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Norwalk Planning Commission: Finish Fodor Farm

Assistant Planning and Zoning Director Mike Wrinn keeps score as the Planning Commission’s Land Use Committee makes decisions on the 2014-15 capital budget Tuesday in City Hall.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s proposed 2014-2015 capital budget is advancing to the next step in the process with one addition: $100,000 for Fodor Farm.

The Planning Commission on Tuesday night approved a $22.46 million capital budget, sending it to the next phase, review by the Mayor Harry Rilling .

Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne made the suggestion to add $100,000 to Finance Director Thomas Hamilton’s recommended capital budget to fund the last part of Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mocciae’s 5-year-old Fodor Farm project.

“I drive there a lot. It’s half finished. Windows are boarded up,” Dunne said in reference to the main house on the property, work on which has been partially funded by a matching grant from Connecticut’s Historic Restoration Fund.

Another commissioner called Fodor Farm a “gateway.”

“You come down Scribner. You stop at the light, you look at this boarded up house,” he said.

Another suggested the $100,000 was “like the interest on the Board of Ed (capital) budget for like a week.”

On Jan. 28, Mocciae explained the project — which includes renovating the main house, the barn and the caretaker’s cottage — to commission members in their first workshop on the capital budget.

It was originally thought to be undoable because the estimate was up to $1 million.

“Nobody wanted to touch it because, at that point, it was a teardown,” he said.

At this point, there has been about $390,000 to $400,000 spent, he said, announcing that the project would be done at half the predicted amount.

Some years he has gotten money from the city, some years he hasn’t, he said.

Now, “The main house exterior is almost finished except for the front porch, because we had to do all the structural work inside. The front porch will be started in spring,” he said.

The heating system inside is in, he said. The electrical work is almost finished. A plumber is working on the bathrooms.

“This $100,000 will finish up the interior finishes, as well as the caretaker’s cottage,” he said. “… This actually finishes Fodor Farm completely.”

The barn is “just about finished” and includes a full commercial kitchen. There have been fundraisers in it, he said.

The plan is to make money off the property. The caretaker’s cottage will be rented to someone who will have responsibilities to look after the place, opening gates and such, he said. The main house includes a conference room and handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and will be ready to rent in the fall.

“We haven’t been able to rent it out because we haven’t had heat,” he said. “Heat has just been hooked up in the barn. We’re finishing off some of the interior finishes. That will be ready in the spring as well for rentals.”

A ‘zero with comments’

Planning Commissioners affirmed Hamilton’s recommendation not to give the Department of Public Works $150,000 for a document management system, but with an addition: a note.

“I’m willing to go with zero because I don’t believe DPW should have their own,” Vice Chairman Frances Dimeglio said. “Every department should be striving for a document management system. It should be a common system.”

Another commissioner suggested that the $150,000 was “like the interest on the Board of Ed (capital) budget for like a week.”

It was decided that a comment about the need for a city-wide system would be put into the letter the commission would send to the mayor.

“It should be a coordinated plan,” Dimeglio said, suggesting that maybe DPW could spearhead the effort and come up with a vendor with a product that everyone could use.

Comments

7 responses to “Norwalk Planning Commission: Finish Fodor Farm”

  1. anonymous

    Finish Fodor Farm. It is a gateway and a community asset.

  2. Suzanne

    Fodor Farm is a jewel – I love taking my family members there from the West when they visit. It is what good community activism can do and is well worth every penny spent. I would guess that $100,000 today could be recovered with a judicious use of the existing buildings for continued fundraisers. Let it be finished, let it be enjoyed.

  3. Joe Espo

    The way this property looks now (and has for the past few years, with boarded up windows, it’s a prime candidate for application of Norwalk’s blight ordinance.

  4. Suzanne

    Mr. Espo, yes, and wouldn’t that be a shame?

  5. Diane C2

    @Joe Espo – funny you mention blight – I was just about to file blight complaint against city for Fodor House and the disgrace at Cedar Street reconstruction…….
    I do think $100k is excessive for Fodor and perhaps historical folks could raise some private funds for restoration?

    1. @Diane C2- Mr. Mocciae said they had raised $10,000 this year.

  6. Taxpayer Fatigue

    Like the “historical folks” have nothing else to do than privately raise $100k for a city park so that ungrateful citizens can continue to complain and come up with more projects for the “historical folks” to do. Instead of the “historical folks” raising money, why don’t you just bulldoze the building – would that make you happy? Why should taxpayers be funding Fodor Farm anyway when the City could subdivide it and sell off the lots for private development to increase the grand list? Let’s just get rid of all of our historical sites because those “historical folks” just don’t pull their weight around here, they aren’t doing enough for all the lazy, un-involved citizens of Norwalk who are privileged to just sit around blogging and criticizing everyone else.

    Bravo Mike Mocciae! You are doing a wonderful job with Fodor Farm – too bad the citizens of Norwalk are so ungrateful and undeserving of your team’s efforts.

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