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Norwalk Zoners get in depth look at proposed Norden Place warehouse, distribution center

A rendering of the warehouse plan for Norden Place, as shown to the Norwalk Zoning Commission on Thursday.

NORWALK, Conn. — Concerns over truck traffic were one of the biggest issues raised as the Zoning Commission received an in depth presentation on proposed redevelopment at 10 Norden Place.

The plans call for converting about 330,000 square feet of an existing building to warehouse, storage, and distribution facility use, and combining the two southern driveways into one driveway.

“We think this is a beneficial and productive use of a long portion of a long vacant site,” said attorney Carolyn Cavolo, of Shipman & Goodwin LLP, representing the applicant. “We think that this is a really great use of this space. It’s a very unique space. And it is really well suited to what (was) described earlier as sort of part of the backbone of this new economy.”

Cavolo highlighted that the proposal would allow for a vacant site to be put to use, and that it was in alignment with the city’s master plan to allow for varied industrial uses. Still, Commissioners and staff members, as well as emails from residents, raised concerns about the number of trucks that could be added to local roads because of this project.

There’s not a straight way to get on and off the site from I-95, which is one of the challenges. According to Craig Yannes, a traffic engineer at Tighe and Bond that was hired by the applicant, the main “ideal” route for trucks to take would be to take Strawberry Hill road out to U.S. Route 1 and take that to either I-95 or Route 7.

The secondary route would involve trucks heading out of the site and going onto Fitch Street to East Avenue and getting to highways from there, but the turn onto Fitch could be challenging. Other potential routes have issues with height and weight restrictions on roads, Yannes said.

“How do you regulate that? How do you make the trucks go on these routes?” Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin asked.

“If the trucks can physically fit, there’s nothing that stops them from going anywhere that they want,” Yannes said, adding that height and weight restrictions as well as “no truck’ regulations on local roads are what prevent them from taking other routes.

A satellite image of Norden Place and its surrounding roads, as shown to the Norwalk Zoning Commission on Thursday.

Members of the public were not permitted to comment yet on the application, which was up for “further review” by the commission. Zoning Commission Chair Louis Schulman said that the application was not yet ready for a public hearing with some of the outstanding questions yet to be resolved.

However, more than two dozen residents of the East Norwalk, including members of the East Norwalk Neighborhood Association,  submitted comments to the Zoning Commission.

“I would like to know how anyone could think this is a good idea,” resident Loretta Esposito wrote. “The streets of East Norwalk are designed for cars and are way over burden already and now you want to add tractor trailers to the mix. If I didn’t know this was actually being considered I would think it’s an April Fool’s joke.”

“That property’s location is simply not ideal for this type of business in the surrounding neighborhoods,” resident Joe Licek wrote. “We will be greatly impacted and it leaves no room for any new, desirable city growth. It will be a huge burden on our city’s people and resources and it will bring on much aggravation into our community. We’re already at maximum capacity with extreme traffic conditions now.”

“Unless such a project proposes its OWN I-95 on and off ramps DIRECTLY ON THE PROPERTY (which I believe is not possible), this is a HORRIBLE idea for our city and neighborhoods, with no apparent positive outcomes,” resident Marilyn Marino wrote. “My neighbors and I are forming a group to oppose having these huge trucks on our local neighborhood roads.”

“It also would increase the traffic which is becoming more and more difficult. How can you consider these trucks where you have three schools on Strawberry Hill?” resident Mari Freeman wrote. “When was the last time you looked at how to improve the environment, when was the last time you did an up to date traffic study, when was the last time you considered the people who live on or near this catastrophe.”

 

Site Proposal

Renderings of the warehouse plan for Norden Place, as shown to the Norwalk Zoning Commission on Thursday.

The proposal would allow for two to three tenants in the 300,000-plus square feet of space available.

“What’s great about this portion of the building, and why we like it—it’s open space,” said Craig Benerofe, of Benerofe Properties, which is under contract to buy and lease the site.

Benerofe said they don’t know who the tenants are yet—they’ll be renovating and then leasing the space, but he anticipated about 100 employees working at the site, including “high skilled machine operators.”

The site will include a combined driveway because currently there’s a “sharp hairpin turn” at the entrance to the site on the south side.

“That’s not very conducive for trucks and people entering the site,” Erik Lindquist, an engineer at Tighe and Bond, said. “So we want to kind of straighten this out a little bit and make it a more easy movement for the vehicles coming in to get to the site.”

There would be about 18 total loading docks at the site, architect Grant Wright said.

The warehouse would be used for “business to business” purposes, Benerofe said, and not as a Fedex or UPS site.

