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Proposed Changes to O&G Site Raise Environmental, Traffic Concerns

A look at the O&G site. (Courtesy of Norwalk)

O&G Industries, located along Smith Street, wants to expand the use of its property along the Norwalk River to include the manufacture and storage of materials onsite. On Wednesday, the Norwalk Planning and Zoning Commission got its first look at the proposed changes.

“The proposal before this commission is to enhance the historic industrial use of the site to include the manufacturing and storage of materials that are brought to the site by waterborne transport, specifically barges,” Attorney Liz Suchy, who was representing O&G, told the Commission.

Right now, in addition to O&G, the site houses Sav-a-Tree, which offers tree pruning and trimming, tree removal, tree and lawn fertilization, organic lawn care, and lawn seeding, among other services. The Norwalk River Rowing Association also stores equipment on the southernmost portion of the site.

The O&G section of the site has been mostly used for storage of materials and Suchy said it’s “relatively inactive right now.”

With the new use, she said, O&G “anticipate(s) about 10-12 barges a month. The aggregate material would then be brought from the site to various construction sites.”

The proposal would have barges coming up the river, carrying sand or stone,which Suchy defined as “naturally occurring materials,” as opposed to artificial ones. From there, the materials would be taken off the barges with a “material handler”—aka a large bucket excavator machine—and unloaded  into “various bins on-site,” according to Richard Warren, of O&G Industries.

From there, trucks would  pick up the materials and deliver them to construction sites across Fairfield County, according to Warren. He estimated the site would receive two or three barges a week, with each barge holding materials for about 40 to 60 trucks.

Suchy said  the barge transport would help alleviate some traffic and provide a quicker means of transporting materials to the site.

“The benefit of this particular mode of transport is that it would remove trucks from I-95,” she said. “It’s a more feasible, economical, and faster method of transportation for this construction material that is essential for the construction industry in this section of the state.”

A look at the O&G site plan. (Courtesy of Norwalk)

Environmental and Traffic Concerns

Both commissioners and staff members said they had some concerns, specifically around the environmental impact of this use, as well as traffic to and from the site.

“It felt very rosy,” Commissioner Nick Kantor said of the applicant’s environmental impact report, adding that he would like to see an independent environmental analysis done. Kantor specifically noted that the transportation of materials from the barges to the trucks might cause some particulate matter to escape, such as dust into the air. The  applicant’s report said  there would be no particulates released.

Planning and Zoning Director Steve Kleppin noted that this was also something the staff noticed in its review of the application.

“I think we share your concerns there. I think the environmental report kind of glossed over that,” he said.

Two local neighborhood associations, the City Hall Neighborhood Association and the Norwalk Green Association, also raised concerns about the impact of this application, particularly around the environment and traffic.

“The application states that there will be 10-12 barges a month both loading and unloading ‘materials’  via dump truck transport,” a letter from the associations reads. “The diesel fueled dump trucks, coupled with particulate matter from the loading and unloading of cement and asphalt products, runs completely counter to the City’s recent efforts to be, as stated on the City’s website, ‘an environmentally sustainable city.’”

Bradford Craighead, the co-founder of the Norwalk Green Association, wrote that he wanted to let the city know his “grave concern with this application because of its detrimental impact to the neighborhood and its myriad of constituents. In fact, this application conflicts directly with every health, environmental, societal and commercial consideration that could be conceived for this location which is situated at Norwalk’s geographic center.”

Kleppin said that because staff wanted more information around the environmental impact and the traffic data of trucks  to and from the site, he recommended  the applicant come back for another preliminary review before the item is moved to a public hearing, at which community members can weigh in.

“You do have the authority to look at a secondary environmental review,” Kleppin told the commission. “We were also looking for a much more detailed understanding of operations. It might make sense for them to come back at a later meeting with a second preview of this before you schedule your public hearing.”

Suchy said that they would work to provide that information to staff and then the commission ahead of that review to “give everyone the opportunity to digest” the information.

