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Cece battles East Norwalk TOD plan, claims community ‘mistrust’

A slide used by Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin to illustrate the Seaview Avenue pedestrian promenade concept introduced by consultants as part of the emerging East Norwalk Transit Oriented Development Plan. It’s one of the best recommendations and, “After the plan is approved, we’ll work with DPW, Recs & Park and Transportation and Mobility on developing a plan for the promenade,” he said. “By including the concept in the plan places more importance on it and allows us to pursue grant funding and indicates consistency with the POCD when seeking capital funding.

NORWALK, Conn. — Development guidelines being formulated by the Planning and Zoning Department may result in 1,200 to 1,500 new apartments in East Norwalk, according to Diane Cece.

Cece is engaging in “scare tactics,” according to Third Taxing District Commissioner Pam Parkington.

Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin said experience shows that things don’t move that fast and, “I don’t think this will immediately translate to the entire area being redeveloped.”

Cece’s sharp, relentless criticisms came during the May 18 East Norwalk Transit Oriented Development Oversight Committee meeting, where she represents the East Norwalk Neighborhood Association. The TOD plan has been percolating for months and should be up for a public hearing soon, but Cece said ENNA has serious concerns.

“Some key components in it are seen by the residents and the (ENNA) Board as a complete disconnect between the feedback of the community,” Cece said.

“I was on all those public hearings and, Diane, I had a different perception of the residents, to be honest,” Norwalk Principal Civil Engineer Vanessa Valadares said. “I think that in the beginning there were a few things that actually they did want to be improved. And I think that we are trying to definitely meet that. One thing that is very important to understand is that if we don’t have some kind of development coming to the area, we’re not going to be able to get improvements that the residence want.”

 

 

‘Every sentence’ called questionable

The East Avenue TOD study began a year ago, funded by a State grant and aided by the Boston-based urban design firm Harriman as a hired consultant. Its goal is to guide responsible growth in the area surrounding the East Avenue rail station, fostering economic growth via a “vibrant, walkable mixed-use village center.” The first community forum was held in November.

A plan has been drafted but is not public yet because consultants are working their way through the Committee’s comments, Emily Keyes Innes of The Cecil Group told Cece at the May 18 meeting.

The ENNA Board has seen the draft, Cece said, dominating the two-hour-long meeting with prosecutorial pushback she said was on behalf of the Board and area residents. Commentary revolved around a 13-page document detailing ENNA feedback.

“Almost every sentence in (the draft), we had some question on either ‘where did it come from?’ or ‘how can you possibly be interpreted that way?’ Or ‘how does the plan support it?’” Cece said.

Start with the first sentence, which claims that “East Norwalk offers an enticing quality of life, particularly for families and commuters,” she said.

“We have been facing an eroding quality of life in East Norwalk,” Cece said.

“This is not my personal opinion,” she said. “This is the opinion of the community, the feedback from the Board who represents the community at large and our collective experience of either being on the Board, living here, interacting with communities, our interaction with government, a whole host of things over the past 17 to 20 years, in some cases, 30 years, with our Board members and longer.”

The ENNA website does not list Board members. Cece did not reply to an email asking who’s on the Board. On Wednesday, Sarah Hunter said she’s been on the Board for 20 years, and the ENNA website will be updated this weekend with a list of Board members.

ENNA doesn’t want to erode the quality of life further with a plan that doesn’t support the current way of life or enhance, Cece said on May 18. “Hundreds and hundreds of apartments” in the half mile around the train station will erode the quality of life.

Committee member Stephanie Thomas, there on behalf of the Zoning Commission, said she wasn’t clear what ENNA wanted.

“Are you saying that ‘we want no TOD development at all’ and ‘keep things status quo’? Because if that’s not what’s being said, I think I agree with Vanessa, we went through a very public process,” Thomas said. “I think we had to make some decisions about height and density. And I think that balance was struck. I mean, we basically are only allowing one story above what’s allowed currently and making some other little zoning changes here and there.”

The drafted plan would allow buildings that are 3.5 stories tall. In exchange for the extra story, developers would provide specific amenities.

Thomas said that what she really cares about is what those amenities would be.

ENNA’s goal is to share feedback from the community and to raise concerns, Cece said.

 

Community concern?

Early in the meeting, Common Council Planning Committee Chairman John Kydes (D-District C) had thanked Kleppin, saying all his questions had been answered.

