Former zoning commissioner responds to Mushak’s push for BJ’s traffic study

The Norwalk Zoning Commission would do pedestrians good if it focuses on making the sidewalk wider in front of a proposed BJ’s Wholesale Club, Jackie Lightfield said.

NORWALK, Conn. – An independent traffic study to invalidate or verify a study done by BJ’s Wholesale Club in its quest to open in Norwalk would be highly unusual, according to comments from two people experienced with zoning.

While Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak said last week that a “peer review” of traffic studies paid for by applicants is commonly done throughout Connecticut, Stamford Land Use Bureau Chief Norman Cole said they aren’t done in Stamford. Former Norwalk Zoning Commissioner Jackie Lightfield said there was never any money allocated for an independent traffic study while she was on the commission.

Lightfield added that traffic studies are generally misunderstood by the public. It isn’t unusual for a traffic study to show that adding more cars will not make the situation worse, she said.

The issue stems from a traffic study done by Michael Galante of Frederick P. Clark Associates that shows plans to put a BJ’s Wholesale Club at 272-280 Main Ave. would actually improve traffic in the vicinity, as they include adding a turn lane for the store, a traffic light and synchronizing the light with the five existing lights nearby.

Galante’s traffic study is just for the six closest intersections. A transportation study commissioned by the city recommends studying an intersection that would see 25 additional vehicles per hour because of a new store, but that has not become a zoning regulation.

Mushak has been pushing for an independent review of Galante’s work that the city would pay for. Other zoning commissioners say Galante’s work will be reviewed by the Department of Public Works, which has a traffic engineer and a traffic analyst on staff.

Cole said that’s how it’s done in Stamford – applications are reviewed by a city traffic engineer. He said in an email that he could not remember any instance when an independent traffic review was done.

“I think it may be fairly common for smaller towns without traffic engineering staff to request that the developer pay the town’s cost in retaining outside consultants to review major applications,” he said.

Mushak expressed skepticism about a DPW review in a recent comment on this site. DPW director Hal Alvord is appointed by Mayor Richard Moccia, who is in favor of the BJ’s application, Mushak pointed out.

Lightfield, who was on the zoning commission for six years and served as chairwoman for three years, said there was no discretionary line item for outside services in budgets she was involved with.

“In theory, yes, if a department needs to spend money outside of its budget allocation it would would have to go to the BET (Board of Estimate and Taxation) for a special allocation,” she said.

Mushak said staff isn’t answering his questions. Lightfield said she never had that problem. She still asks staff questions and gets answers, she said.

Many of the arguments against possible traffic congestion stemming from BJ’s are based on issues that have more to do with the traffic plan that created the Norwalk road network” she said.

“The Zoning Commission could do more with the BJ’s application in improving the pedestrian experience by focusing on wider sidewalks, setback off the road, not having the loading docks and garbage area visible from the street, and improving the facade of the building so that it is pedestrian friendly and not so focused on the car entry points from the garage,” she said. “There are many, many people who walk the Main Ave. corridor and would benefit from having another store accessible to them.”

Lighfield’s comments are presented in their entirety below:

NoN: Mike Mushak says he doesn’t get answers when he asks questions of staff. Was that the case when you were on the commission? What’s your comment about that?

JL: Staff has always answered any questions I have asked when I was on the commission, and still does.

NoN: When you were commission chair did the commission ever get peer review traffic studies to verify or invalidate traffic studies done by the applicant?

JL: There’s such a huge misconception about traffic studies in land use out there. No, during my entire stint on zoning we never considered a “peer review” of a traffic study. Traffic studies typically do a couple of things. One is they measure the conditions of the roads around a site application. Based on the amount of time that a car waits at a crossroad it is assigned a grade. A “D” grade would indicate a long wait that is viewed as unacceptable, for instance. So there’s a pretty standard chart indicating how many car trips a use will generate, and combined with how many cars measured on the roads, a determination is made on how long that wait will be impacted. The chart is pretty standard, recognized by traffic engineers as accurate, and perceived by much of the public as inaccurate. This stems from the perception that every locale is “unique” and can’t possibly be accurately measured. Science versus belief system without religion 🙂

The other thing a traffic study does is recommend things to either lessen the impact or improve the grade that is current. There have been plenty of times where the existing condition is a bad grade, and a new project will add cars to the condition but the result doesn’t make the grade worse, nor any recommend any improvements. You’ll see the evidence of those decisions with things like no left turn signs or driveway configurations. A recent example of this was the approval of the gym use (Crunch) in the building next to the McDonald’s on Connecticut Ave. Ironically near Costco. The traffic engineer actually proposed that anyone wanting to take a left turn, e.g. travel back to Norwalk, would have to make a right and then turn around in another driveway, Costco or James River. I found that absurd, however that’s the nature of dealing with a heavily trafficked road. In the end, on that application we worked on improving the site lines of the driveway and how the building looked and granted an approval.

