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Norwalk election notes: Investigating candidates’ statements

Cars pass on Wilton Avenue, 4:31 p.m. Oct. 20.

The 2021 Election is Tuesday, Nov. 2.

NORWALK, Conn. — Here’s some follow-up on comments made recently by candidates for elected office:

  • Rilling responds to Riddle’s charge that a temporary CO could be issued for Byron the Baker
  • Riddle calls ‘communist New York’ comment ‘tongue in cheek’
  • Counting cars on Wilton Avenue
  • Brinton said a sewer line went nowhere; Carr calls it a private line
  • Business permits?

 

Rilling to Riddle: ‘That’s shameful’

Byron Sanchez, caught in the middle between the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and real estate broker Jason Milligan, has become an election issue that’s been touched upon in both the League of Women Voters Mayoral forum and the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce Mayoral debate.

Sanchez, also called “Byron the Baker,” has invested nearly $100,000 in a River Street storefront owned by Milligan but cannot get a certificate of occupancy to open his business due to a dispute over the building’s façade. The Redevelopment Agency states that Milligan needs to go through the design review process, as have eight other property owners since the requirement was put into the zoning code after the Common Council approved the Wall Street/West Avenue redevelopment plan in 2019. Milligan maintains he’s been treated unfairly, his civil rights violated by “a sudden new process” allegedly “invented” by the Redevelopment Agency.

At Tuesday morning’s Chamber debate, Republican Mayoral candidate Jonathan Riddle said, “It’s kind of ridiculous, they can give (Sanchez) a temporary certificate of occupancy to start operating immediately.”

Moderator Kristin Okesson moved onto the next question and Democratic incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling didn’t take any time to respond to the comment as the debate continued.

NancyOnNorwalk asked Rilling for a response. He wrote:

“It’s shameful that my opponent is playing politics with Mr. Sanchez’s business. That’s not how I operate, and I would encourage my opponent to learn the facts before trying to score political points.

“We’ve met with Mr. Sanchez, and I feel for him, but truly, this situation could be resolved quickly by Mr. Milligan filing for a ‘Third Party Design Review’.  Mr. Milligan suggests this process is not binding and he has no obligation to follow it. Therein lies the problem. The RDA and Mr. Milligan are at odds on this issue.

“Design Review is not new news to anyone involved. Jason has known about the process since December 2020 and has been told repeatedly over many months that he needs to file one more permit. After he files that permit, which will cost about $2,000, Mr. Sanchez can open his bakery.

Byron Sanchez seeks to open a bakery, Sabor Ambateño, on River Street. He owns another Sabor Ambateño in Ossining and his family has two in other locations, Elizabeth, N.J. and Peekskill, N.Y.. This photo is from Sabor Ambateño’s Facebook page.

“Also, a temporary CO is given when someone is seeking a little extra time when there is minor work left to be completed. That is not the case here. Everyone knows what needs to be done, but Mr. Milligan has repeatedly, said he will not follow the process. Others have gone through Third Party Review without any problems.

“It’s a truly unfortunate situation, and I have urged Jason to work with the RDA and file the permit to allow Mr. Sanchez to open his bakery. I’ve also suggested how Mr. Milligan could proceed in order to change or rescind any of the Zoning or RDA regulations he feels are outdated or unnecessary. “We would be more than willing to discuss those concerns with him. I will continue to work with Mr. Milligan until this is resolved. We are, however, trying to resolve this situation.

“No one wants to see Mr. Sanchez open his bakery more than me.  I’ve heard some very positive reviews of his other bakeries and a bakery on River Street would be a perfect fit.”

NoN to Milligan: Why not just pay the $2,000 so Byron Sanchez can open his store?

 

Riddle: Norwalk welcomes those fleeing de Blasio’s policies

Also at Tuesday’s Chamber debate, Republican Mayoral candidate Jonathan Riddle said, “Property values have increased tremendously over this pandemic, as we took in New York refugees, who are fleeing the communist state of New York.”

What did he mean by that? Riddle wrote:

“As you may be aware, prior to COVID, the real estate market in Connecticut was on the decline and there was an abundance of houses on the market with people leaving the state.

“My comment is a tongue-in-cheek reference to New Yorkers fleeing from the communistic policies Bill De Blasio believes in and documented in this Yahoo Article from July 2020 and this NY Times article from 2013, amongst many others.

