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East Norwalk weighs in on recommended development guidelines

An excerpt from the East Norwalk Transit Oriented Development (TOD) plan.

NORWALK, Conn. — East Norwalk Transit Oriented Development (TOD) recommendations, presented by Boston-based urban design firm Harriman, drew muted skepticism from about 75 attendees at Monday evening’s public forum.

Touted as a means to calm traffic, promote bike riding, reduce parking problems, encourage walking, and enhance neighborhood character, Harriman’s proposals call for increased building density and height within a half-mile of the East Norwalk train station, in exchange for ground-floor “amenities” such as restaurants and small businesses.  New buildings with mixed-use upper floors “will be financed by the private sector” according to Harriman rep. Steve Cecil, who added, “The streetscape will be paid for as infrastructure.”   When asked to estimate the resulting population increase, Cecil replied “It’s a balancing act.”

Answering a question as to the fate of the area’s four gas stations, Cecil stated that “new zoning will incentivize the sale and repurposing of the gas station properties.”  Pressed further, he predicted that two of the four gas stations would probably remain.

When attendee Scott Peterson opined that strategies proposed to discourage neighborhood cut-through traffic would cause more clogging on East Avenue, both Cecil and Norwalk Planning & Zoning Director Steve Kleppin acknowledged the lack of a solution for East Avenue congestion.

Asked if the plans included more bus routes to the train station, Kleppin replied that although new routes might be added, “bus service will increasingly be ‘on demand.’”

Responding to concerns about impact on the neighborhood’s thriving auto mechanic shops, Harriman rep. Kartik Shah stated, “New Zoning should not push out existing businesses.”  Cecil then added “We’re trying to provide balance and will be gentle with the changes.”

Kleppin anticipated a 10-week process before the proposal goes to the Planning Commission and predicted final approvals “probably in early spring.”

9 comments

Residente November 19, 2019 at 8:32 am

The 1st rule of Norwalk P&Z is don’t talk about population, the 2nd rule of Norwalk politics is don’t talk about population. “It’s a balancing act”.. Thanks for the range and hypothetical scenarios.. You can tell the East Norwalk area is changing.. Pander to the developers.. Spinnaker opening soon. Deal with the impact on schools, traffic and public services after the fact.

What are the new zoning incentives to sell and repurpose the gas stations?

With the influx of luxury rentals, are we calling this gentrification to conform to the upper class yet

Audrey Cozzarin November 19, 2019 at 9:25 am

And the point of this planned re-development is…?

After attending last evening’s meeting and reviewing the plans, it seems the city is following the same lead as Stamford and Manhattan with top-down foisting of gentrification that creates economic “opportunity” for developers mixed with a sprinkling of good intentions. Even with oversight on the city’s side, Norwalk’s zoning rules favor this type of private development that the public (residents) are asked to accept and endure.

My concern is about the traffic congestion that is already a problem, so any hint of population increase without true smart growth planning is worrisome. The FIRST and smartest remedy would be an efficient and free public transit system. Not “on demand” market-driven transportation. Look at other U.S. cities such as Columbus, Ohio: https://reasonstobecheerful.world/free-the-transit-system/

The City of Norwalk could attempt to address the already-congested traffic patterns in the East Norwalk area, and allow for more “natural” redevelopment to take place. I spoke to a young professional man last evening who commutes to the city for work and walks to the train station (so, not adding another car on the road). He says he gets home and then has to drive to the grocery store, suggesting that a small grocer should be right there by the train station along with other practical businesses such as banks. Encouraging this type of development would be a great start. And then go from there, in stages. Highlight the bike lanes, get the traffic under control

Increasing density without easing the existing traffic congestion produces stress, and I see Norwalkers responding to the current situation, as well as the planning, with reasonable, informed concern.

David Muccigrosso November 19, 2019 at 10:12 am

Gentrification at its finest. How Kafka-esque!

“Transit Oriented Development” = apartments for rich commuters

“ground floor amenities” + “New Zoning should not push out existing businesses” = you’re literally bulldozing a perfectly good laundromat to put up a bougie coffee shop

“the streetscape will be paid for as infrastructure” = the city pays, the developer reaps the benefits

“it’s a balancing act” = we don’t care that we’re pushing out POC to make room for white people

“[we] will be gentle with the changes” = we’re pushing you out, but we’ll do it with a smile, so you can’t call us jerks

We need solutions and developers that actually work for the community, not just accommodating excess growth from a city 50 miles away. We need affordable apartments for the people HERE who are being forced to live in illegal slums, not more $2700/mo two-bedroom castles for the white elites to lord over their brown servants from.

We need REAL Democrats who actually care about racial justice, not these fake ones who are willing to sell out the same minorities they claim to be protecting against a racist school board member. Bardis may be a reprehensible jerk, but it’s even more reprehensible that these school board members and the NAACP are wasting their time on him when they could be actually defending POC.

Lauren November 19, 2019 at 11:08 pm

We as the citizens of Norwalk need to organize and fight back against this gentrification. This plan has NO good that will come of it for current residents. If anyone is interested in participating a real grass roots resistance reach out to me. We can only do it together as a unified front. (203) 244 8351.

Taw November 20, 2019 at 5:35 am

I left the state after 50 years, to crowded to expensive and I’m white!, house for sale Florida 120k any takers?

Tanner Thompson November 20, 2019 at 5:53 pm

The key here – as it should be with any planned growth & development – is to get more cars off the road. Cars and their requisite infrastructure are energy inefficient, environmentally unfriendly, socially isolating, and one of the leading causes of death in this country. Motor vehicle crashes are the *number 1* cause of death for children, youth, and young adults.

Higher-density development is necessary to achieve this – if everyone lives so spread out that they have no choice but to drive to get anything done, there will be tons of cars on the road. The closer people live to each other and to the amenities they need – jobs, coffee, laundromats, groceries, what have you – the less they need to drive.

And to those (multiple people!) who asked at the meeting how we’re going to afford all this development – higher-density development brings in way more taxes than low-density. The reason property taxes are so high is that it’s expensive to get town services (sewer, water, roads, etc.) to everyone when they all live on ~an acre of land. In fact, those areas of town tend to cost the town much more than they bring in in taxes. Higher-density areas, on the other hand, are a huge boon for town finances.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

David Muccigrosso November 21, 2019 at 9:15 am

@Tanner,

No one’s arguing that we don’t need higher density. Yeah, sure, density pays for stuff. We get it.

If anything, these developments should be WAY bigger and we should be deregulating large chunks of our housing market.

But what we shouldn’t be doing is funding any of this with taxpayer funds. We shouldn’t be carving out sweetheart deals for anyone. These deals always end up serving the rich commuters who never end up seeing the people they displace. They drive up costs for everyone because they only serve the very tippy-top of the market.

The density needs to serve the people who live here and have already been victimized by gentrification first. It CANNOT lead to more people being pushed out.

Vicki December 3, 2019 at 1:48 pm

There is a planning meeting this Thursday at city hall at 7:00pm, public can speak at 7:00 sharp. If you have a concern get there early so the public can speak. The East Norwalk TOD plan will be presented to the committee after the public portion. Save East Norwalk!

Developers are already pouncing on this tiny part of Norwalk! Please voice your concerns to our Council Members who represent citizens and not developers. Over developing is upon us now! Zoning changes for more density is a fact. Don’t sit back while East Norwalk Is taken over a ruined all for the sake of money. Over developing never helped anyone but developers. East Norwalk should be protected not picked apart with cut and pasted overdevelopment, please let the mayor and the zoning and common counsel members (some members are on multiple committed that are approving these zoning changing and overdevelopments).

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