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Blank: I’ll help change Norwalk zoning regs or move on

Norwalk Zoning Commissioner Adam Blank
Norwalk Zoning Commissioner Adam Blank reacts to praise from Common Council members Tuesday in City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk zoning regulations are in need of an overhaul, according to a Norwalk attorney who says he is making their revision the goal of his return to the Norwalk Zoning Commission.

Mayor Harry Rilling’s appointment of Adam Blank to the Zoning Commission was unanimously confirmed by the Common Council Tuesday after bi-partisan praise. Blank, who served as a full commissioner from January 2012 to July 2013 before then-Mayor Richard Moccia declined to reappoint him, said in a statement that he asked to return with a specific goal in mind:

“I asked the mayor to consider reappointing me to the Zoning Commission because I believe the Zoning Commission plays a key role in the progress or decline of Norwalk.  I believe our city as a whole benefits immensely from a thriving SoNo/West Ave./Wall Street and that our city as a whole suffers when our urban core flounders. For these areas to thrive we need to increase development in these neighborhoods, increase the density in these neighborhoods, focus on Transit Oriented Development and look for ways to assist the existing business through change in the zoning regulations. In the year that I have been off of the Zoning Commission I have met with all or nearly all of the major developers in Norwalk to understand from them what they believe works well, where we need improvement and what can be done by the city to facilitate growth in our downtown. I’ve also met and spoken with many people unconnected to developers to try to get a feel for the community’s views, including many people on the various task forces set up by the mayor.

“As a result of these conversations and my own experience, I’ve come to believe that certain changes ought to be pursued in the zoning regulations. For example, I would like the commission to lower the parking requirements in the Wall Street/West Avenue and SoNo areas (I don’t know enough about Rowayton’s issues to comment on the parking requirements there). I would like the Commission to consider allowing higher densities and higher structures in our urban core. I would like to see our workforce housing regulations changed to require all workforce units be constructed onsite; I would also like to see the regulation changed in any zone that currently requires more than 10% of the units to be workforce so that all zones require 10% and only 10%. I also think the Zoning Commission has done an inconsistent job in ensuring sidewalks are constructed on our main arteries and has not pushed hard enough for bike paths. I don’t support bike paths because I think they will reduce pollution or lead to a huge influx of bikers, I support bike paths because they calm traffic, they benefit the retail and restaurants that abut them and they help convey a sense of safety and hipness that will attract residents to Norwalk and deter crime.”

Blank was described Tuesday by Councilman John Igneri (D-District E) as bright and intelligent lawyer who researches an issue thoroughly before making a decision and who likes to compromise. Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said Blank is always dignified, honest and civil, and looks for a compromise acceptable to both sides.

Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) said he had served with Blank, who was an alternate before being appointed as a full member to replace McCarthy after McCarthy’s election to the Council. “I think it’s a good appointment,” McCarthy said. “At one time we started working on reducing parking minimums in the urban corridor. Hopefully, we can get back to that.”

Councilman John Kydes (D-District C) said he didn’t know Blank but had asked around and found that he is highly qualified and highly respected by both Republicans and Democrats.

When Moccia declined to reappoint him last summer, Blank said it was because he refused to be a rubber stamp. He said in his statement that his return will be brief if he can’t make progress on changing Norwalk:

“Near the conclusion of my prior appointment to the Zoning Commission in 2013 I started the ball rolling toward lower parking requirements and streamlining our workforce housing regulations jointly with Republicans on the Zoning Commission as well as by meeting with, and seeking input from, relevant stakeholders. I understand those changes stalled in my absence. In my return I have no intention of feuding with Republicans or grandstanding for Democrats. I have every intention of working with the various task forces, Redevelopment, DPW, Parking Authority, Planning Commission, and Council to help invigorate our urban core. The communication and cooperation between our departments, commissions, developers and public has been at a less than ideal level in the recent past and in order to make a real difference there needs to be some coordination and some buy-in by the key players to work toward big-picture goals.

“I have told the mayor that I will serve on the Zoning Commission so long as I believe that my service is assisting the commission in updating some of the key regulations. Once that is accomplished, or, if that effort stalls, I’ve told the mayor that I will step-down from the commission. My hope is that over the next two years the regulations can be updated and I will step-down.”

Comments

8 responses to “Blank: I’ll help change Norwalk zoning regs or move on”

  1. Don’t Panic

    Congratulations Mr. Blank. Good luck. Perhaps Mr. Santo will step down and allow you to be appointed Chair. Level leadership is needed.

  2. Oldtimer

    If that goal is a possibility, the next person to step down should be Joe Santo. He is a bully and no friend of the administration.

  3. John Hamlin

    Wow. What a wonderful statement of vision and purpose. This is a challenge to the Commission. If he proceeds with this direction, can the other Commissioners join him in this mission? I hope so. This is exactly the approach to public service that Norwalk needs.

  4. Anna Duleep, City Sheriff

    Delighted Adam is back and not surprised by his impressive goals and focus.

  5. peter parker

    Excellent!

  6. Phil Thegieu

    All these glowing remarks about Adam seem to put former Mayor Moccia’s judgment and motives into question. Why was the former Mayor against such a qualified individual but for someone who’s only qualification is to teach people how to drive?

  7. anon

    @Thegieu, Rilling has made a number of questionable appointments this year, and Moccia made his share. Politics.

    That Rilling made what appears to be a very good choice with Mr. Blank, good for the city. But before Rilling gets kudos, let’s see him exhibit more leadership and more decisions of this caliber.

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