“We welcome anyone fleeing the policies De Blasio is implementing with open arms and as a result, Norwalk Homeowners are the ultimate beneficiary. Property Values during COVID recovered significantly and there was a massive spike in home purchases in Norwalk creating a seller’s market with property values increasing by 25% to 30%.

“A lot of these buyers were New Yorkers (NYC individuals) fleeing the high cost, high crime rates, and ideological policies implemented by Bill De Blasio. The comment was a thank you to New Yorkers for rescuing our struggling real estate market.”

 

He also sent a link to a 2017 article. “This opinion piece by David Boaz, executive vice president of the Cato Institute and author of ‘The Libertarian Mind,’ sums up that point accurately with direct quotes from De Blasio himself,” Riddle wrote.

 

Wilton Avenue

The City held a press conference three weeks ago to tout the planting of 18 new trees on Wilton Avenue. The next day, at a Republican fundraising event, Republican Mayoral candidate Jonathan Riddle called Wilton Avenue “a road that’s less traveled and out of the way,” and said, “I’d be surprised if 15 cars drove that road a day.”

NancyOnNorwalk went to Wilton Avenue recently and counted cars, using a dashcam to document the activity and make sure the count was correct.

Six cars went by in the first minute, and those were just the vehicles that travelled the entire length of the street, not counting the ones that turned into driveways and onto side streets.

The next two minutes of dashcam video, shot at 4:34 p.m. Oct. 20, showed six vehicles going down the road’s entire length and one parking on the street. After a little glitch with the dashcam, documentation resumed, showing 19 vehicles going down the road in six minutes, beginning at 4:38 p.m.

Some of the vehicles were trucks used by landscapers or in construction.

 

Old (private) sewer line dumps on neighborhood

At the recent League of Women Voters’ Common Council at Large forum, Independents for Norwalk candidate Lisa Brinton said, “I’m concerned about the infrastructure and our sewer system and our water system.”

She said, “Just in my neighborhood, we found out, in the terms of the sewer system, that there were there was a sewer line that was connected to nowhere. …We’re an old city, we’ve been a little bit sloppy or casual with some of the things that we’ve done. So adding all these people (in apartments) is going to put more strain on the infrastructure and in terms of our water quality.”

Brinton lives in Shorefront Park. NancyOnNorwalk asked Norwalk Chief of Operations and Public Works Anthony Robert Carr about the comment.

His answer refers to the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) and Suez Water Environmental Inc., which took over the Norwalk wastewater treatment plant operations in 2020. Carr wrote (bolding is his):

  • On December 22, 2020, WPCA/SUEZ received an urgent request from several parcel owners in the Shorefront Park area regarding sewerage back-up in their homes.
  • WPCA/SUEZ subsequently determined that the sewer issues resulted from a private “shared/common” sanitary sewer lateral connected to an existing (presumably decades old) septic system constructed by a private developer.
    • DPW/WPCA does not maintain records of private wastewater system on private property.
  • WPCA/SUEZ diligently coordinated with the Shorefront Park property owners to install new sanitary sewer laterals (i.e. service lines) connected to the City sanitary sewer to abate and protect public safety and welfare (especially with the pending holidays).

 

400 businesses?

Graphic on the City’s website, part of The Mayor’s Dashboard.

Finally, Democratic incumbent Mayor Harry Rilling has twice said that 400 new businesses began in Norwalk during the pandemic.

Norwalk Chief of Economic and Community Development Jessica Vonashek referred NancyOnNorwalk to the Mayor’s Dashboard for information on that.

“You can see in FY21, 332 businesses registered with the Town Clerk’s office and in FY22, 80 businesses registered with the office,” she wrote.

Fiscal Year 21 began July 1, 2021.

6 comments

Jason Milligan October 29, 2021 at 8:01 am

The ignorance of how the permit process works by people who work at town hall is sad!

It is a complicated mess. Each department vaguely knows their own process and they know very little of the other departments process.

3rd party review is not a separate permit! It is a step that is added to the permit process for “development projects”. Large projects that are typically new construction or major renovations.

The issue I have is NOT only whether my permit should be referred to a 3rd party. The Redevelopment Agency could have done that since April. The referral to a 3rd party never happened.

The real problem is just the Redevelopment Agenc in general! They are the worst thing that ever happened to the Wall Street area. The Flood of 1955 ushered in the unelected, unaccountable, mystery organization to help revitalize the area. 65 years later why isn’t Wall Street Redeveloped?

