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Norwalk Sikhs seek new home on Richards Avenue

A rendering of the gurudwara proposed by Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji Foundation for 283 Richards Ave. (Contributed)

The lot at 283 Richards Ave. (Yvonne Lopaur)

NORWALK, Conn. — Sikhs who have been worshiping on West Avenue would like to transform a vacant Richards Avenue lot into their new religious center, or gurudwara.

The 18,000 square foot, two-and-a-half story temple would stand on 1.01 acres of land at 283 Richards Ave., an AAA residence zone, Attorney Liz Suchy told the Zoning Commission. Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji Foundation’s new home would feature 240 seats in its worship area and complies with the criteria for a special permit, she said.

“This is not an opportunity for the Sikh congregation, which has been a member of the Norwalk community and part of its fabric for nearly 30 years, to enlarge the congregation,” Suchy said. “It is an opportunity for my client to offer a reverent and proper venue for the free exercise and practice of their religion.”

That comment harkens back a few years to another request for a special permit allowing a religious facility in an AAA zone. Leaders of the Al Madany Islamic Center sued Norwalk over the Zoning Commission’s denial of their application to build a mosque at 127 Fillow St., claiming violations of the First and 14th amendments, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and Connecticut’s Religious Freedom Act. The City, under Mayor Harry Rilling, settled the suit for about $2 million in 2015, a sum that included buying the Fillow Street property and assisting Al Madany in moving to Union Park.

Letters for and against

Norwalk Planning and Zoning received 27 letters from neighbors opposing the Sikh temple, as of Oct. 7, according to information provided by P&Z Director Steven Kleppin.

“We recognize that everyone has the right to worship but we don’t think it’s proper to insert a commercial structure of any kind on a AAA residential lot when the density overpowers everything around it,” wrote Jeff Danzinger, who lives with his family directly across the street from what is now a vacant lot.

His family is alarmed by the “mammoth structure that is totally out of place on a lot so small,” he said, alleging that it will lower property values.

“{T}hey are downplaying the amount of people that will be traveling in and out of there on a regular basis,” Danzinger wrote in September. “It is our understanding that the Gurdwara is open 24 hours a day / 7 days a week aside from their services and school functions (which they also appear to be downplaying). Also, it is our understanding that they will be hosting weddings there as well.  Since they are planning to spend millions on this project it only stands to reason that they want to grow their congregation and that will inevitably include larger and larger services and celebrations.”

Henry Stozek, a Weed Avenue resident, suggested “they build a multi tiered parking deck” to accommodate more than 400 cars, alleging that the building can serve 500 people and Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji is seeking to enlarge its congregation. The “flashy gold temple will drastically change the look of the neighborhood,” he said.

Many opponents spoke of traffic.

“We are totally losing our sense of a low density neighborhood – even just being a neighborhood,” Peter Fratarcangelo wrote, alleging that the small neighborhood is being taxed “well beyond what citizens should have to tolerate.”

He said:

  • “We have an elementary school within 500 feet of their intended Center.
  • “We have a Congregational Church and Day Care within 200 feet of their intended Center.
  • “We have a Jewish Synagogue and religious day care school within 500 feet of this intended center.
  • “We have a Catholic Church and newly build auditorium within 1200 feet from this intended Center.
  • “We have a Community College on Richard’s Avenue with over 5,400 students, many of whom drive up and down Richard’s Avenue every day.
  • “We have 3 cemeteries with lots of traffic coming and going.
  • “We have a new long term care facility on Richard’s Avenue.”

 

Barbara Garelick alleged:

  • “They will be open 24 hours a day; with daily services starting at 5AM everyday of the week according to their website.”
  • “The latest daily service begins at 9PM or 9:15PM depending which day, but doesnt give an actual time they finish that service, assuming it will be at least 10PM or later.”
  • “53 car parking lot: they would need to pave a huge percentage of the ground on their lot, leaving no lawns, trees and landscape fitting to the neighborhood.
  • “Proposed parking lot of 53 is way too large for our street and is not sufficient for their needs; they already cite having up to 250 people as per their website … how will that be managed by 53 spaces?”

 

“Please vote thumbs down to another large structure on Richards Ave.,” Maryann and Norm Roberts wrote. “Fox Run school and the other two houses of worship are already putting us over the top traffic wise. We have lived here for 40 years and have watched our quiet area disappear.”

