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Norwalk P&Z Commission OKs plan for Cranbury Elementary

A rendering of the proposed new Cranbury Elementary School, shown to the Common Council Land Use Committee in July by Michael LoSasso of Antinozzi Associates.

NORWALK, Conn. – The Norwalk Planning & Zoning Commission has greenlighted the plans for a new Cranbury Elementary School, although neighbors have filed an appeal on the variance issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Norwalk Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola called the legal challenge a “friendly appeal” and predicted it would be settled soon. The Commission’s vote was unanimous.

Attorney Joel Green filed the appeal on behalf of neighbors Matt Bury and Matt Forte on Wednesday, according to the State judicial website, although its dated Dec. 3. Their objections hinge on the new school’s setback: the new building is designed to be about 30 feet from the property line at its closest point, which is more than the 30 feet required for a house but less than the 223 feet required for a school building seeking a special permit in a residence zone.

Neighbors have also objected to two half-court basketball areas and other issues they say will damage their quality of life. The appeal comes in spite of the announced compromise negotiated by the City’s legal department before ZBA approved the variance.

Coppola, in November, said 90 evergreen trees were planned as screening on the western property line, as part of the compromise. The building would be positioned 10 feet further north than originally planned, making it two feet further from neighbor’s houses.

Coppola said Wednesday that he’s waiting for a draft settlement from Green. After it arrives “in a reasonable amount of time,” it will go through the ZBA and the Common Council, and “we’ll make whatever revisions are necessary.” It will be voted on in public. Then it would go in front of a judge.

The City is working to get the project approved in time to send an application to the State by June 30 to be able to start construction in the fall.

“The City continues to be ready, willing and able to resolve the additional concerns of the neighbors and we’re appreciative of their time and efforts to make this quite frankly a better project for everybody,” Coppola said.

Voting to approve the project were Planning and Zoning Commission members Lou Schulman, Richard Roina, Jacquen Jordan-Byron, Galen Wells, Brian Baxendale, Nick Kantor, Steve Ferguson and Mike Mushak.

Mushak called the building “a stunning piece of architecture, with all that glass and natural materials.”

5 comments

Piberman January 20, 2022 at 7:57 pm

Will our School Board make public how our graduating students do in meeting Graduation Requirements of the CT Dept of Education, e.g. maths, sciences, etc. and how many go on to secure 4 year college degrees. And how our City grads do with respect to students in the 5 surrounding towns meeting these requirements ?

Will our School Board make public the academic scholarships earned by our Grading students and the colleges in which our graduating students gained acceptances ?

Ann January 21, 2022 at 5:22 am

Some of that information can be found in the School Profiles for Norwalk high schools. They should be available on the school websites.

Piberman January 23, 2022 at 10:21 pm

In 4 decades of residency I don’t recall our BOE or any of our local newspapers printing data of how our graduating students meet CT Edu guidelines by subject for Norwalk and surrounding towns. Nor do I recall such info discussed at BOE meetings or distributed to City taxpayers/parents. We as a a community accept that the majority of our school grads do not meet CT Dept of Edu subject/skill standards.

In contrast to our surrounding towns are proud that almost all students meet those CT Edu Dept standards and go on to secure 4 yr college degrees. Since we match salaries with surrounding towns the issue is whether our BOE/City residents should demand that our school administrators secure better results. Or whether we continue to demonstrate “we care about our students” by building new schools and paying over $300k for a Supt – reportedly highest in CT.

Whatever path we choose a City where most of its students fail to ever secure a 4 yr college degree earns a “reputation”. And most of all our graduating students are not as well prepared as they could be in the tough business of securing the American Dream. Knowledgeable parents who want their kids to secure high performing public school educations will find the surrounding towns more attractive to their needs.

One ought continue to hope that parents, City leaders, BOE, school administrators/teachers have higher expectations of achievement for our students attending taxpayer funded public schools.

Piberman January 25, 2022 at 3:58 pm

Will the new Cranbury School be “green” ? Solar power on roof ? Using natural gas instead of expensive heating oil ? A/C for the whole school or just the principals and administrators offices ? A/C for the gym and auditorium too ?

Will school buses still be allowed to belch diesel fumes polluting the neighbor morning and afternoon ? Adding to the pollution from the Merrit Pkwy just down the road ? Will building lights be left on all night too ?

Those worried about “green” just need observe how many school buses are running their engines during student “deliveries” morning and afternoon. Our pubic school is a major polluter. Maybe someone could ask the drivers to shut off their engines ?
Couldn’t hurt.

Will the school be built with future story additions in mind ? Given the enthusiasm of City officials for “renters bringing growth” its only a matter of time before apartment buildings are built in the serene country like Cranberry School area. So its likely the demand for an even larger public school. Maybe public housing too. There’s lots of City and State owned vacant owned land in Cranbury. Especially around Cranbury Park. Who knows maybe a future Cranbury High School will be built. Happily we’ll all be “some place else” when that happy day arrives. Lets not forget our City motto:
“Build and they will come”.

Piberman January 25, 2022 at 8:27 pm

So far the BOE has yet to explain how replacing the existing Cranberry School with a new one will improve the numbers of Norwalk students who meet CT Edu Dept standards and secure 4 yr college degrees. Does the BOE have a credible public plan to improve our student performance ? CT Edu Dept’s web site shows most of grads don’t meet CT Edu Dept standards for maths and sciences nor do most ever secure 4 yr college degrees. Ought that deficiency trouble our BOE, parents and City leaders ?
Or is the BOE’s “mission” to secure more pubic schools ?

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