did with West Ave-Wall Street and then maybe for the really kind of odd ball unique situations where we have these properties, that, you know, it’s really hard to do other things with them so maybe you tailor something for them.”