NORWALK, Conn. – The newly drafted 300-page 10-year City-wide master plan is now under consideration by Norwalk Common Council members, with a vote possible on Sept. 24.
Six citizens weighed in Thursday, with Joanne Horvath suggesting a map to show “exactly what type of zoning uses are planned for each section of the city so that residents who live in the north, south, east or west, parts of Norwalk can fully understand what type of development is going to be in the respective neighborhood.”
Others asked that development encourage the diversity the plan touts as a Norwalk strength, while Audrey Cozzarin that the plan address the “continuing chronic and worsening traffic congestion in Norwalk” and Diane Lauricella again asked for minor corrections, this time gaining results, and also requesting “a real focus review on the industrial zones.”
Tweaks are likely, and “the only addition” will be a section about the Vision Zero initiative, an effort to address traffic, Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin said.
Horvath was the first speaker at the Council Planning Committee’s public hearing on the master plan, officially referred to as a Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).
The plan is “too cumbersome for me,” she said. “So what is planned for my area? Can anyone here tonight, show me visually and explain in simple terms, what type of development is being planned for the Route Seven Main Avenue corridor? The old saying, quote, a picture is worth 1000 words is all I need, so that I can truly be an informed resident.”
Laura Dunne directed attention to page 60, where policies are listed. That includes:
“Support housing policies that promote higher-density housing near existing and future employment centers and availability of public transportation.”
“These policies clearly maintain the status quo of Norwalk’s segregated areas,” she said. “Single family neighborhoods can accommodate two family homes without disrupting anyone’s way of life and continuing to promote high density housing and low income areas clearly keeps our community segregated. While this plan touts Norwalk diversity, it contradicts itself with policies that maintain the segregated areas of our town.”
Susan Cole asked that the workforce housing regulations be changed to require 20% affordable housing in new developments, not 10%, to “promote more diversity and equity in housing and as a result in our schools, because the two are clearly connected and in your document you have said that we pride ourselves in our diversity.”
“Multifamily housing is not permitted in some Norwalk zones, even with a special permit, for example, in the triple A resident zone,” a man said. “Multifamily is permitted by right only in D resident zones, where halfway homes and group homes are also permitted by special permit. This type of zoning tends to have a disparate impact on people of color because it often generates poverty concentration.”
Cozzarin is head of the Norwalk Citizens Traffic Safety Committee. Outdated engineering on state and federal roads causes local roadways to become more dangerous, she said.
“What does the master plan propose in order to alleviate further traffic congestion in Norwalk due to more and more development?” she asked. “What does the master planning to do to help alleviate stresses on the local worlds in coordination with the state and FHA to remedy the regional tie ups that Norwalk residents and businesses are experiencing?”
Page 27 mentions the First and Second Taxing Districts as providers of energy but doesn’t also identify Eversource, Lauricella said.
“The last thing I wanted to mention was limits to growth and the need for really super-duper industrial zone review,” Lauricella said. “I do I believe initially, in speaking with Mr. Kleppin and others that that was going to be looked at. I’m very pleased, I’ve heard that …we are updating our Zoning rules…. We’ve allowed residential and big box development of retail in our industrial zones, therefore limiting a very, very good source of our tax base.”
Kleppin eventually promised to add Eversource to page 27, after explaining that it’s in a different section of the book.
Lauricella had complained that well water wasn’t mentioned as a drinking water supplier, but Kleppin said there are different sections of the plan and “I don’t think it’s absent.”
Council President Tom Livingston (D-District E) said he’s prepared a list of copy edits that are needed, and asked about implementation of the plan.
The Planning Commission will do a biannual review of the plan, and the Planning and Zoning staff will meet with department heads to check in on the plan’s recommendations and their related timelines, Kleppin said. Capital budget requests will be aligned with the plan.
The Commission is also very focused on a two-page executive summary, so that ordinary citizens can easily understand the basics of the plan, according to Kleppin. Developers can read it page by page to tailor their proposals to what’s desired, he said.
Council member Greg Burnett (D-At Large) is very interested in Complete Streets and Vision Zero, “So there’s really where there’s mention of Complete Streets, we recommended adding in Vision Zero into that as well,” to help in seeking grant funding, Kleppin said.
Waiting to Sept. 24 to vote on moving the plan onward to the Planning Commission will “allow all the Council members the opportunity to go through this significantly large document, and be as educated as possible with it,” Planning Committee Chairman John Kydes (D-District C) said. “I also want to say that I’m very pleased with the sustainability section of this plan. … without safeguarding our environment …this long-term print plan will not be worth much.”
The caption on the lead photo was corrected at 1:14 p.m. to show that Sabrina Church is Director of Business Development & Tourism.