P&Z had also received 23 letters from Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji members, 11 of them from Norwalk residents. All of the letters contained the same paragraph.

The planned gurudwara “has been carefully designed by architects, civil engineers, landscape architects and traffic engineers, and complies with ALL the rules and regulations applicable to our place of worship, and once constructed will be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood and the city of Norwalk,” they said.

The lot at 283 Richards Ave. (Yvonne Lopaur)

‘Mistruths’

Suchy, speaking to Zoners on Oct. 7, rebutted what she called, “various misconceptions and mistruths and other inaccurate information that seem to be promulgated out in the public.”

A chart prepared by Norwalk Principal Planner Bryan Baker.

A house of worship is permitted in the zone by special permit, with no variance, zone change or text amendment needed, she said. Some say houses there can only be 35-feet tall, but the regulations allow a house of worship to be higher. Overall, the gurudwara is planned to be 50 feet high, but it’s 39 feet at its peak and the dome is allowed as church spires and similar architectural features are exempt.

“The setbacks for this property are a little bit unusual but once again, a special permit has additional requirements for non-residential uses in a residential zone as they relate to setbacks,” she said. “So the front setback is nearly 80 feet, the side setbacks exceed what is typically required for residential structures. But in any event, all setbacks required will meet city zoning regulations that as they relate to non-residential structures in the zone.”

Houses of worship must provide one parking space for every five seats within the worship area based upon maximum capacity, she said. The math shows 48 are required and 53 are planned.

If the City wants to apply a different ratio, that would be a policy decision that “must be implemented in a lawful nondiscriminatory manner by the promulgation and enactment of regulations.”

Sikh services are different than other congregations, as people don’t arrive all at once, she said. It’s fluid, and they trickle in as the service continues. Then there’s a communal lunch open to anyone.

The 5 a.m. “service” alleged by a neighbor is a small ceremony performed by priests who will live on the property, to open the Scripture, Suchy said. They close it in the evening, “But there aren’t services at those hours. The only service that’s offered to its membership is on Sunday from 11:30 to 12:30, followed by the community luncheon.”

There’s no proposal for a daycare or summer camp, she said.

“The Sikh community plans to provide religious education to its young congregants, much like that provided at other religious institutions in the neighborhood,” Mohinder Singh Kalsi in a letter written on behalf of the Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji Foundation.

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The gurudwara’s first floor is for religious education and the second floor is the worship area, architect Marcos Reinheimer told Zoners.

Religious instruction will be taught by volunteer parents on Sunday mornings, in alignment with the public school year, Singh Kalsi said. “As for weddings, the community welcomes its congregants to be married in the faith, but no extraordinary efforts will be undertaken to ‘market’ this house of worship as a wedding venue.”

The foundation has contacted the Norwalk Recreation and Parks Department and is looking into renting space at Fox Run Elementary School for overflow parking on its major holiday, a celebration of the religion’s birth on April 14, Suchy said. Norwalk Community College has also been contacted.

Suchy pushed back at the suggestion that the Zoning Commission conduct a peer traffic review, but Zoners opted in.

“To be perfectly honest, given the sensitivity of this project, I think it’s better to be safe than sorry with something like this,” Kleppin said. “It just gives an added level of protection to the city and to the applicant. So I think at the end of the day, if the peer review consultant makes the determination that, you know, the methodology proposed by the applicant and the conclusions reached by the applicant are correct, then they’ll use their professional engineering judgment and state that on the record. And that’s a safeguard for everyone involved.”

24 comments

David Muccigrosso October 15, 2021 at 8:43 am

Wonderful to see so much ignorance on display.

Even with a larger-than-average population of Sikhs in Norwalk and the SW CT/metro area, I can’t understand how anyone can seriously expect this congregation to more than double in size.

And given that they’re already willing to spend millions on this gurudwara, even if they DID double in size, that would give them plenty of revenue to relocate to a larger temple, or even pay to mitigate any traffic/parking issues that arose.

Growth is a non-issue here. And I’d bet that most of these complainers wouldn’t bat an eye at a similar-sized Christian church with explicit growth goals setting its sights on the same lot.

Steve Mann October 15, 2021 at 8:52 am

Good luck folks. Norwalkers need to stand together as one voice. NIMBY apathy to others concerns will get you nowhere. What’s bad for East Norwalk will eventually leach out to Cranbury and then West Norwalk. If you stand alone the administration, the developers and their attorneys will eat you alive.