Comments

26 responses to “Proposed Changes to O&G Site Raise Environmental, Traffic Concerns”

  1. Bryan Meek

    By all means possible we need to get these trucks off of 95 and so they can prowl through our neighborhoods. After all we’re on a mission to make Norwalk the greenest city in the state. And now with the bike lanes all over East Norwalk, we finally have the narrow pothole ridden streets to slow them down so they can emit more exhaust making our air even cleaner. Can we please get a picture of our dignitaries with their shovels on one of these barges when this sails through the commission?

  2. Anasta Kydes

    As a life long resident of Norwalk and property owner I have serious concerns about the proposed changes to the OG site. I own 104 and 106 East Avenue; 104 is historical. It’s a mixed use property where I have tenants that reside as well as an office for my counseling practice. As it is, traffic, speeding, and congestion are highly problematic. There are times when I can’t take a left or a right out of the parking lot because of the high volume and speed of the oncoming traffic. Potentially allowing 10-12 barges a month loading and unloading materials which from what I read is about 2-3 barges a week, with each barge holding materials for 40-60 trucks, seems completely insane on so many levels and will only make an existing problem worse. Not to mention the environmental and health concerns of the materials being loaded an unloaded. As a tax payer, property owner, and concerned citizen, I implore that this matter be given serious thought and consideration prior to approving anything that’s going to be harmful to life as we know it in a town that many of us call home.

  3. Greer Fredericks

    Isn’t this going against what this neighborhood is trying to rebuild? This doesn’t make any sense that this could potentially be happening in Central Norwalk.
    I have invested in this community- working and living one block from each other- this is ridiculous ! BUT it m pretty sure the city will do the right thing, this neighborhood has been mistreated and neglected for far too long! Too many positives happening around here, no room for serious truck traffic!

  4. Sarah Flade

    As a resident and owner at Riverway Condominiums, this O&G site would be very disruptive to our community. I walk my dog daily past the site, and always have to be cautious of cars. However, with many construction trucks going in and out of the area, I may have to stop walking to Mill Hill. We sit on on our balcony admiring the rowers, and kayak down the river. If barges were continual, it would take over the recreational use and also disrupt the wildlife like the swans and ducks. Preservation should be of utmost importance, we live in a very historic and peaceful area that should not be overturned by this business endeavor. Please consider us residents and rowing club, we are very much against these proposed changes!

  5. Brenda Grant

    Hello, I think reactivation of the O&G Asphalt Plant on Smith St. Is the last thing we need. This will turn a lovely residential area that is thriving with a waterway with overlooking condos/apartments that are sorely needed today, into an over used industrial plant site. This is right off East Avenue, in a neighborhood that is being revitalized and developed around the Norwalk Green as a walkable area. This plant would counteract any of this. If you do the math, 12 huge barges a month (3 a week on a narrow and quiet waterway) with each barge load filling 40-60 truckloads, is another way of saying this will become a fully active construction site. Who would want to live with the increased noise, air and water pollutions. Consider the people who are living here now, and those who may come in the future if we can keep this as a residential area.

  6. Zvi Cole

    As a Norwalk taxpayer, property owner, and concerned citizen the O&G proposal is detrimental on many levels. This business will negatively and severely impact our air, water, natural habitat, traffic, safety, and quality of life in the immediate area as well as Norwalk in totality. This is the antithesis of what Norwalk is trying to do as a city, as a downtown, and as a leader in building a community. This plan does not benefit residents, owners, our downtown, and certainly not our health and safety. There is already a lot of large truck traffic from the businesses operating on Smith Street. Just today there was an 18-wheeler and many other trucks blocking the pass-through. This creates a safety issue for the students and parents going to the rowing club, the residents of the Head of the Harbor, Riverway condos, and more residents in the area- all this before we even talk about the air quality and noise. Please reconsider the relocation of this operation. #notgoodforNorwalk

  7. Jim Sweitzer

    As a high school rowing club, we’re concerned not only with the environmental impact, but the potentially very serious safety matters on the river.Daily the river has between 100-150 high school age rowers and coaches on the river. When the barges enter the river – they create a significant safety hazard for the kids. Additionally, when they exit they most always the sit under the Yankee Doodle Bridge awaiting opening of the Walk bridge- stopping ALL river traffic. Safety issues surrounding the use of the barges doesn’t appear to have been addressed in the application.