The commission has hired its own experts in the area of architectural review in village districts, that fee is paid for by the applicant and is just part of doing business.

NoN: Was there money to do a “peer review”? Or were you told you would have to go to the BET?

JL: There was no discretionary line item for outside services in budgets I was involved with, and in theory yes, if a department needs to spend money outside of its budget allocation it would would have to go to the BET for a special allocation.

NoN: Do you have an opinion about the BJ’s application? Have Michael Galante’s predictions come true in the past?

JL: Many of the arguments against traffic congestion of BJ’s are based on issues that have more to do with the traffic plan that created the Norwalk road network. All these streets that residents complain have too much traffic are actually designed to carry traffic because Norwalk is not a grid network of streets. Its all cul de sacs and feeder streets. Not so easy to fix without building new roads that grid out an area, hence my fight to have Crescent Street extended into Reed Street before 95/7 gets built and adds another needless traffic bottleneck.

The Zoning Commission could do more with the BJ’s application in improving the pedestrian experience by focusing on wider sidewalks, set back off the road, not having the loading docks and garbage area visible from the street, and improving the facade of the building so that it is pedestrian friendly and not so focused on the car entry points from the garage. There are many many people who walk the Main Ave. corridor and would benefit from having another store accessible to them.

NoN: What about that Dunkin Donuts on the corner of Main Street and New Canaan Avenue? Were you on the commission then? Did DPW review that study?

JL: Dunkin Donuts was not reviewed by the Zoning Commission at all, and I wasn’t on the commission then either. The zone there is commercial and Dunkin Donuts by right could move to any building in that zone, no special permit etc. They did not alter the curb cuts that were there for the brake dealership, and so essentially the DOT (Department of Transportation) approved the site as well.

The city could have created a regulation prior to to the application that limits drive-throughs on corners within “x” feet of a rail crossing, or something like that, but although the traffic impact is obvious there, the ability to prevent that from happening again is limited. You’ll note that the CVS farther down does not have a drive through. Again, I wasn’t on the commission for that approval, but the Zoning Commission approved it for the same reasons, commercial zone etc.


19 responses to “Former zoning commissioner responds to Mushak’s push for BJ’s traffic study”

  1. Norwalk Lifer

    antedotal evidence, I agree with Mr. Mushak, time for a peer review.

    There is a subterfugal message in this letter, and that is, because “I didn’t have the need to do that” there is no need now to do that.

    And also, “Any questions I ask, I get answers too” of course, that is when you are in agreement with those you ask questions of, they are more inclined to answer. Please do not try to manage the perception thru individual experience; that does not answer the question about traffic, the home values in the area, and of course the potential need for more traffic police in order to manage the traffic flow thru the outlining streets, especially one with two schools on it.

    Norwalk Lifer

  2. Suzanne

    So, two people who have not reviewed the specifics of the BJ’s development data, although at least one, Ms. Lightfield, think they know what that data is, who do not know the extent of the derision of political divisiveness with this administration, who fail to consider the recommended plans in place by the City of Norwalk, a 10,000 square foot building for the site as opposed to a 100,000 plus square foot building, have opinions about just how wrong a sitting member of the Commission and many, many numbers of the public who HAVE heard the information and examined the data are, do not typically follow re-evaluations of this type of data. No consideration for the extensive impacts of such a development to the surrounding neighborhoods, no examination of the existing conditions onto which this plan is supposed to be imposed. How is this talk with Ms. Lighfield and Mr. Cole valid? Let’s go ask a land use person about traffic studies in Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven and, oh, I don’t know, Trumbull. What to THEY think of traffic studies? How do they typically handle them? It has absolutely nothing relevant to say about this specific situation other than to be provocative and discourage a process that needs to take place if, for nothing else, the two points already mentioned: the outsized scale of the building to the lot and the impact to the surrounding area of adding an excessive amount of traffic to an already congested, ill-designed road. Why do people and one Commissioner question the traffic study? Not just data, not just public stupidity and not the opinions of outside people who haven’t a clue: it’s common sense.