Norwalk is in the sights of developers and it’s not all bad, but there is plenty of appropriate area to accommodate growth while preserving canopied quiet residential neighborhoods. Speak out against the non-residents who call your concerns “mistruths” by conjuring up their own.

As reported by Nancy here on 10/4, Steve Kleppin said it himself during the East Norwalk village hearing. EN, and Rowayton (watch out!) are not their own communities. They are “part of a broader Norwalk”.

Fight for your neighbors and they may fight for you.

John O'Neill October 15, 2021 at 9:19 am

Elizabeth Suchy — It should be pointed out when Liz finishes her days changing the Norwalk Landscape she heads back to her 2 acre charming home in Wilton, CT. Yes, that Wilton, CT which has the most stringent and conservative zoning laws in the area, maybe the state.(In my opinion)..Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in all this?? The first thought that comes to mind is open your heart, but just not in my backyard.

Note to City Workers on this: Think before hitting SEND on your email accounts. Your lack of professionalism in Mosque fiasco cost taxpayers millions. Not sure if anyone was actually held accountable on that one. Freaking Disgrace

Norwalk Lost October 15, 2021 at 11:42 am

Has anything been learned since the mosque fiasco? The mayor had given assurances (at that time) that zoning ordinances and land use limitations would be restructured and shored up to protect residential areas . . . why is this even being considered? It clearly doesn’t fit in a residential zone and the petitioners of this application should have known better. Let me guess what’s next, a shakedown lawsuit should this be denied. Shameful this is happening again.

David Osler October 15, 2021 at 12:26 pm

I am not of their religion but I am all for this project I do have concerns adequate parking working with the other religious institutions on the road to try to stagger their schedules to avoid traffic as well as to the same with the college as far as them building a new place of worship in that area I see it more like the God’s hill area of New Canaan then an issue for the neighborhood I honestly proposal is hugely beneficial to the region and the community and the proper location due to the other religious institutions being in the area my concerns are traffic parking event timing and the flash of the building I think more subdued architecture is warranted but as far as the project of putting their Temple there I’m totally down for it

Jim Tru October 15, 2021 at 2:36 pm

Here we go again…

They already know what is going to happen….

Threaten to sue for religious discrimination, then the city will settle out a large sum of money so they can go buy a larger piece of property more suitable and then have the funds to build.

Working the system to its maximum potential while taxpayers get reamed once again.

West Norwalker October 15, 2021 at 7:22 pm

1. What Elizabeth Suchy fails to acknowledge is that the proposed Gurdwara has 56 parking spaces for 200 regular congregants. They drive (by their own admission) 2.5 people per car. Do the math. This is not enough parking even if it does meet the “zoning code”. BUT the zoning code ALSO says parking lots are based on max capacity of the structure. They can fit plus 300 people alone in the worship hall. (This is a conservative estimate.)They are woefully short of parking. This is not about religion. It’s about the residents and quality of life of people who live at west Norwalk. Elizabeth Suchy should properly read the zoning regs.

2. Fox run school is not available on weekdays or while other events are in session. Where are these people supposed to park when they have festivals? Most of their holidays are on weekdays. A patch article from 2011 has their own members saying their events attract up to 500 people. The city and Steve Kleppin must answer where these people will park.

3. Zoning for west Norwalk is AAA residential. It specially says that it’s intended for “low density”. The city has acknowledged in a memo on 10/6 that the proposed structure is consistent with residential D zoning. This proposed structure is not similar in density to temple shalom, the congregation church , or St. Matthew’s. They have much larger lots.

4. Finally, the Sikh Gurdwara approached neighbors on both sides of the lot asking purchase their properties. Why ask to purchase 100+ year homes unless you think you’re current lot will be too small for your needs? A narrative of this is available on the West Norwalk Associations meeting minutes.

The city of Norwalk and planning and zoning has once again failed to protect residents. This isn’t about religion. This is about poor land management, shoddy zoning laws, and bad citing planning. On day 1, the Sikh Gurdwara will not have enough parking. Town hall has failed the residents and working families in West Norwalk.

Patrick Cooper October 15, 2021 at 8:11 pm

Liz Suchy – of course. This comment is not about the issue above – but – the root cause.

Campaign promise 2013 – Harry Rilling: “I will clean up planning and zoning”

In 2014, as mayor – he concluded the messy negotiations over the controversial proposed Al Madany Mosque with a settlement that Norwalk taxpayers funded.