  8. Roman Vengerovskiy

    This will definitely have a major negative and dangerous impact not only on our streets with 40-50 trucks per barge and possibly even more but also to our beautiful harbor and river.

    10-12 barges on the river monthly will cause havoc on the river. Impacting Safety on waterways for recreational watercraft, impacting the environmental state of the river and wildlife and most of all impacting the whole rowing community.

    Norwalk is home to multiple rowing clubs that offer rowing for all ages and abilities primarily youth rowers. Having this many barges plus the Devine Concrete supply barges on the river monthly will have a hazardous and substantial impact on daily operations on the river and impact everyone’s quality of life in our harbor and river.

  9. Is there a scenario where Norwalk derives any benefit from O&G’s plans ?
    No – in fact, Connecticut’s “Greenest City” catastrophically loses in every single category except maybe the relatively small number of jobs that might be generated, locally.

    Perhaps a legal expert can explain why a dormant and quasi non-conforming materials processing site is convertible into a broad license to destroy central Norwalk’s neighborhoods with a dramatically scaled and different operation.

    Relative to Devine’s operation on the other side of the Norwalk River channel, this Application proposes a 10x increase in barge traffic which is both inconceivable and unconscionable. Personal safety and operational risk for the rowing & boating communities on the river and in the harbor must be assessed. Logically, wouldn’t the consequential dredging and unprecedented level of maritime activity threaten the water quality of the Shellfish industry and other living organisms in this sensitive area ?

    Why does Central Norwalk have to facilitate a “waterborne” business that brings ~720+ dump trucks a month onto Wall St, East Ave and Park St ?
    That’s one dump truck arriving / departing (50-80,000 lbs.) every 13.3 minutes using the Applicant’s math during regular business hours, starting at 7am.

    Experts say this level of heavy commercial traffic readily destroys our infrastructure, so taxpayers also get to pay for the privilege of having these mammoth commercial vehicles tear up our roads and destroy our neighborhoods en route to sites unknown rather than just keep using I-95 ?

    If the Applicant wanted to bring in 20 or 30 barges per month (1,200 – 1,800 dump truck runs) should Norwalk and its taxpayers just give-in and build new roadways for them ?

    I sincerely hope that if the City of Norwalk really wanted to reject or significantly scale down this proposal, it would – and if it could, it certainly should.

    Brad Craighead
    Norwalk Green Association

  10. William Morton

    Historically hasn’t Smith St in Central Norwalk and East Norwalk always been an Industrial Area? In fact, if you look at the 1951 aerial photos of the area, you will see that it was far more industrialized in the past than it is today.

  11. Mark Hankin

    I think one only needs to look at the development to the north on Smith Street to understand this is a ridiculous proposition. There are two apartment buildings and like 1000 feet of riverside promenade. It is urban and successful. That site used to be an abandoned and polluted factory. I suspect the O&G site is highly polluted as it was formally owned by several large corporations, including Mobil. And the presence of an abandoned asphalt plant (asphalt is made from crude oil) certainly questions the current environmental state of the site. Much, much more information is required and by hiding behind a “water use application”, they are trying to sneak through a negative use without proper vetting. Liz Suchy is the master of this so O&G hired the best. Let’s not allow this to find a crack in our system. Please ask questions and understand that this is not what our zoning regulations intended.

    1. Bob Giolitto

      Hmm. We want a green city so we pollute the river with more barges. We want a green city so we add tens of trucks per week to our roads. We want a green city so we add a tremendous amount of loading and unloading, spewing particulants into the air (did you really expect us to believe that one?). Next we’ll hear that this is new business which will lower our residential property taxes–except history shows that whenever we’re told this the taxes go up. History, we study it so we know which lies will be repeated.

      1. Darius Francis

        Is this a serious idea? The Mayor has vowed to make Norwalk “The Greenest City in Connecticut.” Having a large asphalt plant operation on the River right next to the Norwalk Green would be the most OPPOSITE thing to that goal. In fact, we should get rid of the smaller asphalt plants that do exist on the river and zone the area as commercial and residential only.

