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Norwalk zoners say Spinnaker’s Maritime Village regulation change leading TOD district shift

NORWALK, Conn. – The approval of a relatively small South Norwalk development Wednesday brings with it a change in zoning regulations close to what had been contemplated four years ago, Zoning Commissioner Adam Blank said.

“It covers the entire Transit Oriented Development (TOD) zone,” Blank said of the change in height and parking requirements, and the creation of a “middle tier” of housing, between affordable housing and market rate.

Spinnaker Real Estate Partners’ Maritime Village at 17 and 19 Day St. received unanimous approval at Wednesday’s Zoning Commission meeting. The three-building complex includes a six-story apartment building that would face the Washington Village project at 20 Day St., and a two-story building that would house two duplex units, each with three bedrooms. There also is an existing building, which will continue to be used for manufacturing, Attorney Albert Vasco said.

The project is in Norwalk’s TOD zone, where the goal is to increase the density of housing in proximity to the South Norwalk train station. Zoning regulations allow for one housing unit for every 1,650 square feet if the developer includes 10 percent workforce housing, but a developer can build one unit for every 800 square feet if it includes 30 percent workforce housing, he said. The allowable height of a building also plays into this, as the 800-square-foot option allows for a six-story building, he said. For 1,650 square feet, it’s four stories.

In a new wrinkle, Spinnaker will be allowed to have 10 percent of the housing for workforce, with rent at 80 percent of state median, and 10 percent would be open to those making 100 percent of state median income, to create a “middle tier” of housing.

“Your zone change moves us, I think, in the right direction in a number of areas, reducing required parking, increasing the density and increasing the height,” Commissioner Adam Blank said. “I think on all of those things is a step forward. I would like it to go another step forward.”

Former Commissioner Mike Mushak spoke in favor of the project, calling it the type of development South Norwalk needs.

“In the old days they used to bulldoze whole neighborhoods, that’s how we ended up with 95/7,” Mushak said. “This is infill development. This is smart development. I support the increased density and the reduced parking requirements.

“I would also like to take the opportunity to say that we have a TOD zoning overlay that is not perfect, but it was worked on by a study in 2011-2012 that would standardize the zoning in the 12 or 13 zones that we now have in South Norwalk, including as far over as the Webster Street lot,” Mushak said. “We have varying densities, varying units per acre, varying parking requirements. It’s confusing to developers, it’s confusing to the commission. I think we can just have a transit oriented district zoning overlay, which accomplishes all the things that this project had to come forward with; standard, sort of customized text amendments in order to do what the commission could have been proactive with earlier and done, but I just want to support in the future looking at the whole district. This is definitely a step in the right direction for the city and I think it’s going to be a great project for South Norwalk and the whole city.”

The only note of caution came from Commissioner Nora King.

“I like the direction that these type of projects are moving in. I like the height,” she said, but “I am very concerned about is creating new formulas for affordable or workforce housing. I think it’s tougher for people to follow, I think it’s a lot more legal jargon. I feel like it’s not simple, concise and I have a concern there. I don’t think that’s the developer’s fault, I think that’s the city of Norwalk’s fault for not really being progressive and coming up with a set of standards that we sort of apply to all projects. I think that’s something as a commission we need to take a look at and it be done sooner than later so it’s not project-based it’s more the philosophy the city wants to have.”

Blank said after the meeting that Spinnaker’s zone change was a somewhat watered down version of a regulation that had been worked on four years ago. Spinnaker weakened it so it would make it through the commission, he said.

A controversy over sidewalks for the project fizzled.

While commissioners pushed Spinnaker last week to put in sidewalk along property it didn’t own, to the end of Day Street, it turns out there is already a sidewalk there. It had been obscured in the satellite photo by trees, engineer Manny Silva said.

All of the new 9-foot sidewalks will connect to existing sidewalks and have granite curbs, he said.

Comments

One response to “Norwalk zoners say Spinnaker’s Maritime Village regulation change leading TOD district shift”

  1. Non Partisan Voter

    So, now that Spinnaker has their approval, will they actually build it, put it up for sale to flip it for a quick profit, or just let it sit there for years like they did with 95/7?

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