New Norwalk Planning Commissioner advised: Get with the plan

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Norwalk’s “POCD” was developed by the Planning Commission with multiple interviews with department heads. It was the topic of three public hearings.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s newest Planning Commissioner was urged Tuesday night to do something that others are apparently not doing – take a hard fought-for plan seriously.

Two members of the public took to the microphone in the Common Council chamber to urge Bill Dunne and other members of Norwalk’s government to consider the Plan of Conservation and Development.

“I am sure we all prefer to decide the future of Norwalk based on the studies of a legion of experts rather than than the misplaced aspirations of a few developers,” former Planning Commissioner Leigh Grant said.

The plan, which is mandated by the state, was effective July 3, 2008. It has come to the attention of the public because of the recently pulled application to put a BJ’s Wholesale Club on Main Avenue.

“When the BJ’s application came up I soon realized that even though we are five years in to the POCD, some, possibly none, of its expert studies and plans had been implemented,” Grant said.

Bill Dunne was formerly on the Fair Rent Commission. The Common Council on Tuesday night approved his nomination to the Planning Commission.


The POCD calls (on page 37) for the implementation of the recommendations of the Westport-North-Main Corridor Study and Plan, which was referenced by Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak over and over again as he questioned Attorney Frank Zullo about the BJ’s application. The plan recommends (on page 1) that the size of an individual retail store on Main Avenue and Main Street be limited to 10,000 square feet.

Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan informed Mushak that the recommendations in the plan had not become zoning regulations, and were therefore moot. Some observers of the meetings have commented that other zoning commissioners did not seem to be aware of the studies and plans before Mushak began protesting that they were being ignored, even though the city has paid a significant amount of money to get the documents.

The issue was discussed Monday by the Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhood Associations. Diane Cece said a plan of conservation and development is required by the state every 10 years. It must comply with state statutes.

“It ends up becoming what some people will say is the bible of conservation and development in the city and others will go to the other end of the spectrum and say it’s merely guideline,” she said. “We have this balancing act” when it comes to defining how the study is used.

Grant described herself as a former representative to the South Western Regional Planning Agency. The Hour describes her as “a registered Republican who says she votes like an independent.” Moccia replaced Grant and Democrat Lee Levey on the Planning Commission with Republican Victor Cavallo and Democrat Joel Zaremby in 2008.

“Our planning commission spent a lot of time on virtually every word, idea and sentence of the POCD,” she said Tuesday. “It was a public process with its roots in the previous POCD, overlaid with the expert studies, staff leadership and citizen participation. The process included three public hearings, approval of the Planning Commission and the Common Council. The end result was submitted to Southwest Regional Planning Agency and found to be, quote, consistent with the plan, unquote.”

Large areas of Norwalk are vulnerable because they are areas of great change, which is why they were studied, she said.

“These professional plans and studies on which the POCD are based were meant to enhance the quality of life of all the citizens of Norwalk,” she said, “not for the specific imposition of one application, one store, one development. The expert plans evaluate land use, transportation, urban design and economic development. They plan for pedestrians, bicyclists and automobiles. Frankly, they plan for people in a supportive environment and they are long sighted, not short sighted.”

Another Norwalk citizen also urged Dunne to take the plan seriously.

“Work to enact POCD that will give guidelines and direction to the city to follow,” Dan Grundman said. “I am not interested in what has gone on in the past, I am asking that you pick up the POCD now and go forward with it.”


15 responses to “New Norwalk Planning Commissioner advised: Get with the plan”

  1. Joe Espo

    The “Plan” is not a plan at all; it’s political sausage at its rancid worst. It has no clear, focused vision for the city. It seems to have been written by a committee of 1000 and it includes every possible goofy political special interest goodie they could have thrown into the pot, including, as one erudite council person has proclaimed, stopping global warming. It provides little guidance for zoning commissioners, except for Mike Mushak to be used as a weapon of mass defamation. Read it for yourself; if you can stomach the effort. It would like reading the Obamacare bill.

