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.
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.”
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.
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.