The application would need a special permit from the Zoning Commission to proceed. Cavolo said that the proposed use would be “less intense” than other uses that could be put at the site, without needing a special permit, such as a research and development center, a manufacturing site, or “general office,” because Yannes said those would have more daily trips.

“What we’re talking about is a significantly less amount of traffic than what these other uses would be,” he said. “And if we were to think about other uses of this size, in general commercial and other apartment activity, you’d also see some more higher numbers for their trip generation rates, just based on the size of the property.”

Still, it was the number of proposed truck trips that left Commissioners and staff members asking questions.

The total number of daily “vehicle trips,” which include both passenger cars and trucks, is projected at 574, according to Yannes’ data. The total number of daily truck trips is projected at 198, with about seven entering and exiting during the peak morning hour of 7:15 to 8:15 a.m. and about 10 entering and leaving during the evening peak of 5 to 6 p.m.

Craig Yannes, a traffic engineer at Tighe and Bond, discusses a traffic study for Norden Place.

Truck trips to the site would start early, Benerofe said, estimating that they would start accepting deliveries around 6 a.m., but trucks could arrive and park earlier.

While many of the truck trips would occur outside of the “peak traffic times,” Commissioners said they could also be interfering with school travel.

“One of the points the neighbors made is there are three schools on Strawberry Hill,” Schulman said. “And you’re going to have more truck traffic, during the time, particularly in the afternoon, when children are coming home from school. So I mean, that’s an instance where that additional truck traffic during the day may not be a good thing at all. It may be more of a hazard to schoolchildren.”

Yannes said that Strawberry Hill is a “public roadway” that “any vehicle” can use.

“This roadway is designed for this traffic network,” he said. “We’re trying to keep that truck traffic on the major routes. This is one of the major routes in the area.”

Yannes said that based on their analysis, “it’s our opinion that the proposed warehouse is not expected to have a significant impact of traffic operations within the study area.”

Kleppin said that there is a peer review of the traffic study that is underway. The public hearing could take place in November, but commissioners said they needed some more answers before proceeding to that step.

Comments

9 responses to “Norwalk Zoners get in depth look at proposed Norden Place warehouse, distribution center”

  1. Joe

    I agree with this warehouse proposal for many reasons,
    including creating new jobs, and to help pay our City taxes.
    My original thought was that Amazon could utilize it
    for their local operations, because their nearest CT
    warehouse is in Wallingford.
    I also think new I 95 ramps could be constructed for trucks
    only, so that Truck’s don’t drive through local streets.
    Also, on the rear side of the building, another suggestion might be that the railroad could build a rail siding on this property to service it, and reduce truck traffic too.

  2. Ev

    Consider renovating for the new Norwalk High School. Great site. Lots of room. NO DANGEROUS 18-WHEELERS.

  3. Sarah Mann

    I was very disappointed with the lack of outreach for this Special Permit Application. The ENNA has a limited outreach (best intentions though) . As I went around to discuss this proposal in the neighborhood I discovered that residents of Howard Avenue and Woodfield Common were completely unaware of this application. What of the residents of the Avalon apartments? The lack of outreach is staggering considering the overall implications for the neighborhood. And during COVID? Really?

    Further, the operations may be 24/7. Most tractor trailers will be going up and down our streets twenty-four hours a day. The beeping of the trucks backing into the bays will be INCESSANT! That is a big, huge quality of life issue.

    As noted, Strawberry Hill has three schools. Some students walk, bike or take public transportation. Drivers in the city are aware of this and generally use caution. Out of town tractor trailer drivers probably will not be so considerate. They also cannot stop on a dime. Children are unpredictable. They run, they cross streets. They often don’t use caution. Think about it. Oh, and the bike lans will become superfluous.

    An exit on I95 designated for Norden is not an option now any more than it was years ago. It was defeated before due to concerns related to residents issues with thieves having a quick getaway after stealing autos or burglarizing homes in East Norwalk or Westport.

    We have new development coming along East Avenue. Part of that is being touted with a “walkability ” and biking and other TOD “perks”. Now exactly how attractive is that going to be to new renters when they see tractor trailers lined up on East Avenue 24/7. Unless they love the smell of diesel fumes in the morning-not so much. And riding a bike next to a tractor trailer on East Avenue, I don’t think so-unless you have a death wish or like to play chicken!

    It’s really great that the Norwalk Tree Alliance was able to chime in on this application regarding the trees on Norden Place. So glad that so far it looks like no trees will be removed and if they are they will be replaced. However, it will be a a small comfort to the residents of Norden Place if trucks end up queuing up there while they wait for a bay to open up.