  3. Debora

    Nor does it address why we are entertaining yet another “low price” big box store when Norwalk already has a Walmart and a Costco. The category seems to be covered.

  4. M Allen

    Took a little time yesterday to drive Main Ave. My lovely wife didn’t believe me when I said there were 8 traffic lights (9 if BJ’s adds a new one) in the 1-mile stretch of road from the Merritt to Dunkin Donuts. Despite living here as long as she has, she thought it was closer to two miles. Anyway…
    We began at the DMV driving south. What is clear is that that Main Avenue, north of the Merritt, is an entirely different road than south of the Merritt. Actually, south of Stop & Shop. The road is wider and has left turn lanes at virtually every intersection. This stretch of road has been planned to accomodate the increased traffic and, despite some minor backups during rush hours, it runs pretty smoothly.
    Perhaps my eyes deceive me, Main Avenue south of Stop & Shop looks decidely narrower the further south you travel. There are no left turn lanes past that point and I wonder, where will BJ’s find the room to install a left turn lane? Is it just my eyes or does BJ’s have plans to widen the road? Make Main Avenue south of the Merritt the same as it is north of the Merritt and the traffic gripes are gone. But that would be called building the infrastructure to suit the purpose, and who really wants to do that. Do we get more state aid for roads if we prove our roads are congested or can we get that money to avoid congestion? I’m just wondering what gambit we’re trying to play here.

  5. Mike Mushak

    Great reporting, NON. I must point out that Ms. Lightfield, who is a friend, is I believe currently receiving financial assistance from the city for her admirable initiative to bring new life to Wall Street through Norwalk 2.0. It may not be in her best interest to be publicly critical of the city at this point in time. I respect her opinions and her work she is currently doing, and I just think we all need to see her comments in a wider context.
    As I recall, since I served with Ms. Lightfield while she was Chair from 2008 to 2010, there were many instances she was frustrated with staff for not providing enough information or answering her inquiries to her satisfaction, including in regard to parking requirements in SoNo. In fact, I specifically recall times when she had to publicly reprimand Director Greene in front of the Commission for issues related to lack of proper information, and she regularly complained to me about how frustrating it was for her to work with staff on getting cooperation for her initiatives. Her current change in tune about staff is a striking contrast from her well-known criticisms of city staff at that time when she was serving.
    I also can understand Ms. Lightfield’s potential sensitivity to criticism I have levied at the staff and Commission recently for not implementing the zone changes along Main Avenue which were recommended in the 2008 Master Plan, under item E.3.1.11 on page 37, which states “Implement the recommendations of the Westport-North-Main Corridor Study.” That study, conducted in 2006 by a nationally recognized planning and engineering firm called Vollmer(Stantec now), specifically addresses the need to re-zone the maximum size of retail along this stretch of busy road to 10,000 foot maximum. BJ’s at 109,08, would not have been permitted at all and we would not have this current controversial issue captivating the city if that zone change had been implemented. I did implicate staff in this oversight recently, as it is Director Greene’s job to implement the Master Plan as staff to both the Planning and Zoning Commission, but Ms. Lightfield replied that it was up to the Zoning Commission to solely implement the Master Plan, which I disagree with, but at this point it is just splitting hairs. Either way, the city failed to follow a crucial 2008 Master Plan recommendation that would have prevented the BJ’s application before us. However, even though the zoning code was not altered as recommended, the fact that the Master Plan recommends it is still valid under our Special Permit requirements, as the application under those regulations must “comply to our Master Plan”.
    To Ms. Lightfield’s credit, among her many accomplishments on the Zoning Commission, she did add a progressive and recommended second-story requirement to large retail buildings in 2009, which the GOP-led Commission attempted to cancel in 2012, before Lowes and BJ’s were proposed (but that insiders knew were coming.) That issue brought it’s own controversy, as Director Greene publicly stated to a skeptical public in a hearing that he knew “nothing about any application pending”, after Lowe’s had already donated a $20,000 gazebo to the local Flax Hill Park, and even Commissioner Jim White was forced to admit that “yes, we have heard through the rumor mill that Lowe’s and BJ’s are coming.” We all knew except Mike Greene, apparently, since he felt he needed to act as if this zone change came totally out of the blue and was not directly related to any specific project. It was another classic Greene moment of fabrication, one of many, but I digress. The final outcome was that the Commission compromised and the second story requirement was eliminated for Lowe’s but not for the BJ’s site, which in the end was irrelevent as BJ’s needed 2 stories anyway, the lower level for parking, since at 109,908 sf it is closer to the BJ’s average “larger format” size of 117,000 sf requiring 13-14 acres squeezed onto it’s small 5 acre site.
    This is from BJ’s own source: “As of January 29, 2011, we operated 167 full-sized warehouse clubs that averaged approximately 114,000 square feet and 22 smaller format warehouse clubs that averaged approximately 73,000 square feet… Including space for parking, a typical full-sized BJ’s club requires 13 to 14 acres of land. The smaller version typically requires approximately 8 acres.”
    That said, Ms. Lightfield’s strong will and persistent style did make her more effective as a Chair than I have seen since then, since both Santo and the current Chair Wilson do not seem nearly as interested in challenging the staff on anything, including enforcing the by-laws of the Commission, which are quite clear about the power of the Zoning Commission to supervise staff, require monthly financial statements (which we never see, although we did see annual reports under Lightfield), and ask staff to provide information to help in it’s decision making process. We also have not seen any performance reviews of the top P and Z staff since 2005, even though they get raises every year, and Ms. Lighfield has admitted she was not aware of that requirement as staff didn’t tell her about it. Of course they wouldn’t, why would they?