What is worth reviewing – and what is relevant to this article – is the begging – request – pleading by the constituents – and the promise of the candidate turned mayor – that he would fix this.

https://www.wshu.org/post/norwalk-settles-mosque-dispute-more-2m-payout#stream/0

To quote Kimberly Grimm – “And what I would aks you, Mr. (Harry Rilling) Mayor, going forward, for you to do something about it and for you to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

He didn’t. Ask him – why? What changed his mind?

Norwalk, you need some help. You need checks and balances on the council – you need representation that will implement the wishes of the residents. Please – please – vote this November 2nd.

DAVENDRA[Dave] ANAND October 16, 2021 at 7:26 am

I understand the Concerns of Norwalk Residents and Neighbors. Humbly – I suggest that the extreme stats being referenced are not valid.

Last Line of Sikh Daily Prayer: “TEYRAY BHAANAY SARBAT DAA BHALLAA” – BY YOUR MERCY WAHE GURU[God/Lord/Providence/Almighty/Bhagwaan/Allah/Yahweh/Jehovah, —], LET EVERY HUMAN STAY WELL & BE PROSPEROUS !

!!!!!! Daily say – TEYRAY BHAANAY SARBAT DAA BHALLAA – and you will expel all your worries away !!!!!!

I have been in the USA for over 54 years and lived in all 4 corners of this Great Country and tasted its VALUES first hand. In North Carolina – a Church gave free land at back of the Church to local Sikhs to build their Gurdwara. In San Jose, the Town/Mayor gave over 15 Acres for $1 for local Sikhs to build their Gurdwara. Those and other similar Charity projects are flourishing and have added Goodness and Values to their neighborhoods that Americans Cherish !

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I am a Writer – below my FINAL Column:

INDIA NewEngland

Issue Date: August 2014, Posted On: 8/19/2014

Opinion: Why America and Americans are Exceptional?

By Dave Anand

In September of 2013, President Barack Obama claimed while addressing the United Nations that America and Americans are exceptional because of certain, special traits. Russian President Vladimir Putin and other World leaders laughed and questioned the validity of that claim. The best way to settle such an issue is to lay the facts and let them speak by themselves.

On July 4, 1876, America’s 100th birthday – Lawyer, Preeminent Agnostic, and The Great Orator Robert Ingersoll, articulated thus:

• One hundred years ago, our fathers retired the Gods from politics; The Declaration of Independence is the grandest, the bravest, and the profoundest political document that was ever signed by the representatives of a people. It is the embodiment of physical and moral courage and of political wisdom.

• For the first time in the history of the world, the representatives of a nation, the representatives of a real, living, breathing, hoping people, declared that all men are created equal. With one blow, with one stroke of the pen, they struck down all the cruel, heartless barriers that aristocracy, that priest-craft, that king-craft had raised between man and man. They struck down with one immortal blow that infamous spirit of caste that makes a God almost a beast, and a beast almost a god. With one word, with one blow, they wiped away and utterly destroyed all that had been done by centuries of war – centuries of hypocrisy – centuries of injustice.

• Our fathers founded the first secular government that was ever founded in this world. Recollect that. The first secular government; the first government that said every church has exactly the same rights, and no more; every religion has the same rights, and no more. In other words, our fathers were the first men who had the sense, who had the genius, to know that no church should be allowed to have a sword; that it should be allowed only to exert its moral influence.

• The rights of all are equal: justice, poised and balanced in eternal calm, will shake from the golden scales in which are weighed the acts of men, the very dust of prejudice and caste: No race, no color, no previous condition, can change the rights of men.

That political wisdom of the founders as captured in America’s Constitution has proven itself million and million times over and come true by creating a “True civilization in which every man gives to every other every right that he claims for himself.” Earlier, the British, Roman, and the Greek empires were self-centered and did not afford the same rights to every other citizen of the republic as we Americans do. This self-centeredness with a closed system in fact resulted in the demise of those powers; one reason experts believe America’s Open-System policies will prolong its Superpower status.

So, why is America Exceptional?

Like other great powers, America too created its own remarkable history. Unlike other powers whose main aim was subjugation and exploitation of weaker peoples and their riches – America’s founding was to do more with freedom. Liberty, as in the Statue of Liberty, is America’s foremost mantra.