“I’ve been talking to a lot of East Norwalk residents, you know, outside ENNA, and folks there and others. And I think I feel like a lot of the folks have really a good understanding what’s going on,” Kydes said. “…I mean, that’s not always the case. And I can say now, you know, I feel like nothing’s being done behind closed doors.”

“The number one chant from the residents here, and we’re talking about hundreds of them so I’m not quite sure who John Kydes, our district rep, here interacts with, was ‘no more apartments,’” Cece said after Kydes left.

“No more apartments” was a theme in the last Mayoral election, with challenger Lisa Brinton championing the cause and incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling supporting growth. Signs opposing apartments dotted East Norwalk roads as a TOD development was erected ahead of the TOD plan, directly adjacent to the train station, at 230 East Ave.

Rilling won every Norwalk district but Brinton came closest in C-1, which includes most of East Norwalk, winning 48.9 percent of the vote to Rilling’s 50.9 percent. That’s according to an unofficial tally done by Norwalk Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells. It might be one or two votes off, he said.

Kydes has been on the Council since 2013 and supports growth. He won handily last fall.

NancyOnNorwalk asked Kydes who he’s been talking to, who supports the TOD plan.

“In my nearly eight years as the council representative of East Norwalk it is clear to me that the vast majority of residents are not aware of the decisions being made on their behalf and how it may affect their lives. For this reason I have always made a strong effort to keep the community informed by directing them to factual information,” Kydes wrote. “I and many others of the steering committee believe that we have done a good job crafting the tools needed to expand our seaside village district north of Gregory Blvd and with it providing the community with new services.”

NoN also asked if Kydes owns property beyond his East Norwalk home, say as a landlord.

“I do not own any property other than my house and will not benefit financially or politically from supporting the east Norwalk Tod plan,” Kydes replied. “Believe it or not I just support things that I know will benefit the community I plan to live the rest of my life in.”

 

‘Written on ice cubes’

East Norwalkers were chiefly concerned with the Wells Fargo parcel on Cemetery Street, the St. Thomas Church property on East Avenue and the empty lot next to Interstate 95, south of Exit 16, but none of those are affected by the proposed regulations, Cece said, calling the plan a “hard sell” given the potential 1,500 apartments.

All you have to do is look at the Waypointe complex to see that development doesn’t happen overnight, Kleppin said. “It just never does. I’m sure there’s probably going to be a few applications that come in fairly quickly – I don’t think we’ve made it any secret that the folks that have the Wells Fargo parcel would like to develop that piece of property.”

It’s a huge empty parking lot that anyone would want to redevelop, he said. What’s proposed overall is “very measured, it’s not overly dense.”

Cece countered that it’s a concern that every parcel from I-95 to Mill Pond could have a 3.5 story building on it. And, “We hear it all the time. …There is a serious mistrust of the process in Norwalk.”

“We’ve gone through this at half a dozen meetings…. I don’t find it productive,” Kleppin replied.

Cece said things change after a public hearing process and in Norwalk, assurances are “written on ice cubes.” Citizens come to City Hall outraged about a plan, and it passes anyway. If people ask her if the buildings could be built taller in the future, “I have to say yes. Because that’s the honest answer.”

Thomas countered that while she’s new on the Zoning Commission, “I go into every meeting with an open mind. I am not someone who is diabolical behind the scenes and I don’t think my peers are as well.”

“You seem to have an overall belief that nothing here was written has any great meaning to it, as any support to it, or will be honored by the people who are in place at the moment or in place in the future,” Planning Commissioner Brian Baxendale said to Cece. “I mean, people questioning the future will never do anything.”

“Honestly I’m trying not to sound as frustrated as I am,” because little of ENNA’s suggestions have been put into the plan, Cece said.

“We are a Committee here,” Valadares said. “You were not the only voice there. There were other members and we as a group, we made those decisions.”

 

 

‘Need for a public process’

The 230 East Ave. plan was “widely rejected by the community,” Cece said.

“It was rejected by a lot of people, not by everybody,” Kleppin replied, calling it ancient history and “irrelevant,” along with the Walk Bridge.

Cece asked what the goal was for the East Norwalk train station, asserting that there aren’t enough seats on the trains now. She said the plan’s suggestion that the wastewater treatment plant be moved away from the waterfront would be used as a pre-authorization sometime down the road. The Gregory Boulevard thoughts aren’t well-defined, she said.

