NORWALK, Conn. – If POKO Partners has gotten the construction loan it needs for Wall Street Place in time for the deadline laid out last summer, Norwalk Common Council members and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency do not know it.
At Thursday’s Planning Committee meeting, Council members said they believe POKO is in default of the terms of the extension to the Land Disposition Agreement that was granted in August. POKO is required to show proof of financing within 150 days of the extension, and the last update received by the Redevelopment Agency was on Nov. 30.
This is murky, though – not only are Council members not sure when the 150-day mark is, Mayor Harry Rilling last week said he believed POKO had the financing. Rilling was expecting to have a meeting with POKO this week.
Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Tim Sheehan said in a Tuesday email to NancyOnNorwalk that he expected to meet with POKO this week, but on Wednesday RDA Senior Project Manager Susan Sweitzer said Sheehan was out of town.
Sheehan has said at multiple meetings that he believed the 150-day deadline fell on Jan. 30.
“I am pretty sure they are moving forward. I don’t know if they provided proof yet but I know that Tim and the law department are working on it,” Rilling said on Jan. 30.
Then he said he is “relatively sure.”
“I don’t see them not moving forward, especially when he applied for foundation permit and all of that. … I think everybody is cautiously optimistic,” Rilling said.
On Jan. 21, POKO won the Zoning Commission’s approval for an amended design for the development.
Council members on Thursday, in a meeting staffed by Sweitzer, said that there was nothing to be done – POKO is in default.
“I have had one opinion that said we do nothing because he can’t do anything so it’s done. He has not provided the material. There is nothing to do because he has already violated the agreement,” Planning Committee Chairman Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) said.
Hempstead equivocated, saying that he wasn’t sure about the exact date of the 150-day deadline because he didn’t know when the agreement was signed. Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said that if it is 150 days after the vote to approve the extension, POKO has missed it.
“Great. Two years arbitration,” Councilman John Kydes (D-District C) said.
“If (the deadline) passes and we do not get a request for an extension, that’s it,” Kimmel said. “Unless we were to get a request for an extension with mitigating circumstances, which he would have to explain, and then our law department would have to look at it.”
“It still would take a vote of the Council to approve an extension, and what I heard last time, nobody had the stomach for that,” Hempstead said.
Council President Jerry Petrini (R-District D) said last week that he’d be reluctant to vote for an extension.
“I hope he’s got all his eyes dotted and Ts crossed because I made a promise that I was not going to vote for another extension. If you know anything about me … I make a promise, I don’t go back on it,” Petrini said.
Councilman Rich Bonenfant (R-At Large) said at Thursday’s meeting that he wanted to get something on the record, something that the Council members have said privately.
“We have to stop conveying land over the paperwork and tie it to actual construction because we are looking at two different projects here, getting burned in two different ways,” Bonenfant said.
He was referred to Norwalk’s other famous LDA, the one for Reed Putnam Urban Redevelopment Plan parcels 1, 2 and 4, otherwise known as 95/7. Norwalk approved a mixed use development for the property but Spinnaker Partners sold it to General Growth Properties, a mall developer. Norwalk is negotiating the terms under which GGP might be allowed to build a mall on the land.
Norwalk granted POKO ownership of a Wall Street parking lot when that LDA was signed.
“We gave away things and one person wants to change the scope of the project, and another person owns a parking lot that he didn’t have to build,” Bonenfant said. “Land shouldn’t be conveyed until there is actual construction.”