Custodians of Freedom and champions of Democracy ever since they established theirs back in 1776 – Americans liberated themselves by defeating the British forces in the 1700s and in due course of time they freed the Slaves in 1863, under the president-ship of Abraham Lincoln. They freed Europe from German (Hitler) Forces in 1945 and since then have assumed the mantle of World-Peace.

The emancipation of the blacks by the steadfast Abraham Lincoln puts him in a unique freedom fighter category. Freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi used his own kind (Indians) to fight the other kind (British) to win freedom for his own kind (Indians). Who would not die for freeing their brethren and countrymen from extreme atrocities showered by a foreign power?

On the other hand – Lincoln used mostly all whites’ forces or the so-called Yankees of the North to defeat the Southern whites (aka Confederacy) in the brutal American Civil War to free the black slaves. It is estimated close to 617,000 white Americans died in the ruthless civil war to end slavery. This is the single most reason based upon which I would rank Abraham Lincoln over Gandhi as the number one freedom fighter of all times, leaving aside the direct messengers of God like Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Guru Nanak, and so on.

In the same spirit and now for almost a century – The United States has been successful in establishing World-Peace by shedding its own blood abundantly and giving away their fortune. With the exception of minor hot spots in the Middle-East (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Israel-Palestinian battles, ISIS, etc.) or Iran/North Korea Nuclear standoff, Ukraine, etc. – there is nothing that compares or rises to the dire times of World War-II. The peace lid has been shut tight so far.

Exceptionalism of America and Americans is rooted in several principles and policies, and not just limited to the following:

– Foremost, Americans are Freedom lovers and will die for it as no other.
– Americans fight for Justice, Law and Equality for all
– They are the most charitable as a People and Country (Ranked #1 by Charity Aid Foundation)*
– Are most inclusive with an Open-System to embrace everyone legally possible.
– Have most Freedom to pursue any Religion; Freedom to pursue Happiness
– Have most Freedom for Businesses and Markets (Laissez-faire)
– the List is rather long to mention them all here ——–

No wonder people call America, The God’s Country!

With God’s blessings and wisdom of principles and policies America’s founders adopted – all of that gave rise to Economic/Military/Political/Diplomatic/Technology/Financial dominance and success of unimaginable proportions to make it the one and only Superpower now for over fifty years.

The euphoria of success did inject some insolence into the country; we earned the epithet of “Ugly American” in the mid-1900. I would venture to say that that ugliness renders Americans even more notable and special. What is remarkable is after all that huge success – the ugly Americans kept their System open for everyone and did not shut the doors like the Britishers/Romans/Greeks did when success hit them in the head.

For some time now, the media has been abuzz with predictions of America fading away and China replacing it as the next Superpower. That is just the buzz; the fact is other countries, including the Dragon, are simply catching up because of our munificence in sharing the hard-earned riches and creative technologies/inventions with everyone.

This same exceptionalism will not allow the hardworking and creative Americans to subjugate themselves to any power or the new Superpower; they will die before that happens! America and Americans, by example of an extremely successful political and economic experiment, have proven beyond doubt that they are truly exceptional.

Is there any other way to define this term [Exceptional]?

Dave Anand ([email protected]), a technologist, has written and published two books: “People Super Highway, the Mystique & Quest of Soul” and “The Verses.”

*2011 World Giving Index: US Ranked Most Charitable Country on Earth: The United States climbed from fifth place to the rank of most generous country in the world, according to the Charity Aid Foundation. The United Kingdom is the eighth most charitable nation in the world while the world’s fastest growing major economies – China and India – rank among the least altruistic. India stood at 134th position and China at 147th with Chinese people among the least likely on the planet to volunteer; only 4% said they would. The U.S. has increased its charity by 3 percentage points in this year, up to $212 billion.
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John O'Neill October 16, 2021 at 7:52 am

As a West Norwalker I’d like to know why Tom Livingston and Lisa Shanahan failed to alert area residents to this proposal. If NON didn’t run this story we never would’ve known..I thought they were supposed to be representing us? Maybe they’re proponents of the project? I’d like to get quotes from them for this story…In theory District E zoning issues should come before planting trees for these council members.

CT-Patriot October 17, 2021 at 5:32 am

Why place it in AAA residential zoning area? Looks like this was a set-up as before and we as taxpayers are about to get soaked again.

