NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk property owner who says he doesn’t want to be forced out of the city by taxes was among those urging Norwalk’s Zoning Commission to reconsider a new zoning designation Wednesday night.
The zoning amendment would allow contractors to rent or own garages in the Industrial No. 1, Business No. 1 and Business No. 2 zones if they keep everything inside.
Kevin Palinkas, who said he has owned a L-shaped piece of property at 32 Perry Ave. for 23 years, said he appreciated the proposal as he has been to City Hall many times with “no luck.”
“This has gotten to be a serious problem,” he said. “It’s getting more and more difficult. I don’t want to leave the city of Norwalk – I’ve been here one month shy of 26 years . … I’m paying taxes on a piece of property that is useless unless I put a building up.”
Ron Czebiniak, an independent commercial broker, said he knew of three businesses – Darien Lawn and Tree, Dominick Fuel, Pack Timco Heating and Cooling – that have been forced to relocate all or part of their business to Bridgeport and Stratford.
“These were good jobs that left our city due to the burden that zoning put on them,” he said. “This measure, if approved in a manner contractors can actually benefit from, will do much to stem the exodus of small businesses from our city, to allow the contractor base to grow and prosper, to attract new businesses and also, very importantly, give a legitimate home to some of the trucks that are parked overnight on some of our streets.”
But, he said, “I’m very concerned about the 12,500-square-foot minimum lot size. It’s one of the most onerous conditions that keep small businesses from being able to afford to own a contractor’s lot in the Industrial 1 zone and it should be done away with there and eliminated in this proposal as well.”
Jacqueline Sharp, a business attorney, agreed on both points. “The contractors I represent won’t buy in Norwalk,” she said, because they can’t park inside. But, she said, a 5,000 square-foot minimum would be more appropriate, as there are many companies that only have two trucks.
Both speakers were concerned that the proposal would not allow contractors to keep equipment inside the garages.
“They want to be able to pull that truck in and load it so it’s ready to go out the next day,” Sharp said. “That means profit to them. That’s overhead.”
Diane Lauricella protested the amendment. “I’m not in favor of expanding the industrial use,” she said. “… I’d rather have it clean industry.”
Lauricella was concerned about floor drains in garages and thought many of the people who would take advantage of the regulation come from countries without environmental laws.
Former Mayor Frank Zullo spoke in favor of the amendment, saying it was long overdue and affected areas that already have contractor yards in them and was therefore a relatively minor change.
Commissioners said they were surprised more members of the public did not come out to speak at the hearing. Zullo said that many people who bought homes in the affected areas were unsophisticated, and would not realize there was a change until they received notification that a garage was being built in their vicinity.
The regulation, which had been drawn up by city staff, was sent to committee for review.