No comments on Milligan’s lot
NORWALK, Conn. — The plan to rent 30 parking spaces in the Eagles lot at 6 Mott Ave., just down the street from the Norwalk Public Library main branch, was unanimously approved by Common Council members Tuesday. Nothing was said about the option to buy real estate broker Jason Milligan’s lot, between the two properties, and no comments were made about the rental.
Activist Diane Lauricella spoke at the beginning of the meeting. The spaces themselves make sense but, “The reason that you’re doing it is what worries me,” she said. “I have been asking for several years as to why we haven’t begun the renovation plans for our Main Library. Our option with Mr. Milligan is coming to a close, and I think the public deserves to know what are the plans of this administration and the Council, today or tomorrow. We need to get moving on this.”
In 2017, the City paid Milligan $460,000 for a six-year purchase option for his property at 11 Belden Ave., where he had planned to build apartments. The deal included a fixed purchase price of $4,885,000 for the entire property, should the City decide to buy it by Aug. 31, 2023.
Former Mayor Alex Knopp, then Norwalk Public Library Board of Trustees Chairman, negotiated the option deal with Milligan.
“Unless City officials act quickly, the parking we’ve been able to offer for the past six years in the lot adjacent to the library accessible from Mott Avenue is likely to be shut down, resulting in the suffocation of the library’s recent rebound, the drastic curtailment of its expansion plans and its probable stagnation in the years ahead,” Knopp wrote in an editorial Monday.
Knopp spoke to the Council on Tuesday, advising that the Eagles spaces “should not be viewed, in my opinion, as a substitute for requiring the lot behind the library to give us permanent, accessible on site, free parking for library patrons.”
He said, “If we don’t exercise the option, there’s no doubt that Mr. Milligan we will try to build at least 69 units, maybe more, on the site, and how are seniors and moms going to get around that building conveniently in the rain or snow?”
Mayor Harry Rilling told Knopp that he “truly appreciated” the remarks and offered no further comment.
Milligan told NancyOnNorwalk Tuesday that he’s been thinking about what he might do with the 1.25-acre lot and said, “I cannot think of any benefit to anyone by sharing my potential plans with you at this point in time.”
Milligan, who owns about 40 properties in the Wall Street area, said, “In my opinion, long term plans for the area should include parking for the library, but I have not been asked for my opinion about long term plans for the area.”
Milligan has been embroiled in an intense legal battle with the City and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency for five years. A tentative settlement has been agreed to and will either go forward next month or a trial will begin.
Moina Noor, current Norwalk Public Library Board of Trustees Chairwoman, said at Thursday’s Library Board meeting that she thought the Eagles lots is a “really was a great opportunity for us to expand our parking.”
She said, “Whether or not the city exercises the option, I’ve been to library several times when both lots are full so it’s nice to have the extra 30 spaces.”
The rental agreement is a two-year contract with an annual rent of $12,600, to be paid from the Library’s budget, and can be extended for up to an additional three years.
‘Inspiration’ for improving the library
Also at Thursday’s Library Board meeting, Trustees said they’d been to visit the New Canaan Library to see its new building.
“I thought it could be really inspirational for us as we look forward to making improvements to the Main Library building,” Patsy Brescia said. “…My biggest takeaway was the focus, that they designed the library around their community needs; every community has different needs and different focuses and different cultures.”
Janine Williams said she loved the library’s spirit and the layout. She and Ralph Bloom agreed that the automatic book deposit is impressive.
“I found it very interesting to see what it’s like when one organization has the direction of where to go, and they don’t have to go back to the town for permission. We’ve got a challenge ahead of us,” Bloom said. “We’ve got two district libraries that somehow have to work into the total plan. It’s gonna be interesting to see how we develop.”
Knopp remarked on the “very well-integrated planning approach in which the facilities, the technology, the customer service” were brought together “in a very attractive, holistic approach.” He was “impressed,” but, “I also understand that it’s not a municipal library, and therefore the process they go through for bidding and planning is different.”
Noor said she’d learned architects “had a collective group of 40 people from different parts of their town. It wasn’t just like a one and done type of engagement, which I think happens a lot with architects, with design firms and stuff, it was a continual engagement with these 40 people with a broad range of viewpoints.”
“As other people have said, I really loved that they planned and stuck all the way through to their values,” Laurel Peterson said. “They thought a lot about that at the very beginning and made sure that whatever they did was aligned with that.”