NORWALK, Conn. — David Fales used a drone to take this photo showing the site of a controversial proposed development, up for a Planning and Zoning Commission vote Wednesday.
The Lofts at Mill Pond would replace the former Wells Fargo Bank, shown in the upper part of the photo, a lot that is largely asphalt.
Shown in the foreground is the East Norwalk Historical Cemetery, referred to as “the green” by representatives of Mill Pond Holdings LLC, the applicant seeking to build 77 apartments and 6,000 square feet of commercial space at 1 Cemetery St., a 1.66-acre lot.
Connecticut’s first governor, Thomas Fitch, is buried in the cemetery, said neighbor Jim Anderson on Feb. 2 at P&Z’s first phase of the public hearing on the proposed development. Civil War soldiers and Norwalk residents who died in 1779 when the British burned the city are also buried there.
Dating to 1655, the cemetery is owned and maintained by the Third Taxing District. Find a Grave reports that a memorial stone in the cemetery commemorates Norwalk’s first settlers, 31 people who founded the city in 1649. According to Jackie Lightfield, “not all these illustrious founders are buried here, or at least known to be buried here. The relatively harsh conditions of colonial life meant that it took a while to accumulate the resources to build elaborate or long-lasting tombstones.”
The cemetery is surrounded by Gregory Boulevard (shown at left), Cemetery Street (top) and East Avenue (right).
The Connecticut Department of Transportation and the City’s Transportation, Mobility, and Parking (TMP) Department are developing plans to redo the roads around the cemetery, using a Complete Streets approach to create pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure. It’s tentatively planned to give Cemetery Street one travel lane for cars, leaving room for a bike lane and on street parking. This would be done with striping and the curb location would not change.
Rogers Square traffic would move in the opposite direction from what it does now.
Possible changes specific to the development center on the traffic island where Gregory Boulevard meets Cemetery Street. The applicant proposed reducing the size of the island to allow residents to exit a driveway, positioned over a City easement for an underground stormwater pipe. TMP suggested making the island even smaller to create something akin to a roundabout. The yield sign currently on Cemetery would move to Gregory.
Critics say the traffic study done for the project is woefully inadequate as its based on data gathered in March, not during seasonal high volume times.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation is reviewing the proposals.
While recently passed Transit Oriented Development (TOD) District regulations require the project to be at least 2.5 stories in height and 10 feet from Cemetery Street, Mill Pond Holdings LLC – a partnership of M.F. DiScala and Spinnaker Real Estate Partners – is seeking a special permit allowing an additional story in exchange for public-access amenities.
Residents waited more than three hours to speak during the initial public hearing Feb. 2. Part II begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 15, both in-person in City Hall and online. Details are here.
NancyOnNorwalk requires full names from commenters.
For more information, go here.