The Seaview Avenue pedestrian promenade concept looks good on paper but residents mock it, she said, asking if the City would be acquiring properties.

“I think you’re reading into that way beyond what I think any intent is,” Kleppin said. “…No one’s going to take anybody’s private property. There’s no businesses being taken, we’re using City property…. we’re going to see if there’s an extra parkland that could be incorporated into this.”

Cece criticized the public participation to date.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say everybody in East Norwalk feels the same way about this,” Kleppin said. “Maybe everybody that’s an ENNA member may. I don’t think that will be the case.”

“I’m glad you just brought that up, Steve,” Cece replied. “…There needs to be a public presentation of it in the public, where people can have a robust question and answer of the plan.”

No, not on Zoom. “It would have to be postponed until people can actually meet in person and be in the room,” she said.

The State has deadlines for completion, Kleppin replied.

Cece warned Kleppin that the Freedom of Information (FOI) Commission might get involved because, “There’s some question near now on whether or not these temporary means of communicating with the public are actually legal,” and said public information officer Tom Hennick had been consulted.

Hennick said Wednesday that the conversation with Cece centered on whether individuals could be required to identify themselves in order to attend a virtual meeting.

“I’m not sure I know the correct answer in the age of Zoom meetings,” Hennick wrote. “Since this all unfolded in March, I have had many conversations with folks, including some in Norwalk, about the conduct of Zoom or Skype type meetings, but nothing specific to the East Norwalk Transit Oriented Development Plan.”

Kleppin on May 18 defended the public meetings that were held late last year. Residents had told him they were happy and left early, he said. “Let’s be honest, some people want to talk about this till the cows come home and I don’t think we can leave it open ended….there’s always a chance for additional feedback through emails or phone calls, which other which people took advantage of and that’s this part of the process.”

ENNA BOARD FEEDBACK Staff Response

 

‘Fear mongering’ might ‘nix everything’

So is East Norwalk up in arms about the TOD plan? NancyOnNorwalk contacted Third Taxing District Commissioners and asked for an opinion. Only one of the three replied.

Parkington said she’s out of town and dealing with personal issues, “keeping up as much as possible via the emails chains the committee has going on.”

Cece has gained support because of the pandemic and her access to Brinton’s email list, according to Parkington. “Normally she can get 15-20 people to show up. She has been able to capture the attention of a bored, anxious community that normally would never been involved.”

No way they represent the majority of East Norwalk, she said, writing:

“Do most people in East Norwalk want big apartment buildings built here? NO. The plans don’t show that. Three and half {stories} is the height of the Pooch Motel and less than 25 Van Zant Street. You have to understand that the area that can be actually developed is small. The fail-safes that have been put in really make a Developer jump through hoops.

“There is a lot more nuances to these plans than Diane CC is portraying. As usual she is fear mongering. I had a feeling the dog and poney show she put all of through was just going to end up with her nixing everything. That’s how she rolls. She doesn’t want any change, she just wants to be in control.”

 

Brinton said Thursday that Cece does not have her email list.

 

A Zoom meeting in late June

The plan should be public in two to three weeks, Kleppin said Tuesday. The Committee is meeting today, Thursday May 28, and Harriman will then make edits. “If that timeline works, we are looking at having a Zoom public information meeting at the end of June.”

Is a Zoom public hearing legal? Has he asked the State about this?

“Yes we have,” Kleppin wrote. “Obviously we did not anticipate the pandemic at the start of the process and planned on a meeting with all in attendance as would come, as we had with our 3 very well attended workshops.  The Freedom of Information Commission has indicated that we have to provide the ability for the public to listen to our non-hearing meetings, which we have done.  In addition, for the public hearings, like the contractor’s yard moratorium, we have allowed the public to comment and not restricted them.  We will follow this when the TOD plan is up for a hearing or public meeting.”

Story updated at 5:43 p.m. to include comment from Lisa Brinton.

29 comments

Concerned Taxpayer May 28, 2020 at 6:54 am

1,500 new apartments, assume with an average of 2 people per unit, would yield 3,000 new development residents. Norwalk will have to keep building to achieve its grand list goals. Projects have progressed elsewhere so construction traffic in East Norwalk has began. Even with the growth, property taxes still go up

Lisa Brinton May 28, 2020 at 7:10 am

East Norwalk is the latest neighborhood under assault over increased density & overbuilt apartments by this mindless administration – proceeding full steam ahead during a pandemic & lockdown from city hall – unless to pay taxes. The statement below by a commissioner highlights the outright falsehoods & disdain for the public.

