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Costco Receives Approval for Redevelopment, but with ‘Objectionable’ Requirements

A look at the planned improvements for Costco.

The Norwalk Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7-1 to approve Costco’s redevelopment plans for its current site on Connecticut Avenue, and for the Doubletree Hotel next door, which it purchased last year.

However, the commission included a few conditions that the representatives from Costco objected to. The commission’s conditions—and Costco’s objections to them— leaves the future of the project uncertain.

The commission’s approval is contingent upon Costco adding solar panels to the new tire center building, a new solar canopy to the parking deck extension, and being responsible for installing fiber optic cables to “facilitate adaptive signalization along this section of the corridor.”

John Knuff, the attorney representing Costco, told the commission that it “had no authority” to make these requirements.

“There was no authority with the commission to require solar panels on any of these,” he said. “There’s no authority for the commission to require us to provide money for the fiber optics. And we don’t know whether that system is even going to be installed. There’s nothing in your regulations that are applicable to this regulation that gives the commission the authority to require those.”

Knuff said that while they understand what the commission and staff wanted, their “desire does not trump the regulations.”

“We comply with your regulations. Your staff memo indicates we comply with your regulations,” he said. “There’s an indication that it is preferred that we do these things. It may be preferred, it is not required. You cannot go beyond the specific standards that are set forth in your regulations.”

However, Steve Kleppin, the City’s director of planning and zoning, said that because it was a special permit application, the commission could make these requirements. 

“That’s how we outlined it in the memo, that in our opinion, through the special permit criteria, you have the ability under the discretion of a special permit,” he said. 

Mark Marchisano, director of real estate development for Costco, said that the solar requirements were not feasible.

“So, in this scenario, where we have an existing roof that is not actually set out to be able to accommodate the solar panels, we’re only doing a small addition, and the parking lot, the amount of effort financially and infrastructure-wise, does not benefit anybody including us on doing solar in this project right now,” he said. 

Marchisano said that the company thinks of environmental initiatives as part of a whole package, and doesn’t just rely on solar.

“We benefit more, for example, by using all LED lights on the parking lot as well as in the building, and upgrading our refrigeration,” he said. “We end up saving significantly more than we would generate by putting solar. If I did solar, I would have to negate doing some of the other upgrades that I’m already planning on doing. So it’s a juggle game.”

He said that Costco “has a global initiative to become carbon neutral.”

“We’re going through all of our buildings. For example, we’re removing the hydrofluorocarbons. We have a plan in place, set up in several periods, that we go through all the existing buildings.” 

Marchisano said that because this is an existing facility that is “very constrained, the financial requirement to do what we’re showing is quite significant, and we’re trying to make the best decisions that we can that will not only benefit our members or employees, but also you know, the environment.” 

Still, commissioners pushed back on their reasoning.

“That’s not really persuasive to me. You’re saying. ‘We were really conscious of the environment. We’re just not doing it,’” Commissioner Galen Wells said. 

City staff, including Kleppin and Bryan Baker, the City’s principal planner, also agreed, saying that requiring solar was fair.

“There’s a significant amount of carbon that goes into one, demolishing an existing concrete structure, and then two, building an asphalt or concrete parking structure, for that’s essentially just an impervious surface,” Baker said. “So I think it’s reasonable for the health of the City and for the health of the environment to request that that carbon be offset.”

Marchisano said that he would have had a more in-depth conversation if the City of Norwalk would be “willing to give me money to help offset those costs.” 

In addition to the solar, the commission also required the company to support the fiber optic enhancements for signal optimization along Connecticut Avenue. 

“We felt this was a better outcome for them than having to potentially look at putting (in) a new signal,” Kleppin said. 

A look at the Costco site plan.

A Look at the New Costco Site

A new tire center, additional parking, enhanced traffic flow, and better stormwater treatment were some of the main additions to Costco’s redevelopment plans for its Connecticut Avenue site. 

The plans call for demolishing the old Doubletree hotel, relocating the existing tire center to a new 5,400-square-foot building at the front of the property, building a 14,000-square-foot addition to the front of the warehouse, adding parking, and improving traffic access and circulation. 