    About Stamford next door: Stamford is a much larger city, 50% larger than Norwalk, with a much larger staff. I remembered much debate about traffic in the press relating to the South End Harbor Point project, including the Transitway,and I thought I had read that the city had independent traffic reviews done when Antares was the original developer before BLT took it over, but I can not find that in any reference. It would have been helpful to find a city similar in size to Norwalk that has depended on peer review of traffic studies, and as Adam Blank reported recently in NON, in direct contrast to the advice we received from Corporation Counsel Maslan who said we have NO authority to request it under the regulations, there is a state law that authorizes Zoning Commissions to request independent peer review:
    “While the agency, usually a zoning commission, may compare and rely upon the reports of the traffic consultants for the parties, it may hire its own traffic consultant to review or do an independent study of the proposal. In large projects analyzing the traffic impact is critical.”
    Fuller, 9 Conn. Prac., Land Use Law & Prac. § 14:15 (3d ed.)
    I stand by my claim that I do not see how Hal Alvord of DPW would actively promote an unbiased critical review of BJ’s traffic study based on the political reality of Mr. Alvord’s job being directly dependent on Mayor Moccia and no other entity in Norwalk according to the City Organizational Chart on the city website, and that Mayor Moccia has strongly endorsed the BJ’s proposal publicly.

    I am also skeptical of the state DOT to do proper review, based on evidence that we have been promised re-timing on CT Avenue for many years with apparently no action taken, and continuing huge backups happening, and a recent small but revealing episode I am having confirmed by staff, which is that the crosswalk button at CVS on Main Avenue only works in one direction, trapping folks on the CVS side who have to dodge speeding traffic to get back across the street, including many elderly and children, and that this button has been broken for two years without being fixed despite repeated requests to the state by folks from Laura Raymond Home. If the state can’t even fix a simple broken crosswalk button that endangers public safety every day, after two years if that is confirmed by staff as I asked them to, how can we expect they will properly maintain the elaborate computer systems required to re-time the entire stretch of Main Ave. near BJ’s, which the applicant is promising will actually “improve” traffic flow beyond current conditions. I have no opinion on the application as I always say, until all the evidence is in, but we must do our due diligence here, as all of our lives are on the line! I was nearly run over myself just trying to get back across from CVS where the pedestrian crossing button is broken. No wonder so many folks have been hit by cars along this stretch, making it a “High Priority Corridor” as one of the most dangerous stretches of state highway in the region, according to a 2012 SWRPA study.