“Cece has gained support because of the pandemic and her access to Brinton’s email list, Parkington said. “Normally she can get 15-20 people to show up. She has been able to capture the attention of a bored, anxious community that normally would never been involved.”

1) I’ve NOT shared my email lists & would have thought NON might have contacted me to verify. She did not. 2) Suggesting E. Norwalkers are bored – when the fight over density, tax credits & quality of life dominated the last election, highlights the danger of single party rule & of applying DC politics to local issues. #ourcityourfuture

Niz May 28, 2020 at 7:46 am

East Norwalk residents are battling that plan
Your use of Cece name will make her vulnerable to retaliation by the city and their friends!!

Mike Mushak May 28, 2020 at 8:15 am

Our neighborhood association in our diverse and vibrant historic community of South Norwalk, the Golden Hill Association, worked closely with the city DPW and Planning staff and State DOT for over a decade (2004-2015) to get new sidewalks and a renovated Cedar Street, along with new development guidelines in a new Village District zone, all at the same time DOT was replacing the 3 major bridges over 95 in the heart of our neighborhood (Taylor, Cedar, and Fairfield Avenues) in a major disruption to our businesses and residents. In the end, the process went smoothly despite a few inevitable hiccups, but all agree our neighborhood and public safety is much improved!

In the spirit of helping each other, we reached out many times to both ENNA and CNNA (Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations) including Diane Cece to share our many successes with the city and state and how we achieved them.

We attended many meetings, and explained that constantly throwing bombs and insulting people is not a winning strategy to creating a real “sense of place” that would improve property values and attract investment and new businesses, while also improving walkabality and slowing traffic speeds to improve public safety for folks of all ages and abilities.

Thats what the East Norwalk TOD plan does, plain and simple.

I encourage the adults in the room to see this plan for what it is, a smart and sensitive strategy to creating a real “sense of place”, improve property values, attract new business and investment, and create the vibrant and safe walkable town center East Norwalk deserves for decades into the future, all with improved traffic flow and slower speeds! Who in their right mind wouldn’t say “Amen” to that?

Bobby Lamb May 28, 2020 at 9:26 am

I’m so tired of a tiny group of people trying to control everything. No one goes to ENNA meetings anymore because it’s a small group of people who just complain about everything. East Norwalk deserves to be as beautiful and have as many amenities as the rest of town. People want a market or grocery store – but guess what – no grocery stores are going to open unless there are enough people to support it. Right sized, thoughtful development is exactly what that neighborhood needs East Norwalk is the gateway to norwalk – it should be beautiful, not run down. I think the plan is really balanced and supports what the vast majority of residents want. I don’t know why Diane Cece thinks she represents the entire community. She is not elected and heads an organization with dwindling membership. Whether she likes it or not things are changing – and in my opinion – that’s a good thing.

David Muccigrosso May 28, 2020 at 9:52 am

I dunno…

maybe it’s just me…

but maybe if she hadn’t said “no businesses will be shut down” while then proceeding to present a mock-up that shows two gas stations and my favorite laundromat being replaced with bougie coffee shops…

maybe people wouldn’t “question every sentence”.

I’m just saying.

Yeah, it’s really not that hard for government to be competent. And as a progressive, I desperately wish they would be more competent. But when nonsense like this comes along, you can’t just expect progressives to hold their noses and pretend that this is the sort of progressive governance we’ve been clamoring for.

Also, I’m going to start signing off with this until it’s addressed:

“Ceterum autem censeo, skateboardero de SoNo ejecta est.”

Rita Gantt May 28, 2020 at 10:42 am

There are so many items not addressed by the Planning and Zoning group such as: impact to schools, traffic impact of 2 person households of the potential 1500+ living units, an addition of potentially 3000 vehicles, impact to current infrastructure such as sewage, power, water, etc.
Diane has made several valid points and in general has been very thoughtful in her statements. The homeowners in East Norwalk are not against all change, just asking for thoughtful and responsible change.