I’m all for freedom of religion and they should have the ability to build a structure as big as they choose on land that can accommodate the structure in the proper zoning area.

However, Richards Avenue does have other houses of worship and this seemed logical for their establishment seeing the others on the same street.

Unless the council work together with zoning to possibly change just that exact location for other than AAA residential, I believe things will once again get heated and everyone in Norwalk will loose.

I hope this can be solved without things get out of hand.

Nora King October 17, 2021 at 9:43 am

Harry Rilling promised to change zoning eight years ago so this would never happen again. He looked me directly in the eye as well when I was on zoning and made me that promise. Why was the zoning not changed?

Steve October 17, 2021 at 5:46 pm

Republican legislators made special provisions to give religious organizations special treatment under the law. This makes it very difficult for municipalities to limit them. Many who are complaining here are of the same Ilk. They have reaped what they have sown

Missy Conrad October 17, 2021 at 6:22 pm

Hello, Everyone! Have you ever been at the Sikh Temple in the former Union Bank on West Avenue, where it is still located? When we had an active Clergy Association of all denominations here in Norwalk, many of us were invited to the Temple. I was the Quaker representative. We Quakers were (not)known locally by our official name on our checks written for donations: “Wilton Monthly Meeting,” which is meaningless to most people; finally we changed to “Wilton Quaker Meeting,” which is still misleading, since Quakers come from all over & name our Meeting Houses geographically. A Quaker Meeting House is not in the village, but at a cross road, as is explained by guides at Sturbridge Village.
My husband Jeff & I grew up in Pelham, NY, down the RR Line. After living many places, we took the advice of an older fellow employee at Doubleday Publishing & came up to Norwalk in October, 1971. With help from our aunt & uncle, we bought a little house with a barn. We read The Norwalk Hour & learned about opportunities. Tish Gibbs needed a place to store newspapers that had been picked up by volunteers on Saturday but had to wait until Monday to be brought to the scrap dealer, which used to be next to the Norwalk Transfer Station. And, I, who earlier in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, had campaigned for Jeff while five months pregnant & ended up filling his position in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society Program & working with the Central Park Conservancy to re-do the 46th Street Park depicted in West Side Story, attended Norwalk’s Parks & Recreation Commission, since disbanded. With our little daughter Grace at home, I volunteered to babysit the children of the Board of the League of Women Voters once a month. Once I had seven boys & one girl who, though young, all had Spring Fever! Afterwards, I was given a gift membership to the League of Women Voters of Norwalk. That is where I met my best friend, Louise Golub, with whom I worked on environmental & social issues, such as housing & city planning & financing. Also, as a follower of Jesus & mentored by the Rev Dr Martin Luther & Coretta Scott King, thus a Pacifist, I advocate cutting our military spending, as does the US Conference of Mayors, & reallocating the $ to human needs.
The City of Norwalk can lower the property taxes of people who own near a building such as this Temple. I am in favor of this plan.

Michael Allan Torre October 18, 2021 at 9:41 am

Traditional American life and values are undergoing change and upheaval from internal and external forces without resistance to the changes or support for traditional American values.

Joanna Cooper October 18, 2021 at 2:33 pm

The message residents should take away here is that this administration doesn’t provide protection to home owners. They are proposing a monstrous structure in a triple A zoned neighborhood. If they can do it there they can do it anywhere.
We are being sold out to developers by our mayor and the one party common council. Clearly they don’t learn from their mistakes and they ignore the rights and pleas of residents. Time to clean house Election Day.

Steve October 19, 2021 at 9:47 pm

Not sure where Michael Allan Torre is going here but it has the sound of xenophobia . Our strength comes from our diversity, tolerance and pull up by the bootstraps mentality, that includes different forms of spirituality.

Concerned Neighbor November 12, 2021 at 8:06 pm

The initial permit application filed on 8/9 clearly states in its first three paragraphs, that this structure will be serving their congregants from the entirety of Fairfield County CT, as well as Westchester County, NY. Exactly how many of those current congregants are actually tax paying residents or even business owners in the city of Norwalk? All the existing religious facilities in the area being used as a precedent by the applicant in this case have one glaring difference from this proposed facility. They each serve congregations primarily composed of local Norwalk residents.
That point seems to be one that no one is willing to broach in this process, but is perhaps one of the most important to be considered.
Why are we considering allowing a magnet religious center that serves multiple counties across two states, to be built in a residentially zoned neighborhood, on a comically small parcel of land for the massive size of the structure, that cannot possibly work in the long term for everyone involved?