    I would like to see the actual up-to-date credentials of the City of Norwalk Traffic Engineer in our DPW. As I stated in the last few days on this site, the three locations with questionable solutions that compromise public safety, which make me highly skeptical of our own DPW to be able to fully review the BJ’s study are as follows: Entrance to Mathews Park with near head on collisions every day for folsk leaving the park, a dangerous disappearing far right travel lane on Washington St. at MLK and Washington St heading east towards the Sono Library, and teh East Avenue Yacht Club illegal angled parking that was approved by Mayor Moccia, the Traffic Commission, and DPW even though it forces children into the middle of the street into the path of speeding traffic every day. I do not trust a DPW that can approve such solutions, and I do not trust that a DPW director whose job depends on pleasing his boss, the mayor, would stand in the way of a project the mayor fully supports, especially base don his silence over the Seaview Avenue fiasco in the face of a clearly illegal decision by mayor Moccia and the Traffic Authority.

    Last, we should never fully trust in an applicant-paid consultant’s traffic study, as described by this statement in the 2012 $500,000 Norwalk Comprehensive
    Transportation Management Plan (NCTMP), in effect since it was completed in September 2012:

    “The City of Norwalk requires a traffic report as part of a Site Plan Application, a Zoning Amendment Application, and a Special Permit Application when significant traffic impacts are expected. The text of the zoning notes that the traffic report should be completed by a Professional Engineer and contain data such as roadway characteristics, traffic conditions, and impacts of the proposed development on traffic flow and safety.
    While these requirements are a good starting point, they are generic and leave the potential that they are limited in their applicability and usefulness to the City staff and to the Boards responsible for reviewing them.”

    Please note the last phrase “limited in their applicability and usefulness to city staff and to the Boards responsible for reviewing them”. This why the NCTMP goes on to say the following about NEW guidelines they recommend in their study that SHOULD be followed:
    .“The City of Norwalk has established that the following guidelines for the preparation of a Traffic Impact and Access Study should be adhered to when preparing a traffic study for any development project. Specific rules and regulations for the City of Norwalk should be obtained from the Planning & Zoning Department.”
    That is why peer review makes so much sense here, as is RECOMMENDED in the same NCTMP that Norwalk taxpayers paid $500,000 for to a nationally recognized professional transportation planning firm precisely to improve our traffic analysis on our traffic-clogged city to protect public health and safety.

  6. Mike Mushak

    M Allen, great comment above. The BJ’s application is recommending a 125-foot southbound only turn lane that they will achieve by giving up some of their site frontage, basically cutting into their site a bit. This 125 feet will fit approximately 6 cars before the stacking will interfere with the southbound travel lane, which we know from expereince also gets stacking in the far right lane there to get to Citgo and the Car Wash as many have observed including Commissioner Jim White in his comments on the record.

    The peak per hour traffic increases due to BJ’s own analysis are 459 cars on weekdays and 700 cars on weekends, again, per peak hour, and they have taken a 20% pass-by credit allowed by CTDOT resulting in 367 and 560 cars per peak hour after the credit is taken(even though this assumes 100% of cars are potential customers, and BJ’s is a membership only retail establishment, so this credit seems inaccurate to me as 100% of traffic passing by will not all be BJ’s members, as the CT DOT numbers seem to be based on total POTENTIAL shoppers,and so the 20% potential pass-by shoppers who will just impulsively stop would be much lower.)

    So, let’s assume their 367 and 560 increase with the credit is accurate for now, and the imagine the 6 car turn lane with frequent light cycles stopping them from turning every minute or so, and then imagine 367/560 cars per peak hour (weekday/weekend) entering the single garage opening for public access which has little stacking room inside and folks actively looking for parking spaces all over the place.
    This is why I want a peer review from a traffic consultant who is not trying to sell us anything but the truth based on hard science, math, geometry, and teh current conditions of a huge number of curb cuts that Attorney Zullo himself has stated is deplorable along this stretch, which the application does nothing to address.

  7. NorwalkVoter

    @MAllen – The only reason the road above the Merritt on Main Avenue is wider and improved is that Mr. Phelps paid the State to do the improvements. This makes it easier for his tenants at Merritt 7 to enter and leave this complex. And also to his credit, he paid to have the State create a train stop right behind the complex. None of this would have happened ‘just because’ so you can see that the private sector can be convinced to make all necessary improvements of the property and the infrastructure, but the city has to stand up and demand this. Instead, Norwalk seems to settle for no setbacks, no landscaping, no architectural review,too much parking and very poor/crazy traffic flow. Just look around. Are we always going to just settle? Norwalk has a self image problem. We could be great!

