BJ’s planners promise to improve quality of water heading to Norwalk River

Norwalk Zoning Committee 004-20130912
Attorney Frank Zullo guides the latest public presentation of BJ’s Wholesale Club at last week’s Norwalk Plan Review Committee meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. – Improved water quality is part of the pitch to put a BJ’s Wholesale Club on Norwalk’s Main Avenue on the site of a Superfund cleanup.

“Right now the water comes over that site and ends up in the Norwalk River untreated,” Attorney Frank Zullo said at last week’s Plan Review Committee meeting. “We’re going to treat it with sponge catch basins and Vortechs (a hydrodynamic separator). The quality of the water is going to be better than it’s ever been before. Right now it’s going untreated into the Norwalk River.”

The proposal, which is the topic of a public hearing Thursday at City Hall, has evolved a bit in the three months since zoning commissioners first began studying it. Plans now call for drivers to travel to the middle of the underground garage before being able to search for parking to prevent too many cars from stacking on Main Avenue while waiting to turn into the store parking area. Sidewalks have been pushed back further from the road to make senior citizens safer, a concern because Miss Laura M. Raymond Homes, a senior housing complex, is next door.

Zullo likes to stress that a 109,000-square-foot BJ’s Wholesale Club would actually reduce the impervious area that creates water runoff on the lot. He is referring to the 2007 state of the property, before ELINCO (Electric Indicator Co.) was demolished. The site is part of the Kellogg Deering Well (Aquifer) Field.

Norwalk Zoning Committee 008-20130912
An architect explains the latest facelift to the proposed Norwalk BJ’s Wholesale Club last week.

New to the plans architecturally are glass fronts for the protruding towers, an effort to visually reduce the mass of the property, with lighting from the inside. In terms of landscaping, a 30-inch grass strip has been added between the curb and the planned 7-foot wide sidewalk. About two dozen trees have been added to the plan, bringing the total of new trees and shrubs to 182. An 8-foot tall, vinyl clad chain link fence is now planned to screen residents of the senior home from the store. The store is now planning to donate an unspecified number of trees to the senior complex.

The seniors also would benefit from the availability of a crosswalk in front of the BJ’s, Zullo said.

The Rolling Ridge Condominium complex is behind the proposed store, albeit 35 feet higher. There would be 50-60 feet of vegetation between the parking lots, planners said. Ordinarily, trucks would park behind a BJ’s Wholesale club but they are planned to go in and out beside the Norwalk store, with more screening and higher fence than originally thought.

The lighting is 30 feet below the elevation of the parking lot at Rolling Ridge. Planners say none of the lighting will creep off the site, and the design meets the city’s requirement of zero lighting.

Commissioner Joe Santo expressed a desire to have the store’s trash compactor put inside. He was told that BJ’s Wholesale Clubs don’t do that, that the outdoor trash compactor had been included in the sound study for the project, but Zullo promised it would be looked into.

New to the plans are 1,000-gallon grease traps connecting to the sewer. That is in addition to “ultra-urban sponges” in the catch basins and the Vortech hydrodynamic separators, an effort to meet the standards of a 25-year storm or 5.7 inches of rain.

Water comes down from the condominium’s parking lot and from a pond up above, Juan Perides of Landtech said.

“It is very likely that the water coming from that pond through our property picks up some pollutants and goes untreated into the drainage system on Main Avenue and ultimately into the Norwalk River,” he said, promising to make the situation better.


27 responses to “BJ’s planners promise to improve quality of water heading to Norwalk River”

  1. M Allen

    What if BJ’s bought out the Laura Raymond homes? Imagine what they could do right if they had the proper amount of space. I’m not saying to relocate those people to make room for business as much as I’m saying those homes are now out of place for that commercial area. They are the last vestage of a time gone by and at some point in the future they will be bought out by someone. Why not make it BJ’s.
    By the way, the change to undergound parking is a positive step. Not enough overall, in my opinion, because on Saturdays and Sundays, traffic will back up out the front door of that garage (see Costco). But its an improvement.
    Also, don’t let the water quality issue fool anyone. The mere presence of the structure itself will probably be the biggest cause of any reduction toxic runoff. Planting grass on the entire site would probably reduce toxic runoff to a similar degree as well. Have we even heard how polluted this site still is?