John ONeill May 28, 2020 at 1:04 pm

I suggest city leaders and East Norwalk residents spend some time in the Cove section Stamford before proceeding with denser zoning rules. East Norwalk neighborhood is a Gem. I’m not sure you can say the same thing about the East Side (Cove) section of Stamford. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, you just need to drive to Stamford to understand how ridiculous this plan is…

Sarah Mann May 28, 2020 at 2:37 pm

Many of us in East Norwalk have attended planning meeting after planning meeting throughout the years, offering our ideas regarding how we would like to see improvements and development in East Norwalk take place. At not one of those meetings did I hear the residents voice strong support for a plethora of multi-story apartments.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I did not completely oppose the development of the property at 230 East Avenue. I truly believe that what is being built there is too big for the site and it lacks charm. A smaller development reflecting the maritime heritage of East Norwalk would be more appropriate. I seemed to get support when I spoke at a public hearing at city hall. Unfortunately, it fell upon deaf ears. Which I believe is part of Diane’s point. The residents of East Norwalk participate in the process from start to finish time and again yet are never heard. Compromise is never considered. Traffic studies, I believe are questionable. Density will bring added traffic.

Bringing new residents to East Norwalk can be and will be a good thing. But……..why do we we need big apartments here in our little hamlet. What about town homes ? Start thinking outside the box and think about what is right for East Norwalk not for people that do NOT live here.

As for stating that Diane Cece wants to be in control. I don’t believe anything could be further from the truth. I’ve known her for 20 years. At times we have not seen eye to eye. That may be an understatement. But Diane is all about the community and she is passionate about East Norwalk. Diane expects everyone to follow the process and she will hold your feet to the fire to make sure that you do. Could she use some work on how she delivers her message-perhaps. But Diane is honest she has courage and she will fight like a tiger for what she believes in.

I’m not sure what’s going to happen with this TOD business. We can’t be sure folks are going to get on public transportation anytime soon. According to the Wall St. Journal today more people will be working remotely. I suspect more people will be driving. The sands are shifting. Stay safe.

Steve Mann May 28, 2020 at 3:46 pm

Mr. Lamb- A supermarket in East Norwalk? Really, have you been to East Norwalk lately. Where exactly would you put that store?

Mr. Mushak- Traffic slowing? Really? Traffic couldn’t possibly move any slower in EN. If you’re talking about Strawberry Hill Ave, and Winfield past Triangle, we have this marvelous organization in Norwalk. They’re called the Norwalk Police Dept. Traffic enforcement would be a wonderful addition, if that is, it can be fit into the bustling schedule of bonus pay at construction sites.

Comparing East Norwalk to South Norwalk of years ago is at best laughable, for obvious reasons. Legacy developments serve only the privileged few.

JustaTaxpayer May 28, 2020 at 5:30 pm

I wonder after reading Ms Brinton’s sentence:

– proceeding full steam ahead during a pandemic & lockdown from city hall – unless to pay taxes

I read where Stamford is making tough decisions. 40mm unemployed and many forced to take part time furloughs. Are government employees being paid 100% or, has Norwalk made any changes????

carol May 28, 2020 at 5:44 pm

how many board members that support this overdevelopment actually live in east norwalk and would be affected by these apartments??/
wake up people-or we will have loads of apartments,not paying real estate taxes and overwhelming our schools,roads sewers etc.

John Miller May 28, 2020 at 6:25 pm

@Steve Mann: Although East Norwalk could obviously not accommodate a large scale Stop & Shop like grocery store, there used to be a small independent grocery store on Van Zant Street that was similar to the Cranbury IGA (formerly Gregory Store) in the Cranbury section of Norwalk which would definitely be suitable for the area.

Victor Cavallo May 28, 2020 at 6:55 pm

Apparently all the stakeholders here are getting their knickers in a twist for no reason. There will be no need for transit oriented development, at least according to Governor Lamont:

“The old idea of the commuter going into New York City five days a week may be an idea that’s behind us,” Lamont said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “Maybe you have a great job that seems to be geographically located in New York City, you can do it two-thirds of the time from your home in Stamford.”

A TOD plan in East Norwalk assumes that new apartment dwellers will be using the East Norwalk station to commute to their jobs and return to Norwalk at the end of the day to their apartments. Apparently, that’s an antiquated notion. So there will be no inherent benefit in living near a train station.

Bobby Lamb May 28, 2020 at 8:10 pm

Steve – “Why can’t we have something like cranbury market or a Trader Joe’s” is a constant refrain from East Norwalkers – I don’t know where you’ve been.

