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Just say no to White Barn development

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Take a Last Stand and Say NO to White Barn Theatre permit transfer. Tuesday 3/23 Conservation Commission Agenda Section VII a) #S15-463 78 Cranbury Road.

While reviewing the Norwalk Tuesday agendas online, I was struck by a Conservation Commission agenda item requesting to transfer the original permit for a 15-home Conservation Development at 78 Cranbury Road to a new prospective owner. The area in question includes a roughly 10-acre portion of the former Lucille Lortel White Barn Theatre property that I and the Norwalk Land Trust spent so much time and treasure trying to save over the last 15 years or so. The new/prospective owners and the seller would like to simply transfer the permit that many of the neighbors and Friends of White Barn felt was a serious mistake on the part of the Commission at the time, about seven years ago.

Well, it’s a new day and there are many new Commissioners so there is a second chance for this Conservation Commission to properly discharge its duties.

Please consider writing to the Conservation Commission ATTN: Alexis Cherichetti [email protected] by 3 p.m. today and ask that the Conservation Commission vote NO to allow a simple permit transfer.

At the very least ask the Commission to hold a public hearing. I believe they have the discretion to either deny the request, ask to go back to square one with a new hearing, or negotiate a reduction of the number of houses planned.

The time has come to take one last stand to inject balance into what many thought was a mistaken Inland Wetlands approval vote: allowing an Inland Wetlands permit to cram 15 luxury homes into a woodland oasis several years ago. The Norwalk Land Trust tried their best to show, with a lawyer and other experts, that the land should not be developed as intensively as the applicant desired. But in the end, Goliath won.

We were exhausted from trying to suggest to our City that some sites are worth saving. I rotated off the Land Trust Board but still kept volunteering with many other dedicated Land Trust Board members to try and save the land, including negotiations with the owners to reduce the number and location of the houses.

The Zoning Commission mistakenly extended the 78 Cranbury Road Zoning permit recently without a public hearing, so the Conservation Commission is the last administrative hope that a more holistic review of this site’s value is warranted.

It’s a complicated story with many twists and turns but there is still one last thing that this City can do to make things better: Deny the permit transfer and go back to the drawing board about the White Barn Theatre property!

 

Diane Lauricella

Editor’s note, 1:35 p.m.: According to Norwalk Senior Environmental Engineer Alexis Cherichetti, the Conservation Commission does not have the authority to deny the permit transfer.

“There is no opportunity for public hearing because the only change is in the permit owner,” Cherichetti replied to an email from a resident. “Wetland permits ‘run with the land’ and are not personal with the original applicants.    A request for change in permit ownership does not affect the validity of the permit, nor does it alter the permitted regulated activities in any way.    The Commission does not have jurisdiction to re-open or alter the terms and conditions of the existing approved permit.”

11 comments

Corinne Tyler March 23, 2021 at 6:47 am

Yes! It would be a travesty to develop this land. We don’t need luxury homes or condos here. We need to save our rapidly disappearing green spaces

Ursula Caterbone March 23, 2021 at 7:24 am

This appeal should go viral. The group Save Cranbury initiated this battle and worked tirelessly to keep Norwalk’s last large parcel of open land from development.
This appears to be our last chance.

Bryan Meek March 23, 2021 at 8:21 am

The subdivision is welcome, like Cottonwood Chase. There are 300 acres of open space less than a mile away at Cranbury Park. Efforts should be put into the current theater downtown that has $2 million in taxpayer money poured into it with no accountability. We don’t need another land grab theater in Cranbury, nor the 1000s of polluting cars it would bring with it.

David Muccigrosso March 23, 2021 at 8:30 am

Why is this even an issue? Norwalk has bigger fish to fry. One more suburban development isn’t going to change anything besides a minor quality of life impact for a few dozen people.

You know what could alleviate a lot of our housing problems? Upzone the entire city by one increment. Rationalize setback and parking minimums. Allow accessory dwelling units.

LET THE MARKET BUILD WHAT IT WANTS.

The big developers only run roughshod over the rest of us because we’ve literally made it illegal for the little guys – the independent contractors, the homeowner who wants to profit off their own property – to build anything.

Tobias March 23, 2021 at 9:25 am

Thank you for bringing attention to this Diane! With so many apartments and housing units going up around Norwalk, I feel many of us know of the “popular” nature spaces to escape to like Cranbury Park, but with so much influx of residents coming into already developed housing in the city, these other public spaces are becoming overrun. This area is absolutely beautiful and also caters to wildlife that calls it their home such as bobcats, herons, coyotes, beavers, fisher cats and more. The proposed housing development will offset the land and drive these animals into neighborhoods as well steal the ability for Norwalk residents to have an alternative to already over utilized public spaces.

Tammis Lazarus March 23, 2021 at 11:38 am

Once this pristine piece of property, here, in Norwalk, is gone, it’s gone forever.
Developers would harm a healthy wild habitat for many.
The clean water that is important to our environment will be gone.

David T McCarthy March 23, 2021 at 1:13 pm

Diane: I am so happy you never change. Bless your heart.

You had your chance and a thousand other opportunities to buy and preserve this piece of land and you (and myriad others) failed, because there are very few people who want to preserve this and you’re not willing to pay for it…enough said.

The development that was approved was reasonable, and if this is not approved as a simple transfer, it will likely be approved by the court when the lawsuit is filed…

BAS March 23, 2021 at 1:41 pm

@Brian meek – Where does it say this is going to be a theater? Open space – there’s never enough open space. Cranbury park is about 200 acres not 300. Big difference when we are talking 10 acres addition.

@ David muccigrosso – it’s pretty rich listening to you advocate for up zoning the entire town when I believe you were the guy to crying about “numbskull” kids skateboarding outside your apartment on this here news/blog spot. Take around look at some of more distressed neighborhoods in town and you’ll see what up zoning means.

Audrey Cozzarin March 23, 2021 at 4:46 pm

Thank you, Diane, for highlighting this situation!

It’s important to get the future of the White Barn property right. When the stakes are this high regarding the plight of the planet and our future, I think it is wise to hold onto as much natural open space as possible at present.

If we are under the impression that endless development, “letting the market do what it wants,” won’t impact us somehow (except wishfully hoping $$ will trickle down), wake up to the fact that resources are finite. Paving Paradise, like the Joni Mitchell song, has its price. Wildlife suffers, water quality degrades, air pollution increases, and the natural world of which we are a part disappears.

Developers rule here in Norwalk and that is both a choice and an unsustainable position.

JustaTaxpayer March 24, 2021 at 5:54 pm

We should have a small strip mall built there. We can have some barbershops and restaurants with one way glass so we can’t see inside.

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