Knuff said the site “desperately needs more parking and those spaces easier to get to,” which this plan addresses by having more than 800 spaces total on the site. 

The plans also allow for more access to the lower level of the parking garage, which officials said was underutilized, contributing to  the tight parking on the site. 

Costco will keep the existing driveway on the former Doubletree site, although the commission restricted that to right turn in, right turn out movements. The company had initially proposed allowing left turns in, something Chair Lou Schulman said would be a safety issue. 

“I think crossing oncoming traffic is a safety issue and not needed,” he said. 

The plans also will modify the driveway off of Richards Avenue to ease access to the lower level of the parking garage. 

“This design, the updated access points, is really going to better distribute traffic onto and off of the site,” Chris Tiesler, the project’s traffic engineer, said. “It’s also going to change the circulation patterns and the time people spend in their cars trying to find that spot, the time they spend in their car trying to get off the site. And it’s also shifting where that activity is most heavily concentrated in spreading it out across the site more in a more distributed manner.” 

Tiesler said that this will make it safer for pedestrians throughout the site, but particularly near the entrance “where the highest concentration of pedestrian activity is.” 

Officials for Costco also said that they are “enhancing the landscape” while improving and adding more green space to the site. 

Kim Masiuk, the project architect, emphasized the improvements to the stormwater management.

“Currently the hotel doesn’t really have any stormwater treatment,” she said. 

The approved plans, if they move ahead, called for construction work on the sites starting in fall.

Comments

11 responses to “Costco Receives Approval for Redevelopment, but with ‘Objectionable’ Requirements”

  1. Skip Hagerty

    Costco shouldn’t complain. P&Z is holding them to the same standard and requiring the same things as all the apartment developers in Norwalk are.

  2. Drew Todd

    Costco should have said they were putting in 500 Apartments and there wouldn’t have been any issues and the plan approved immediately. But this is Norwalk and P&Z know how to KILL business..If I was Costco I would be very much considering moving to a town or City that appreciates business and helps them grow in all aspects instead we make them jump through ridiculous hoops and “mandates” Welcome to Norwalk..Did Costco not leave envelopes for the P&Z Commission?!?!!? I hope they don’t use plastic straws or Leaf Blowers…OMG :)!!!!

  3. Bryan Meek

    “ the commission also required the company to support the fiber optic enhancements for signal optimization along Connecticut Avenue. ”

    And there it is. None of these traffic lights work……because….we only spent $ millions on the software and forgot to put fiber optic cable in.

    Really?

  4. walter o’reilly

    This is another example of Liberal wokeness hurting business. The council is overstepping their authority with these requirements. Costco should fight this all the way.

  5. William Morton

    Since COSTCO is one of the few Retail stores in Norwalk that uses a parking garage instead of a huge parking lot, Norwalk should be accommodating to this expansion. COSTCO’s large parking garage will generate much more Property tax revenue than the future Target’s large parking lot…..

  6. John C. Miller Jr.

    The arrogance of this P&Z is absolutely astounding. If I were in Costco’s shoes, I would simply close the store and move to a location that is actually business friendly which, certainly right now, isn’t Norwalk. Drew is correct, if this project involved high rise apartments, construction would have already begun.

  7. John C. Miller Jr.

    It’s rather amusing that Mr. Baker is so concerned about the amount of carbon that will be generated by the demolition of the hotel building. Was there similar concern expressed about the carbon emitted during the demolition of Loehman’s Plaza on West Avenue to build…. wait for it…. more multi-story apartments? I think not.

  8. Susan Guerrero

    Kudos to the city. Hang tough

  9. Bryan Meek

    Meanwhile another person dead and 17 others hurt from a lithium ion battery in Harlem. Thankfully no one at our mall was killed recently from the charging station there. Still looks like it’s under repair. Must be expensive. The environment is worth saving, but at what price?

    1. David Muccigrosso

      Do you seriously not know how many people die from car accidents as it is? And from pollution-related illnesses? Give us a break.

    2. Drew Todd

      Come on Bryan..You know its all about their BS Optics..They really don’t care what happens and how they get there..Its like the Leaf Blower Ban..JOKE!!!

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