Brinton and Justataxpayer – every other city and town in CT is in financial crisis and many are being forced to furlough city workers AND CUT SERVICES. Stamford might be going to once a month garbage collection. Why? Because they haven’t been as fiscally responsible as Norwalk. Good friggen thing no one listened to Bryan “Spend the entire find balance” Meek. The city has been able to continue operating without a hiccup. How can that be anything other than amazing? Also in the same sentence you are criticizing city employees for “steamrolling ahead” – otherwise known as doing their jobs by continuing to hold public meetings, develop and present plans, review and execute permits while simultaneously complaining the city should do layoffs since the only work happening is the walk up window. Enough already. Be appreciative you live somewhere that is able to keep functioning and survive a global catastrophe while other places are facing tough decisions about what services to cut.

Concerned Taxpayer May 28, 2020 at 9:31 pm

@ JustaTaxpayer

I read there’s no changes in Norwalk, it’s 100% spending, no cuts as if the economy is unfazed. Not much spending control. This is why the city wants to develop every square inch to grow the grand list. Instead of a cautious approach with taxpayer dollars like some towns, Norwalk is focused on building.. in this case, ‘building big apartments in the little hamlet’ of East Norwalk.. that’s an interesting way a commenter (Sarah) put it.. sadly true

charlene harrick May 29, 2020 at 1:17 am

I grew up in EN.The traffic coming off I95,ext.16 is Always bottle necked. currently traffic going down E.Ave. slow. When beach is open and at Full capacity it is worse. With 3,000 MORE vehicles please explain how it will work? WHERE are ALL the cars going to find parking spaces. Promenade!! where are cars going to park. My own IS NOT A big city like Boston. Like comment – more people No property taxes.Grocery stores We have a hugh Stop&Shop and Shop Rite. Our beach is already packed solid with no added parking, So it is not possible to add 3,000 MORE Vehicles.

John E. Tobin May 29, 2020 at 7:48 am

Attention East Norwalk residents, my advice to you is whatever Mr. Mushak thinks is good for your neighborhood, run fast in the opposite direction. This is the same Mr. Mushak who while supporting the village district for his neighborhood, was pushing for a rezoning of an area one half mile around the East Norwalk Train Station to allow for the building of transient homes. As a Zoning Commission at the time, I asked one question of staff regarding the Village District proposal for Cedar St: “Is there anything prohibiting us from incorporating a transient home zone into the proposed Village District?” Mr. Mushak’s response to my question was to stand up, shout that we were “all trying to screw him”, then he stormed out of the meeting. So I will take Ms. Cece’s concerns about the EN TOD plan over what Mr. Mushak’s wants built for our neighborhood any day.

Steve Mann May 29, 2020 at 8:30 am

Bobby, and John- I have no problem with a small market, however, many questions arise.

First, a national or regional company would do feasibility studies on the area, and I doubt the outcome would be favorable. Lots of traffic in EN but most of it is transient. People generally shop where they live, and not likely that the local population would support anything more than a small local market. I don’t believe the registers would ring enough to warrant a large presence. It’s just the way it is, although a local grocer would mitigate some of the traffic that 3000 apartment dwellers would create by not having to drive to a market.

Not to mention the opposition it would face from certain local grocers who don’t want the competition.

Not to mention the hoops they’d have to jump through to get approval from City Hall. Want to put in 1400 apartments? Get a shovel and come on down. Want to do something that’s not in the Grand Plan? Public hearings, numerous department approvals, parking regulations, lawsuits over several issues, and maybe a few years down the line, who knows, another administration might welcome it.

Don’t forget, this market will need merchandise to sell. Anyone else leery of a constant barrage of semi’s rolling down city streets to make deliveries?

Sorry, but this is not your grandma’s neighborhood anymore.

JustaTaxpayer May 29, 2020 at 9:04 am

@BobbyLamb

Every town and city in CT is not fiscally responsible? Whew, I’m so glad I live in Norwalk. So you’re suggesting that we need 100% of government employees at 100% of pay during this virus?

You’re probably right based on my situation. In 2000, taxes on our home were around $2800. Today, we’re over $9000. I can assure you the 3.5X multiplier has not been the case for my income. If my income kept pace with taxes, I’d be much more financially responsible.

Curious May 29, 2020 at 9:08 am

Eerily similar to the take over of the Wall-West Ave neighborhoods. A lot of taxpayers from that district push back and wanted things done thoughtfully but City Hall and the Norwalk ruling elite brush them aside claiming its only a few naysayers. Same players using the same planning company who falsified the Wall-West plan, so of course it’s a good idea.