  2. Herb Eaversmels

    @M Allen, The Environmental Engineering Firm hired by the Developer stated the site has already been cleaned and is no longer considered contaminated. So, the Engineering controls they are talking about will only help reduce the toxic runoff BJ’s will generate after they are in operation. You are correct, planting grass or other vegitation would have an equal or greater effect on the runoff. The problem is the site is too small to accomodate the planned construction and leaves no space for anything other than concrete and asphalt.

  3. dianelauricella

    This site is still involved in a multi -year clean up, of the soil and the underground water (groundwater,aquifer)and is not considered clean by any of the regulatory authorities yet and will require future groundwater monitoring for years to come. There is a complex of laws that review “how clean is clean” and determine what level of cleanup is ok based upon the use if the property. More later.

    Please people! Call your Councilmen, your state reps and State Senator Duff and request that they help oppose this traffic nightmare-in-the-making and have the guts to speak publicly at the podium Thursday night at City Hall Thursday at 7 pm and in letters to the Zoning Commission. This year is a local election…and next year is the state election…ask them to do what we elected them to do!

  4. EveT

    Oldest trick in the book: developer proposes a monstrosity and waits for the public to object. Developer then scales back the scope of the monstrosity, adds a few dozen trees, widens a sidewalk to give the public the impression that developer is acting in the public interest. Don’t be fooled.

  5. This is like putting lipstick on a pig….in the end it’s still a pig.

  6. Suzanne

    I would think that what they are talking about in terms of infrastructure and water quality would be required of ANY development going in that location. Thirty inches of grass? Wow! Let’s not break the developer’s arm in making this a “green” project. In addition, 182 plants is nothing, nothing for a project of this size and scope. It IS “lipstick on a pig” as described by another contributor on this thread. Have they considered how the glass will reflect light on those newly conceived towers? Not an unheard of potential problem with this type of architecture. And, from the comments on this site, there are two answers as two just how “clean” the site is: ready and not ready for many years to come. Which is it?

  7. NorwalkVoter

    When Mr. Zullo starts talking about water, does he let the commissioners know that he sits as an elected Commissioner of the 1st Taxing District Water Company?

  8. Don’t Panic

    It is instructive that the zoning folks continue to take assertions made by the developers about effects of certain decisions without consulting with (or bringing in) staff of other departments to speak to the City’s own experience with these matters.

    Regarding smart sponges, Norwalk was selected as a demo community for an experimental installation of these sponges, supervised by DPW. While they are very effective, according to DPW, they also require continuous periodic maintenance (replacing the sponges) and they are expensive.
    Do the plans to use this technology include a long-term plan to ensure that they are appropriately maintained, and does the city have any formal means of inspecting them for compliance and compelling compliance if BJs (or the owner) fails to do so?

  9. Tim T

    I cant believe the same small group of people are still complaining about the improvement to this 20 year vacant site. Why not concentrate your efforts on the real issues in Norwalk as we have plenty.

  10. RU4REEL

    Thanks for the info Panic,
    Just say no to BJ’s period. Do your best to come up with some other business that complies with the square footage and all other requirements based on the 500,000 master plan.
    If no other business wants in, put a super scaled down version of BJ’s there.
    Didn’t BJ’s say they have been trying to build in the area for some time, if so they will wait.
    Vacant twenty years, what is the rush anyway?

  11. Power to the People

    And the people say, – NO.
    Catch basins? Really? Looks like the pressure is working.
    Frank, catch basins? Really? ROFLMAO. Have to do better than that to pull the wool over these folks eyes.

  12. Tim T

    The rush is it’s a great improvement to the area ..It is beyond any thinking person as to why one would want to see a ugly vacant lot instead. Also the majority of Norwalk is for this improvement in this location . Actually the only ones that seem to be against it are a few on the internet. I have yet to meet one person in the real world that is not for this improvement.