  2. Mike Mushak

    Joe Espo just revealed more about himself in this post than about the excellent 2008 Master Plan that is full of smart ideas by accomplished and credentialed planning experts to help make Norwalk better.
    Folks like Espo who disdain experts and professionals are EXACTLY why Norwalk is the laughing stock of cities around the state, and held up as an example of how NOT to plan a city. I don’t want to live in a textbook example of traffic-clogged bad planning, especially considering the sky-high taxes we are paying. We deserve the best and we are not getting it under the current broken planning system, the current staff, and the current mayor and his “best friend” appointments that routinely rubber stamp his dumb decisions.
    If I wasn’t mistaken,I would swear Joe Espo is one of Moccia’s Planning Commissioner appointees, who have the responsibility to implement the Master Plan. Reveal yourself, Joe Espo!

    We all have had enough of dumbed-down government and bad planning decisions under Moccia, from the likes of folks like Joe Espo who celebrate mediocrity and incompetence, instead of professionalism and excellence.
    Time to move on. Vote for Rilling in November if you are as fed up as I am with the absurd nonsense of the Moccia era that has and will continue to have great negative impacts on our lives every day.

  3. Oldtimer

    Joe Espo, whoever he is, makes it sound like the City paid a lot of money for nothing. It is interesting that he is the first to criticize the plan itself. That line “political sausage at it’s rancid worst” is a rare turn-of-phrase, worthy of a professional writer who has probably never read the plan. Wonder who he can be ? He should stick to writing good concession speeches.

  4. Bill Dunne

    Oldtimer: You wonder who Joe Espo is? Maybe he’s Joe Espo. A better question would be: Who is “Oldtimer”?

  5. Norwalk Lifer

    A Better question Mr. Dunne, is what do you bring to the table?

    Good Luck, others like me in Norwalk, fair minded, polite, decent folks who contribute to their city will be watching.

    Norwalk Lifer

  6. EveT

    Even if the POCD is “just a guideline” or, even worse “political sausage” full of “goofy” ideas, shouldn’t it be required reading for every member of the Planning and Zoning Commissions and Committees, as well as every city employee involved in planning or zoning? Shouldn’t they be required to know what’s in it?

    Disagreeing is one thing. Responsible, competent people can have legitimate disagreements over specifics. But ignoring it and acting like it doesn’t exist is dereliction of duty, I would say.

  7. piberman

    To his credit Mayor Moccia has appointed a very capable new member to the P&Z – Bill Dunne. So lets sit back a bit and encourage the P&Z to gain renewed public confidence.
    Our real goal is a P&Z that enjoys public confidence to make appropriate decisions.

  8. dianelauricella

    Quick thoughts:
    @EveT My thoughts exactly…

    @piberman The “P & Z” was separated in the 1980’s into two distinct Commissions. Planning Commission has different duties than the Zoning Commission, and both need to read and understand the POCD to even attempt to fulfill their responsibilities.

  9. Herb Eaversmels

    Based on the … statements made by “Joe Espo” I’ll bet he is Joe Santo. BTW: I read the plan and it makes sense, probably why Joe can’t accept it. Joe and Company need to realize the world is NOT flat and get with the times…

    (Editor’s note: This comment has been edited to comply with our guidelines.)

  10. Oldtimer

    Anybody notice “Joe Espo” did NOT correct the assumption that he never read the 2008 plan ? Bill Dunne was quick to respond questioning who Oldtimer may be. If he knew Norwalk politics, he would know that “Oldtimer” was a name used many years ago, in full page ads in the HOUR, sharing opinions and asking questions, during an election campaign. That “Oldtimer” was never identified, although a lot of guesses focused on the same possibility, and may well have been a group effort. The present “Oldtimer” is a tribute to that example, without the big budget.
    Bill should stick to writing excellent speeches and concentrate on classy concessions. He needs to focus more on the message, and less on showing off his considerable language skills.

  11. Oldtimer

    “political sausage at it’s rancid worst”
    If we were betting, my money would be on Bill Dunne. a well trained, long practiced, writer with a real understanding of the language.
    I know Joe Santo, the driving teacher, that is not his style.

  12. Herb Eaversmels

    Holy crow! He’s a driving teacher? He has a lot of nerve questioning Mike Mushak’s training and profession.

  13. Oldtimer


    classes at St Philip School and hands-on driver training on the road. Family business for many years.

  14. Hobbes the Calvinist

    With four terms in, Moccia owns all the appointments on boards and commissions.
    Dunne fits the standard Moccia bill- you’re either a Motor Inn breakfast buddy or a friend of a political ally. A willingness to read the document that governs your board is not part of the criteria.

  15. Don’t Panic

    At least Mr. Dunne won’t have to complain about the photo used by NON. That is a nice photo of him.

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