  8. M Allen

    The backup won’t just occur in a left turn lane in a southbound lane. Backups will also occur heading north. One only need look at the Costco location to understand how that works and Connecticut Avenue at the Costo location is much better developed than Main Avenue.
    As for the Merritt 7 area, it is quite obvious that it was planned differently to handle the traffic. Same with Stop & Shop. If BJ’s wants this location they should be hit with the bill for improving Main Avenue from Dunkin Donuts to Stop & Shop. Again, I want BJ’s to have a place in Norwalk. My little sight-seeing trip down Main Ave yesterday came at the end of a trip to BJ’s in Fairfield. But if they want this location more needs to be done to make it appropriately viable. Not for them, for us.

  9. Norwalk Spectator

    I actually have seen some traffic studies done for Bridgeport, Stamford and Darien. It’s important to remember that Main Avenue is also a State road, and when all is said and done, ConnDOT has the final say.
    Popeye’s Chicken opened in July in Bridgeport on Boston Avenue (I believe it’s on Boston, but it’s hard to tell) right near a major intersection. Bpt. P&Z required the traffic flow to go one way, but the State decided it needed to be the other way. When it first opened, you couldn’t get near the place at all. Cars were backed up more than a full block down the street. I happened to be by there the other day approximately the same time as on opening week, and life seems to have returned to normal.
    Please understand, I’m not saying that there’s never a traffic jam or that BJs won’t have traffic problems. But from what Jackie appears to be saying and from what I’ve heard regarding other traffic studies, it seems like it’s pretty much on the mark.

  10. jlightfield

    While I don’t begrudge Nancy on Norwalk wanting to create a little controversy with provocative headlines, for the record Nancy contacted me with the questions listed and I responded. They answers speak for me, as I wrote them.
    I also think my record on zoning, as well as other comments on this issue here and on The Hour also are pretty clear. The extraordinary response against BJs as a retail concept is something I have characterized as being simplistic and outdated. The Internet has won, and all the fears of “big box” retail have been eclipsed by the reality that Amazon, Apple and Google have in total eliminated most specialty, regional and entertainment related physical store concepts. Naturally I’m rooting for Uber, Elon Musk and a host of location based services to eliminate in no short order, Taxis, car dealerships, and the idea that you have to drive to purchase anything. I think time will prove I’m a fairly good prognosticator of technology disruption. That being said, the part of the Westport/Main corridor study that did get implemented through the Zoning Commission was in fact a requirement that new building construction in commercial zones meet a two floor requirement. Other items, were indeed passed over because it is in fact the Zoning Commission’s discretion on what policy to implement. Of course every Commission picks and chooses what policy to implement and tweak, as the current makeup of the Commission has sought to undo the second story requirement (Lowe’s & CVS.)
    I also would like to point out that at one time I lived on Brewester street in Blackrock about the time that, you guessed it, BJs and two movie theaters came online. Today, with many friends who live in the area, there is nary a peep about the huge traffic concerns that BJs generates in the area, the gripe as it turned out was the movie theaters whose movie schedule creates a predictable traffic issue around movie times. Blackrock turnpike, near BJs is two lanes.

  11. Don’t Panic

    Just curious. Is that BJ’s in Blackrock also set “cheek to jowl” to the roadway, with no setback? Is it also of the size that would normally require 8 or more acres and residing on 5?
    I ask, not to be snarky, but because you seem to be thinking about these issues, and yet resort to an anecdotal example, which is only a single point of datum that may not be similar enough to speak to Norwalk’s issue.

