NORWALK, Conn. – Hours upon hours of public discussion should yield positive results, even if similar efforts have been made before without much to show for it, according to members of the Norwalk Center Task Force.
“This task force has as much teeth as we are willing to put in to make things happen. As with anything we can sit and talk about things or we can do things,” said Chairwoman Jackie Lightfield.
The combination of city staff involvement, backing of leadership at the top and interest from the public will make for teeth, members said.
Councilman Jerry Petrini (R-District D) suggested getting Department of Public Works, Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and zoning staff at the table with the group. Lightfield said she had already talked to P&Z and redevelopment; Petrini would deal with Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord.
A case in point for the effort was the task force’s objection to a plan formed in 2009 for reverse angled parking — diagonal, backed in — for upper Wall Street, from the Globe Theater down to POKO’s proposed Wall Street Place. Petrini said that would be “chaos,” even though current task force member Mike McGuire had been on the committee that recommended it and said Redevelopment was very strong on the idea.
“I think one of the ways to actually implement things is to understand the City Hall process and to work within that process,” said Lightfield, a former zoning chairwoman. “So when we talk it about how we don’t like reverse angle parking, we already know there is a plan that is calling for that. … It is not complaining about it, it’s saying ‘please go through and make an adjustment to this plan with this text amendment,’ and pushing it through.”
McGuire wondered if that would mean a “big battle” with Redevelopment.
“Sometimes that is exactly what happens,” Lightfield said. “But the only way to ferret that stuff out and the only way to affect change is to start the process and begin that dialog and make those changes.
“Some of it has a little political tenor, you know; the political philosophy is guided from the top leadership,” she said. “I think we have a different political leader in place and things are changing. So there is a shift that is going on between what was the accepted policy before versus now there is a new openness to look at new ideas and new things. We’re just going to have to work with it to figure out how that is going to play out.”
Alvord has people on his staff that were “trained in traffic engineering back in the ’60’s,” she said. Standards have changed, she said, referring to a book she has that explains how to speak traffic engineer to affect change.
“When that reverse parking was put in, it was put in as part of a concession of 50 million other things,” she said. “We have a new crack on this and let’s give it a fair go on trying to get it changed. I think the reception on that particular issue is going to be pretty good. The mayor has spoken that he doesn’t see why we would have reverse angle parking.”
Town Clerk Rick McQuaid said the task force has the public behind it in an unprecedented way. He knows because he still gets phone calls from people who think he’s still on the Common Council, even though he’s been town clerk for 2½ years.
“Years ago if you didn’t read it in the paper or watch it as it went, there was nothing there,” he said. “The public now seems to be interested in what is going on. They are really on this. They want to see something different. People are tired of looking at the demolition signs on the buildings. … I think they are waiting to see and this has been a like a kick-start to some of the things that are going down there.”