But 14,000 signatures to save the Garden Cinema suggest a few more than a handful of nay sayers. The same might be true here.

Joe Ruggerio May 29, 2020 at 1:49 pm

Not a comment but suggestion(?).

How about adding a “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” counter so people can quickly agree or disagree without having to post a comment?

That way, a resident can gauge how a certain topic is trending in the community.

I’m thinking you’ve probably thought about this but not sure if why it hasn’t been done(?).

If you need to censor people you can continue like you have before a comment is posted.

Joe Ruggerio May 29, 2020 at 2:05 pm

Not living in EN but am appalled by what Third Taxin District Parkington said:

Cce has gained support because of the pandemic and her access to Brinton’s email list, according to Parkington. “Normally she can get 15-20 people to show up. She has been able to capture the attention of a bored, anxious community that normally would never been involved.”

Sounds like Parkington is angry because people are paying attention and are outraged at what she wants to do.

Who cares WHY or HOW these taxpayers and constituents garnered interest in their community?? Shouldn’t she thrilled that the public are getting engaged?…

We’ll wait for her answer…>crickets<

Bryan Meek May 29, 2020 at 2:19 pm

I never once said spend the entire fund balance. I said spend it down to a reasonable level or refund it to taxpayers. There is public record of this. And there is also public record of the Mayor spending it down when it served his political interests and him taking credit for the idea to do it. Spare us your partisan drivel, please. We need solutions that serve Norwalk, not the politically connected.

Mimi Chang May 30, 2020 at 6:30 pm

Wikipedia Definition of Gaslighting:

”Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group, covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgement…”

@Niz’s comment that a good number of East Norwalk residents are battling this East Norwalk TOD plan is spot on. For Planning & Zoning Director Steve Kleppin and commissioners to portray this battle as one woman’s in order to pass an increased density agenda to the tune of 1200-1500 apartment units that RESIDENTS DO NOT WANT under COVID-19 lockdown is cruel and paints a target on Ms. Cece. @Curious, we are absolutely more than a handful of ENNA naysayers, as @Bobby Lamb has so rudely suggested otherwise in his comment, and I agree with you that this plan is eerily going like the Wall Street/West Avenue Plan. Same players. Same issue of the people pushing back against a local government, cronyism agenda which is not in their best interest. Complete disregard of stakeholder feedback.

The gaslighting and condescending treatment toward Diane Cece for all her hard work as a volunteer community spokesperson must stop. A large number of us support Diane Cece! She is our liaison and the messenger of OUR community feedback to these planners. Steve Kleppin and the commission members in the May 18th meeting carry on like she is making the feedback of hundreds of residents up! Why is she told by Steve Kleppin in the May 6th East Norwalk TOD Oversight Zoom meeting that our community feedback is “…just her personal opinion…”? Sadly, we know all too well why. The cake is baked with this TOD. It’s how Norwalk does business. Similar marginalizing comments are made toward Ms. Cece by commission members in both meetings. The dismissiveness toward Diane Cece and East Norwalk stakeholders is insulting. And since when is Pam Parkington the snarksperson… Ummm… spokesperson for all of us? Who is she to make false statements? She says I’m bored? She doesn’t know me. Diane Cece is employing scare tactics? Right. Sounds like the same tired, vitriolic rhetoric Parkington spewed during the last mayoral campaign season. Disappointing behavior coming from a grown woman who should know better.

Who on earth, who knows of the dysfunctionality of that still unstudied, traffic choked, 1/2 mile stretch of East Norwalk’s gateway, pounded by East Norwalk vehIcles and cut through cars and service trucks from Westport and South Norwalk, could greenlight a gradual phase in of 1200-1500 apartment units in buildings that could go up to 3-1/2 stories from Exit 16 all the way to DiScala’s Mill Pond Place… Oh, Wait… No “friends and family” street name change just yet, folks… Cemetery Street, and generate thousands, THOUSANDS, of vehicles, exacerbating an already unacceptable traffic situation? Elected officials with a local and state mandated, forced density agenda (Follow the money!!!) which disregards the quality of life of already existing residents, and their “friends and family” committee/commission appointees, some with their own political agendas… That’s who. Don’t be surprised when this East Norwalk TOD plan’s traffic study for thousands of vehicles on East Avenue miraculously comes back as “Finding of No Significant Impact”. Politics just can’t stay out of what’s best for the East Norwalk community, not with the Rilling Administration at the helm, anyway.