I fully understand that from the applicants perspective they were able to purchase the land for a mere fraction of its comparative cost if it were located in an appropriate commercial zone. But what is, or will be in the future, their actual contribution to our local community? What is their actual skin in the proverbial game after this facility is built? Plain and simple, this is a multi-state regional facility, to be built in a residential neighborhood that does not have the infrastructure to adequately support it in the long term no matter what kind of spin is applied to it now during the permitting process.

The foundation excavation alone for this structure will consume around 1/3 of the 1 acre parcel including the minimal safe over-dig and stock-piling areas required by the process. Plus the massive drainage galleries and septic system excavations to follow that will consume virtually all undisturbed ground remaining within the allowed property setbacks afterwards. There will be a steady stream of heavy equipment, triaxles hauling in/out, and intermittent concrete trucks lined up on Richards avenue completely blocking a lane of the road several days a week for at least the first 6 months of the project. As they will have almost no room whatsoever to effectively manage the daily site-work logistics involved while also providing minimal parking for the dozens of men actually performing the work each day onsite.
That means about 10 vehicles to/from the school or from Fillow making that left turn will be forced to sit and wait past the stop sign on Richards until flagged through. Or traffic will be detoured down Fillow and through Geneva to get around the construction area and back to Richards. They love making hypothetical Traffic Impact surveys about presumed circumstances when the project is actually completed in several years. The truth is that this build will shut down half of Richards Avenue intermittently on almost a daily basis for months. Leaving a constant daily trail of mud and site debris trailing away from the jobsite each and every day no matter how many gravel “track pads”, their engineers indicate be installed on the plans to appease the Building Department in pre-con submittals. That much is not hypothetical and is a certainty.

After at least 18 months of that when the new facility is substantially completed to the point it can be occupied as the remaining work continues outside, that constant influx of construction traffic will be immediately augmented by and then replaced by out of town congregants entering and leaving the building to and from I95 and the Merrit.

That is exactly what we are signing up for here folks. As a homeowner living in the immediate area, I feel it necessary to question why this enormous Regional Magnet Facility is likely going to be built in our residentially zoned neighborhood, and what its ties are to the actual Norwalk community and its tax rolls per congregant that this facility truly has, before accepting the ongoing daily inconveniences and certain negative impact on my personal property value that it will surely incur in perpetuity thereafter. The fact they got a really great deal on a small derelict property outside an expensive commercial zone to greatly expand their current facilities which serve the greater metro NY area, isn’t making me feel better about it here in West Norwalk down the street.

CT-Patriot November 13, 2021 at 10:13 am

Seems a deep dive into the entire aspect of zoning, property, construction, traffic, etc.

@Concerned points out more in depth details that seem lacking in both news articles but also from government on full disclosure.

From all things considered, before things get out of hand as it did prior, it may be more prudent to find a much larger parcel of land in an area that can better service their build-out/construction, but their congregation as well at the same price or maybe less.

Unless there is a more suitable but larger parcel in an area that can handle all the above, I believe once again this will end up in court then all residents will again be paying off legal fees and settlement.

The more you think about this, the more you have to believe this was put in motion to fail from the beginning and to get a windfall of cash in the end by Norwalk taxpayers.

Concerned Neighbor November 29, 2021 at 8:28 pm

@CT Patriot raises a great point in stating that this will very likely not end reasonably for anyone involved. Once this permit has been issued, it cannot be simply rescinded when the first dozen formal complaints are filed immediately after the project begins and its impacts become a daily reality for the local community.
Rendering that aforementioned point to be moot, the applicant has already made a presumably quite substantial capital investment in the property and its design/application processes to date. They will surely not back down at this point and effectively agree to just waste those significant investments made in earnest without fairly seeking compensation for their losses should the project not be permitted to move forwards into the actual construction phase.

The big picture that was wisely alluded to above is that the city of Norwalk has already allowed the process to proceed this far for the applicant, and their financial investments are now very real and have been made in earnest on their part… So basically, this matter can now ultimately only end in a future lawsuit one way or another and we will all be paying for it, again. The permit is rejected, the city invariably gets sued for several million dollars and has to settle it. The Permit is granted, and local residents begin suing for damages and it goes nowhere fruitful. It cannot be put back in the proverbial box now.

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