NORWALK, Conn. – It all boils down to a childish “tit for tat,” Norwalk Zoning Commissioner Nora King said, after being accused last week by Chairman Joe Santo of saying something that wasn’t true.
The issue on the table at Thursday’s Zoning Committee meeting was coastal area management – at last month’s meeting King quoted a state official as saying that Norwalk has the most lax enforcement of waterfront regulations in the state. Before this month’s discussion began Santo asked to get it into the minutes that the state official denied saying that.
King stood by her story and said Santo should spend his time on important issues, like instituting a way to inform the Board of Education about a potential influx of children from a new development.
NancyOnNorwalk was not at the Thursday meeting of the Commission’s committees, but heard about it from those who were pleased at the way King went “toe to toe” with Santo. NoN got a recording of the meeting, and listened to the five minute dustup.
At last month’s meeting, King said she had talked to Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Senior Environmental Analyst Marcy Balint and Sue Jacobsen of DEEP.
“You know what they said? We have the most shoreline out of any, any city in the state of Connecticut,” King said. “We have the most relaxed laws and we do not fight or defend our coastline.”
This month, Santo said that he had called Balint to check on that because he was very concerned about the comments “that were just disparaging to, I thought, the Commission.”
He referred to an email he had gotten from Balint, which was previously reported upon by NoN in a story here. Balint said in her email that the comments do not reflect the opinion of the Office of Long Island Sound Programs (OSLIP). “I would like to clarify certain supposed quotes and comments from me, regarding coastal zoning issues in Norwalk,” Balint wrote. “While I did have a conversation with Nora King by phone several weeks ago, I did not make the statements attributed to me in the October 12, 2014 article by Nancy Chapman, nor would I have had cause to do so … I would like to clarify that the CSPR provisions within the City’s zoning regulations are not ‘out of compliance’ with CCMA statutory provisions.”
Santo said he wanted it on the record that Balint denied making the comments. He said he had also gotten a letter from Jacobsen, although he hadn’t contacted her, denying the comments. Both of them had to get permission to talk to him, he said.
“I just want you to know that I don’t think that Marci said the things, that our regulations are poor in Norwalk,” Santo said. “If you read the letter she says that. Commissioner King has told me that in a conversation with her that she said these things but there is no way to prove that. I just think that this Marcy Balint and Sue Jacobsen being state employees, they got put on the spot. … If they did make these statements, which I don’t think they did, that were repeated at one of our meetings. I think it was the wrong thing to do and I don’t think that should happen again, that I had to go to this extent…. I have never in the past called a state employee, had to, with comments made at a meeting.”
King said she also wanted it on the record. “Marcy did have this conversation with me,” she said.
“I don’t believe it,” Santo said.
“Well, you’re calling me a liar. I feel like you’ve been spending 18 years covering up a lack of planning in town hall and the fact that we’re not reviewing Mike Greene, and that’s what this stems from,” King said, referring to the Planning and Zoning director.
“You’re out of line,” Santo said.
“Let’s leave Mike Greene out of this,” Greene said.
“I am not out of line with this,” King said.
“We’re not talking about staff, we’re talking about this,” Santo said.
“I read her letter very carefully. She supports the basis of my conversation,” King said.
“You should not be repeating stuff like that, that you can’t prove or that are not facts,” Santo said.
“What are you talking about?” King said.
“Marcy did not say the things you said she said,” Santo said.
“That’s not true. Did you really read this letter that she wrote?” King asked.
“I read it. You’re not explaining what she said well,” Santo said.
“No, you are going tit for tat, like a child, going up to the state, doing something like that,” King said. “I had a conversation with Marcy and to be honest with you I have talked to Sue Jacobsen about 20 times. So that’s not true but where this conversation is stemming from, Joe, is you’re mad because I want Mike Greene to start being reviewed. I want performance evaluations, goals set. You’re not stepping up to the plate as the chairman to take care of this. I want more planning –”
“You’re absolutely wrong and you’re out of bounds,” Santo said.
“No, no, no,” King said. “You’re sitting here, bringing this up at a discussion. But meanwhile I have conversations to you about very valid things that we are missing out in the city. We have no plan in place for how we communicate with the Board of Ed. How developers get there, counting the children that are entering the school system, and this is the type of stuff that you are concerned with?”
Zoning Commissioner Emily Wilson, chairman of the committee, stepped in. “This is completely off topic from what we have on the agenda so let’s go back to the agenda,” she said.
“He didn’t have it on the agenda but he managed to put it in there, didn’t he Emily?” King said.
“He was talking about the coastal management and the DEEP,” Wilson said.
“I want to make sure this is in the minutes,” King said. “… Joe, any time you want to get into the boxing ring let’s put some gloves on and we can deal with it like grown-ups instead of sitting at a table going tit for tat, wasting taxpayer dollars because this is the type of games you like to play.”
Santo asked if that was some kind of threat.
“A child. A child,” King said.
The Board of Education issue that King referred to was mentioned at the Oct. 29 BoE budget forum in Rowayton. Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera said that the newly opened Waypointe apartment and retail complex on West Avenue is feeding children into Jefferson Elementary School.
“Jefferson is overcrowded,” he said. “We may well even this year have to take some steps with potentially changing attendance boundaries or making some administrative kinds of decision on that.”
While tenants have moved into Waypointe, the massive development is still under construction. Another apartment building has been approved to be built across West Avenue from Waypointe.
The BoE added a school bus route last year because of the new East Norwalk Avalon. As of February there were 17 children living in Avalon, that were attending Norwalk Public Schools. NPS Chief Financial Officer Rich Rudl said a new bus costs $80,000.