East Norwalk residents want SCALED DEVELOPMENT! The feedback I’ve heard repeatedly is that while some residents want no more apartments, others are not against a very modest number of apartments as part of this plan. Residents inputted that they are for lesser apartments of a smaller scale and lower height. They kept being told by the planners and consultants that what they want isn’t incentive enough for developers to come in, that they have to allow developers more stories and more apartment units (aka, let developers build whatever the heck they want to) to sweeten the pot. No matter that East Norwalkers have communicated that they want an appropriately scaled, maritime village feel plan, reflective of the spirit and history of their tight knit, “small town feel” community. The residents’ feedback from visioning workshops culled from the Harriman Consultants, and up on the Norwalk Tomorrow website, reflects exactly that. The top concerns East Norwalk residents were vocalizing at those visioning workshops were: apartment sprawl/over-development detracting from village feel, even more traffic congestion, lack of walkability (crumbling neighborhood sidewalks!) and lack of green space.

John Kydes did not attend the East Norwalk TOD visioning workshops, nor does he attend any community meetings as our District C representative, so it’s a mystery as to where he’s getting his stakeholder feedback, aside from a very small circle of “friends and family” pro-big development, stacked committee/commission members like Mike Mushak, or from Diane Cece and her board, doing all the heavy lifting, collecting data and sharing community feedback from his primary stakeholders whom he should be advocating for, not selling out to developers. John Kydes did not exactly answer Nancy’s question according to her article. I wrote to John Kydes, the entire Common Council, Mayor Rilling, Steve Kleppin, Diane Cece and Anthony Carr with many questions in need of answers about this plan. Aside from two council members who were voted in this past November and Diane Cece, nobody of the old guard got back to me. That they did not speaks volumes to their agenda. It’s old news now that soon to be “Mill Pond Place” apartments at the Wells Fargo lot (where DiScala “…will likely fit as many apartment units as possible”, according to Steve Kleppin when answering a resident’s question in a December email) were neither discussed with nor proposed to the public in the November TOD proposal presentation of two mixed use apartment buildings (Yes, only two buildings… How we got from two buildings to possibly six or more with 1200-1500 units from November to now without public weigh-in is unethical!) to East Norwalk residents, even though there is documentation that they were being planned behind closed doors, so John Kydes made a false statement in the May 18th meeting when he said “…nothing’s being done behind closed doors”. Steve Kleppin in the May 18th meeting also bends the truth about Mill Pond Place. Of course this way of conducting business would cause mistrust amongst stakeholders!

At Wednesday night’s ENNA Zoom meeting, about 50 East Norwalk residents filled out yet one more survey, with THEIR, NOT DIANE CECE’S, feedback (and no scare tactics from Diane, Pam Parkington!). and discussed TOGETHER that a secondary train station hub, East Norwalk village, the likes of Rowayton, need not be a driver of urbanization and of a ridiculously high volume of apartment density. East Norwalk is population dense as it is! East Norwalk residents questioned in the meeting if a forced density TOD is even feasible now during COVID-19. New Yorkers are fleeing to Fairfield County and buying single family homes because they want space that apartments do not provide. Governor Lamont is finally saying we need to think about who will and won’t be commuting on public transportation in the future. Thanks for bringing that up, @Victor Cavallo. The New York politicians had brought up several weeks ago that they will be re-examining how they make land use decisions going forward in a COVID-19 world. Less is more these days. Are Norwalk’s planners and elected appointees reading up and heeding current trends, or are we all going to pay for an even more disintegrated quality of life in East Norwalk after they myopically railroad this flawed East Norwalk TOD plan through under COVID-19 lockdown, in their signature status quo style of business as usual?

Patrick Cooper May 31, 2020 at 9:02 am

@Mimi Chang – absolutely perfect – and with greater clarity for the residents of East Norwalk than the story. Congratulations on this post.

Concerned Taxpayer May 31, 2020 at 3:31 pm

It would be nice to see an ‘appropriately scaled, maritime village plan, reflective of the spirit and history of their tight knit, “small town feel” community.’

I saw John Kydes owns a restaurant on Washington St. But don’t know if it’s the district C rep. Restaurants do well in high density anyway

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