By Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak
NORWALK, Conn. – Last night, the Zoning Commission passed with a unanimous vote a new zoning amendment called the “Indoor Contractor Parking Facility,” located in Industrial No. 1, and Business No. 1 and 2 zones. This will help small businesses and contractors stay in Norwalk after many years of difficulty finding space (as stated in the public hearing on Feb. 20), while at the same time many commercial properties had remained vacant for years because of tight zoning restrictions. The Planning Commission also recommended passage of this amendment in a referral, and noted that is was consistent with our Master Plan of Conservation of Development. The entire amendment is copied at the end of this letter.
The amendment was carefully worded by staff and zoning commissioners to help protect neighbors from noise and visual complaints, as the entirety of the business must remain indoors. To be clear, this is not an expansion of contractor yards, which is already covered under another existing amendment.
This amendment was passed three years after a petition signed by 30 contractors requesting a version of this definition as well as some other solutions, was presented to city officials to help contractors stay in Norwalk by making it easier for them to find approved and affordable spaces to run their businesses.
Although this definition did not address all the issues brought up by members of the public in the public hearing, including many contractors, real estate professionals and lawyers (which the Zoning Commission has promised to address later this year), it does go far in providing immediate relief to many contractors, including minority-owned businesses, who could not find appropriate and affordable space in Norwalk to run their business.
As was mentioned by a speaker in the public hearing, over 90 percent of new jobs in America are created by small businesses, including small contractors, with 10 or fewer employees. This zoning change passed last night will help generate local jobs and help our depressed commercial property market by decreasing vacancy rates, which helps expand our tax base as well.
Most importantly, this amendment helps many smaller local companies stay in Norwalk, which boosts the local economy and creates more business for many other existing small local businesses including delis, restaurants, wholesale suppliers, truck and auto repair, welding shops, carpentry shops, retail stores, etc. This “snowball effect” in our local economy must not be underestimated, especially as we recover from the most difficult recession in generations, which had a big impact on Norwalk.
This zoning change is a win/win for Norwalk, and I am proud to have worked hard with my fellow commissioners and staff towards its approval. I look forward to working with them in the future to address some of the other issues brought up in the public hearing, to help amend our zoning code to be more business-friendly while at the same time protecting the quality of life for all of our residents.
Here is the amendment that passed:
INDOOR CONTRACTOR PARKING FACILITY: A structure located on a parcel of land, a minimum of 12,500 square feet in size, used for the indoor storage of equipment and vehicles used in the construction, landscaping, landscape nursery, masonry, or arborist trades; including, but not limited to, trucks, vans, bulldozers, backhoes, and other similar equipment. All contractor vehicles and equipment shall be stored entirely within the building. No outside storage of materials shall be permitted on the premises. No outside storage of contractor’s equipment or commercial vehicles of any kind shall be permitted on the premises.