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.”