  12. Mike Mushak

    The issue on Main Avenue, as Attorney Zullo representing BJ’s has repeated many times, is the huge number of uncontrolled curb cuts on that stretch of road, which the application does not address in any way. The BJ’s in Bridgeport has approx. 5 curb cuts and 5 businesses between Rt 95 and BJ’s. The Main Avenue location has approximately 40 curb cuts and 60 businesses on a similar length of road between the Merritt Parkway and the proposed BJ’s location. The number of commercial curb cuts south of the Norwalk BJ’s location from the site to New Canaan Avenue, are approximately another 40 commercial curb cuts and 80 businesses. The BJ’s location in Bridgeport has primarily low-use residential curb cuts south of that location except for the movie theater, so comparing Main Avenue with approx. 80 curb cuts and over 100 businesses with a similar street in Bridgeport with less than 10 commercial curb cuts and mostly residential curb cuts in a similar stretch, is comparing apples and oranges. One need also compare the generous stacking room of the open air upper level of the Bridgeport parking lot with the stacking room of the Norwalk site inside a crowded and busy parking garage. Also, The Norwalk BJ’s has only ONE public entrance, and the Brideport location has two, which splits the demand on only one point of entry as Norwalk has. Just for clarity.

  13. jlightfield

    @Don’t Panic, You are correct in that the BJs on Blackrock is a single story warehouse building with a sea of surface parking in front of it. There’s a fairly even divide between those that prefer streets capes that hide parking versus those that front the retail establishment breaking fairly down the suburbanites that favor drive up to the door versus the urbanites that prefer buildings that occupy most of the property lot with appropriate greenery. I’m an urbanite through and through. 🙂
    Actually there is a ton of data point on the viability of the retail sector, something I follow the financial markets fairly closely, and naturally had the opportunity to review the traffic study for Costco, its projections, and the follow on years later with the approval of the gym use (Crunch) across the street. I think its very important to review policy, studies and projections of past projects to inform and evaluate current projections and studies. Main Ave. has been repeatedly studied, and no one will dispute that it has traffic issues, congestion etc. however, the job of all involved is to assess and recommend improvements to achieve policy goals. Remediating a super fund site, increasing the tax contribution in this corridor is a good policy direction. You can’t always get what you want in what project comes to forward, but when one does, its important to make the best contribution to the City that you can.

  14. Victor Cavallo

    Thanks, Jackie, for bringing some sense and sensibility to this debate- factual, accurate and succinct.

  15. Mike Mushak

    Victor Cavallo surfaces again! He is the GOP Planning Commissioner who lied about the Master Plan in his attacks on Harry Rilling and me, stating about the 2006 Westport-North-Main Plan and Study incorporated into the Master Plan: “if this plan even exists”. That was until I sent him the link on the city website.
    Of course, in the … Moccia era, why let a stupid little taxpayer-funded professional study performed by a nationally recognized planning and engineering firm that calls for a maximum size of retail on the BJ’s site of 10,000 square feet, less then ONE TENTH the size of the 109,908 square foot BJ’s proposal (because of serious traffic concerns on this dangerous stretch of road with so many uncontrolled curb cuts) get in the way of Moccia’s grand vision for Norwalk.
    Perhaps if Cavallo and Mayor Moccia just pretend the study doesn’t exist as they have done on so many other professional studies, it will just go away. Maybe not this time.

    (Editor’s note: This comment was edited to conform to our comment policy)

  16. Suzanne

    “…the job of all involved is to assess and recommend improvements to achieve policy goals. Remediating a super fund site, increasing the tax contribution in this corridor is a good policy direction. You can’t always get what you want in what project comes to forward, but when one does, its important to make the best contribution to the City that you can.” An excellent statement about developmental goals but I cannot see how this BJ’s project is the “best contribution” to Main Street with its extensive congestion and the drastically overbuilt lot as planned.

  17. Victor Cavallo

    Thank you, Mark and Nancy for exercising good editorial judgment and discretion. Appreciated immensly.

  18. piberman

    Anyone following these discussions can only come away with a sense that current and past P&Z Commissioners have failed the citizens of Norwalk. The P&Z seems the best example of the old Nowalk tradition so eloquently articulated recent by Council President Hempstead to wit that there are no qualifications to serve on City Commissions. And I would add to hold elective office. Here’s a well done to Comission member Mushak for attempting to educate a reluctant Norwalk public about the basic tenants of professional level P&Z decisions. I think everyone knows what’s required to obtain a P&Z Commission with a satisfactory level of competancy. NEON isn’t the only observable long running scandal in our City.

  19. The Whole Truth

    Zoning & Placement will hold a public hearing on this disastrous proposal on Thursday, Sep. 19 at 7PM: City Hall, Community Room, 125 East Ave. be there to voice your opposition. STOP BJ’S!

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