    It’s going to be built so use to it..

  13. Don’t Panic

    Just curious. Where is the survey you are qoting from that says a majority of Norwalk is for this project? I wasn’t aware of one.

  14. Independent Voter

    Several years ago, DPW installed the smart sponges in the street drains in our neighborhood during the period of time that Don’t Panic describes. After a few years, they were removed. But the badges that were installed next to each drain still give the impression that the drains are filtering out the waste that is still going into the Sound. Business as usual at DPW…

  15. Don’t Panic

    The City appears to also have experience with at lesst one Vortech unit. Perhaps DPW or the conservation committee can speak to its effectiveness?


    Do we have any information about those timed traffic lights that are supposed to improve throughput on the traffic?

    How about impact studies on local businesses after a BJs moves in? Will we lose the Stop N Shop? Restaurants? Hardware stores?

  16. Herb Eaversmels

    @Tim Tebow. “Show me proof” of your survey that most Norwalk residents are in favor of this. “Shove it in our face”. The fact of the matter is most are against this development as it is presented. There is a survey in the hour that points in this direction. See you Thursday? You will get to meet those who are opposed then.

  17. Don’t Panic

    @indy voter,
    In defense of DPW, minutes do indicate they were pursuing an “end of pipe” solution. That would be giant versions of this smart sponge technology just before the water leaves the system. If those were installed (unclear whether this was done), then the catch basin sponges wouldn’t be necessary.
    What is clear is that we are happy to have this “expensive” but “effective” technology when someone else pays for it, but do not seem to feel it worth paying for ourselves.
    Because of that, my original question stands: What happens if BJs or the property owner decides to stop maintaining the sponges as a cost cutting measure? Do we have the framework in place To compel compliance, or is this window dressing to get agreement that can be abandoned?
    If Norwalk fails to reach regulatory targets for its overall wastewater discharge and is fined by the state, will BJs be contibuting proportionally to the penalty for any proportional failure to maintain these systems?

  18. Suzanne

    Don’t Panic, as usual, excellent points and questions worth answering by the powers that be.

    The Hour, and I am loathe to mention this because it is highly unscientific, has a poll on their WEB Site that indicates 69.8% of the participants are AGAINST the BJ’s being located at the current selected location.

    I hope Thursday’s meeting proves effective against the run-away, on the books, regulations that make public opinion an after thought in Norwalk’s random development plans.

  19. M Allen

    Tim, we can all use unverifiable claims. If it helps, I have not spoken to one person who moderately or enthusiastically supports a BJ’s at this location. Most who want BJ’s here are somewhere between “hell no, not that location” and “it’s better than nothing but it will be a mess.” There are no ringing endorsements and that doesn’t even take into account the whiners focused on the types of jobs or tax revenue it will create.
    Believe me, it disgusts me to side with some people who may be just as inclined to use traffic, environmental and noise issues to block what the average person would consider to be a reasonable development. But in this case, it is so incredibly obvious that the location is wrong that even I have to be vocal about it.

  20. who’s on first

    Whats on second and we know third or do we?
    All the trees are an effort to bribe Mushak.
    Dont think he will bite.
    Pulling out all the stops on this one.
    Be careful..

  21. NorwalkVoter

    @M Allen
    Right, the first point is that this is the wrong place. The second point is that if this administration really wanted smart development that creates real jobs and real taxes for the town, they would be working hard every day to attract it. Bad location, bad or non-existent planning, time for a change.

  22. M Allen

    If you take a political stance, then you can probably talk yourself into believing we just need change, any change, to make it all better. That any one person has the answer to how Norwalk can attract, more high quality businesses. If you don’t believe Moccia has gotten it done, during an absolutely abysmal economic environment, and that it is somehow his fault alone, well, that is political blindness. But you then have to ask yourself: now that the Democrats have their chosen candidate, what background would lead you to believe they have the answer in that regard? The relative attractiveness of Norwalk compared to other potential sites for businesses to locate is a much bigger issue. It is obvious why retailers like Norwalk: location, location, location. We have a reasonably-sized customer base and we are located at the intersection of I-95, the Merritt Parkway and Route 7. But why are we not more attractive to other forms of businesses, namely those that would reside in office buildings. I don’t have the answer as to why more developers aren’t seeking to build new office buildings. Why the guys at 95/7 have decided to go apartments versus hotel and office space. We need to do a better job, but just saying “the other guy” will be better, doesn’t make it so.