    Hopefully this application will be given the scrutiny it deserves. It should be rejected. Flat out rejected.

  4. Mimi Chang

    Spot on, @Sarah Mann. This proposal is a safety and environmental disaster, a neighborhood wrecker, and completely flies in the face of planning a walkable/bikeable community. It exhibits blatant disregard for the alarming quality of life issues it will impose upon East Norwalk residents. Sadly, we are already anticipating a future of several hundred to potentially thousands of additional vehicles on the East Avenue corridor and side streets (And, amazingly, no comprehensive, holistic traffic study of the entire TOD area, as we were told by P&Z Director Steve Kleppin when we asked for one that there is no funding for it… I guess that means we residents will be the guinea pigs for traffic study!) with our city officials unbelievably passing the East Norwalk Neighborhood TOD Plan, its overdensity of which a strong majority of residents opposed. Now, we are stressing that we may have to contend with tractor trailer trucks clogging up and polluting our streets? At certain peak times, East Avenue is impassable already. The children who walk and bike to school on Strawberry Hill Avenue are of course my biggest concern. It is our job as adults to protect them at all costs and to keep them safe. They would quite literally be taking their lives into their own hands with gigantic tractor trailer trucks barreling alongside them. I agree too that the lack of outreach to residents regarding the subject matter is staggering. I am hugely disappointed with Chris Perone’s radio silence on the subject matter, and with the underwhelming advocacy thus far from our District C Reps Mr. Kydes and Mr. Theodoridis. And, is Bob Duff “standing up for us” on any of these controversial and stress inducing East Norwalk projects? I don’t think so!

  5. Steve Mann

    Mr. Kleppin’s remark is highly concerning. He’s seems not to be considering the many emails he got from AREA RESIDENTS, one of which he his not, in opposition to this application but has ALREADY drilled down to truck traffic pattern. That’s not the issue Steve.

    The beeping trucks throughout the night, the parked trucks on Triangle and Strawberry Hill, the trash, the coffee cups, etc, that will be thrown from the trucks, not to mention the fact that truckers often become “clientele” at all hours of the night. Think folks. This is not only about traffic but about compromising the very nature of our area. Is this SMART growth? Do we want that element in a residential neighborhood? And all they think about is the traffic element? That political appointees decide the future of our existence here is a shocking fact of local life. This issue is large enough to hold a referendum. Anyone in the administration who differs from this view is not thinking about your well-being, EN resident.

    We Norwalkers know that as far as the current administration goes, when City Hall wants something done, we find about it after the handshakes have happened, and public comment is regarded as a nuisance. While it warms my heart that attorney Cavolo thinks that this is a “great use of…….a unique space…for this new economy(???_” and I’m sure that from her front porch in Darien, that sounds like a good talking point from her argument, but she’s getting paid to think it’s a great idea, and we’ll end up paying the bill.

    Please, reject this application.

  6. George

    Does anyone remember when Bill Collins was mayor?

    His Planning and Zoning Commissioner’s were out of control. Then Frank Esposito and a Republican controlled council was elected.

    The council disbanded the P & Z commission thereby terminating the terms of the entire board and its members upon the vote.

    The council then created a Planning Commission and a separate Zoning Commission. Esposito was up in arms about splitting up P & Z.

    Frank Esposito then went forward and appointed board members to each commission and was able to get zoning under control very quickly.

    It’s time to repeat history and do the opposite of what the council did back then before Rilling and company destroy East Norwalk.

  7. NiZ

    Mann, Chang, Mann2 & George
    I live in east norwalk and agree with all your concerns. And yes we need champion legislators that respect residents.

  8. Michael Foley

    This is a bad idea for this property and all of East Norwalk. Please do not allow this to happen !

  9. Heather

    We currently have to listen to the train and the highway and now we are going to be listening to trucks backing up at 6 AM…NO THANKS. The idea of a fleets of tractor trailer trucks trying to navigate the left or right onto the strawberry hill in order to wind there way down to 95 is ludicrous. EAST NORWALK traffic is horrible have you stat on east ave lately. Also there are bus routes and kids all up and down Strawberry hill. I can’t think of a worse idea. How about a RECREATION FACILITY like a Chelsea piers type facility. For such a big city Norwalk could use some addition recreation space. Imagine skate rinks, and an aquatic facility, skate park, indoor soccer and fields, batting cages. Why can’t Norwalk use it’s spaces for something positive. Stop with the apartment complexes and industrial rezoning.

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