To stay in business the Agency needs Wall Street to be a “Slum or Blighted”. Every 10 years or so they have to prove the blight designation for the area.

The area is not Blighted and it is not a Slum.

The Agency is very good at useless studies and paperwork. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for studies performed by consultants. They have mountains of studies and paperwork.

Try to learn their process though. Several hundred pages later you will be more confused than when you started.

In 2019 the Agency duped the City of Norwalk big time. They repeatedly lied in public meetings. (Which I can prove) I started a lawsuit against the Agency challenging the 2019 Plan and the Agency’s existence in Wall Street. I have taken 100 hours of testimony through depositions including the director Brian Bidolli and the Mayor. The trial is set for May 2022.

Since I started the lawsuit, everyone or nearly everyone that worked at the Redevelopment Agency has left.

The new people running the Agency have no clue and they have been scrambling to create a process.

Meanwhile yours truly had successfully navigated 4 projects through the Agency in the midst of my lawsuit but before assistant director Tami Strauss moved to California. After Tami left the process went to hell. Nobody had a clue. Simple permits were now given unbelievable scrutiny. The Agency was now enforcing ADA compliance. I was told that one of my buildings had 4 facades that n exes design review. Suddenly a 4 page pamphlet became gospel. Was this pamphlet part of the 2019 Redevelopment plan?
No!

Part of the Zoning regulations?
No!

It turns out it was a diagram that was approved in 2006. The new hires at the Agency found it, dusted it off, and randomly started following it.

This is about the time I submit what would be my 5th project under the 2019 plan, and since my lawsuit was started.

All of a sudden there is a new process with new steps that are being dictated to me by a guy in his 20’s working over Zoom from New Haven.

Seemingly this new hire was in charge of the design review process.

The new process was created without the Agency commission voting, without zoning, and without public input or knowledge.

The new process is randomly started out of thin air 2 years after the 2019 Plan.

The reason I am the one that noticed and takes issue is because I am the one doing repeated projects. The church on West Ave or other didn’t take issue because they pull one permit in their life, and they don’t know any difference.

I take big issue because I have been following the process while simultaneously spending huge amounts of time, money and energy suing the Agency.

Moving the goal posts or pulling the rug out after 2 years is not right, fair or legal.

That is the issue.

It is long past time to abolish the Redevelopment Agency!

but while we wait We should Let Byron Bake.

Christine M October 29, 2021 at 9:26 am

Full disclosure: I live on Wilton Avenue & I assure Mr. Riddle that more than 15 cars drive down this street in an hour, let alone a day. It’s a major cut-through from Route 123 down to Route 1, as well as part of Bus 3’s route.
It sounds to me that Mr. Riddle doesn’t know the area he’s looking to serve very well.
P.S. I love the little trees!

David Muccigrosso October 29, 2021 at 1:30 pm

Riddle shows his ignorance again. The city is FAR more blue than Norwalk, ESPECIALLY the people who fled it TO Norwalk.

Those who fled it to welcome Riddle’s brand of race-baiting are absurdly outnumbered by those who will reflexively vote for any Democrat and haven’t yet figured out Harry’s corruption.

Patrick Cooper October 29, 2021 at 4:25 pm

Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position while ignoring a significant portion of related and similar cases or data that may contradict that position. Cherry picking may be committed intentionally or unintentionally.

ML Murray October 30, 2021 at 8:29 pm

I agree with David Muccigrosso that NYC transplants are far bluer than Connecticut locals. That said, I’ve been really excited by some of the Mayor’s initiatives lately – the focus on trees, walkable transit-hub living, reinstating the Commission on the Status of Women, etc. I’m excited by the direction he’s taking.

I was also disturbed that Riddle said during the League of Women voter debate, “none of my friends use public transportation” and similar comments. He’s not running to lead just his friends and people like him. Thankfully the mayor disputed Riddle’s assertion with research-backed data looking at the totality of Norwalk voters. I think having a mayor who wants to lead ALL constituents is important.

Also, New Yorkers are not fleeing De Blasio’s policies. They fled a pandemic. I can say emphatically that no one who leaves NYC thinks they have to leave their ideals at the state line. Riddle has no idea what he’s talking about.

Kenneth Werner November 2, 2021 at 3:38 pm

David, you are accusing Harry Rilling of corrupt practices. What are they? Please be specific.

Jason, most of your rant is completely beside the point. Why don’t you just pay the $2000 so Byron can bake.

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