  23. Suzanne

    M. Allen, From my understanding, a considerable amount of study has gone into the development of Norwalk in an intelligent way and those plans have ended up in drawers at City Hall instead of being implemented or at least considered. I don’t think either party has the answer and part of that, from a Mushak perspective is well-taken: there are no professional urban planners on staff and just one on the Commission. If you don’t have any expertise in such a complicated field, how can you plan for the best result? The best thing any new mayor could do is find and use refined and studied approaches to urban planning, instead of putting all of that professional consultant work into drawers.

  24. M Allen

    Suzanne, studies are wonderful. And I don’t even discount whether some of the recommendations should have been put into code. But the recommendations of the study don’t get the developers to build or the businesses to set up shop. We can zone it all we like and restrict it all we like. And if nobody comes to build anything, we just have the code and the code doesn’t create any job or pay any tax. I frankly don’t care about what we wish things could be. I wish route 7 was nothing but Merritt 7 office buildings filled to the brim with nothing but hedge funds, Starbucks and smoothie shops. But wishes don’t drive development or tenants. Tell me how you’re gong to bring business and development to Norwalk. Not just how you would restrict development.

  25. EastNorwalkChick

    @M. Allen, the reason why these big box stores like Norwalk is because the surrounding towns such as Wilton, Weston, Darien, New Canaan and yes, even Westport refuse to accommodate them…so ergo, they build in Norwalk or Milford.
    Each one of these towns have a master plan and they follow it to the “T” and every builder knows it….we have one too, but like Suzanne has said, it sits somewhere collecting dust.
    So we have catch as catch can in this town, builders and developers know that they can run roughshod over the zoning commission. Anything goes….because we don’t follow our plan.
    How do we know that this updating our zoning codes to match the “Master Plan” won’t attract businesses to come to Norwalk if we haven’t even tried to implement it?

  26. spanner

    We’re going to treat it with sponge catch basins and Vortechs (a hydrodynamic separator). The quality of the water is going to be better than it’s ever been before. Right now it’s going untreated into the Norwalk River.”

    Norwalk has had sponges in basins before,it was never a hit with the EPA,Norwalk never had a service plan or a disposal plan yet it was like sliced bread was invented in Norwalk.Then the Boston Office of the EPA simply said they couldn’t and wouldn’t endorse this way of cleaning runoff.What has changed Mr Zullo?

    Don’t panic came close to telling us the story about the sponges,reason Moccia never talked about them again is after the EPA stepped in and told the city the deal on sponges.We were lied to advertisements with Moccias staff on the sponges from Arizona was simply not right but thats dirty water over the dam folks just ask Hal.

    Old reports on this site had many red flags time indeed made any real danger go away.Another sad chapter for Norwalks environment.

    There was a great article on sponges any idea where it went?It detailed the problems with them and its cost.Its not surprising the past has been forgotten.

    DPW did they get charged with dumping hazardous material in the leaf tractor trailor trucks (sponges) a few years back?Sponges gather asbestos from brake pads and oils makes them dirty dirt a cradle to grave disposable what do the new sponges do?

  27. M Allen

    Well if BJ’s can “run roughshod” then I imagine a new Merritt 7 building would have an even easier time. So where are they? Are we claiming that our zoning policies are so bad that upstanding developers are scared to build here? That seems a little simple and convenient.
    Box stores and national retailers come here due to the proximity to a shopping public, including those from other towns (95/7/Merritt), as well as lower land values, and the availability of land. Among other reasons that are unrelated to our zoning rules.
    And comparing Norwalk to the likes of Wilton, Westport, Darien and New Canaan is a tad far fetched. Would you compare our schools to schools in those towns? How about criminal activity? Tax rates? Incomes? Apples and donuts.

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