        Think about the dust, noise, traffic, pollution, potholes… Do we want to make Norwalk green and beautiful or ugly?

        This proposal has ZERO benefit to our community and threatens its growth, values, and health.

  12. Tysen Canevari

    O&G is losing out on all this apartment business in Norwalk while business is booming for Devines. They need a local spot. The way it works is you pay the vig to Attorney Suchy and you get what you want. Previously it was Frank Zullo who you had to kiss the ring. Welcome to the world according to Norwalk. Wonder what the split is for the mayor. There is nothing green about Norwalk. Not one solar panel on any city building!

  13. Vincent Parisi

    As I read these comments I am not surprised by the utter lack of diversity of thought. It seems many people have a sense of entitlement airs about themselves. The “Not in my backyard” attitude is palpable.
    A little history lesson for those that actually believe that area in particular to be some sort of “Green” space.
    1. That beautiful park situated on the northbound side of the Yankee doodle Bridge was for many years used as the town landfill. Its never been remediated, just capped with fill.
    2. Before all those slick developers came to town and built all those beautiful homes along the quaint riverside, no environmental remediation took place anywhere along that once solely industrial area.
    The point is. That area is toxic at worst, highly polluted at best. Looks nice, however, looks are deceiving.
    Sand and trap rock will be nothing compared to the toxic mud that lines that channels bed.
    If anyone on the P&Z commission had half a brain, they’d would work toward a viable solution as opposed to their bourgeois attitudes and snark getting in the way of progress.

  14. Louise Washer

    I am commenting on behalf of the Norwalk River Watershed Association (NRWA) to express the organization’s concerns about threats the proposed changes pose to water quality in Norwalk Harbor. We are glad the city has asked for more information on environmental impacts and we think they should include modeling of threats posed by predicted sea-level rise affecting the harbor. NRWA asks that a full environmental impact evaluation be conducted.

  15. Fred Wilms

    O&G’s industrial operations do not belong there. The CIty should acquire this site and convert it to green open space.

  16. As a Business owner on East Wall Street, I am extremely concerned with the significant increase of dump truck traffic that will be required to move 12 barges of material from the O&G site. What will the required traffic pattern be for all these trucks? Traffic is not allowed to make the left from East Avenue onto Hubble Lane. Will the trucks need to come up Park Street or Wall Street in order to arrive at the O&G property on Smith Street? It seems the trucks will need arrive from another location via I-95 and more than likely depart Norwalk via I-95 so where is the “less truck traffic” defined exactly?
    Concern number 2; The photo image in the article shows three barges on the Devine side of the upper Norwalk River. Please note, they are NOT tide tight to the bulkhead in order for the barges to stay afloat at low tide. When you look at the schematic sketch of the O&G plan, the barges are tided tight. In actuality, when there are proposed barges on BOTH side, the upper river will be blocked and vessel’s docked at the Norwalk Boat Club will NOT be able to pass by at low tide. This would infringe on the boat owners rights to utilize the waterway freely.
    We may not all agree on the proper use of the decades old commercial property but I feel we can all agree on safe roads, cleaner air to breath and lets not forget the added noise polution if this proposal for O&G is granted. My since hope is that our planning and zoning is actually on the citizens side and keepss our best interest first and foremost.

  17. I am very concerned with the massive scale of the O&G application, and how it will impact our local residential neighborhoods. In terms of 10-12 barges a month, 50-60 truck loads per barge, this is an average of 600 truck loads per month. So let’s be clear – this is actually 1200 truck trips through our local mixed residential neighborhoods – 600 empty and 600 full. In terms of what they say is a goal of reducing truck traffic on I-95 – where do we think these O&G trucks are coming from en route to Smith Street, if not I-95? And then where would they be going to once full? If not back to I-95 – then through our residential neighborhoods. So how is this reducing traffic on I-95, if not increasing local traffic? Bottom Line: The only way to know what the impact will be on our local roads will be a complete traffic impact study done in the full context of this application prior to it being approved. I strongly urge the Zoning Commission to table this application until a thorough study can be completed.

  18. roger shields

    We are long term residents and property owners in Norwalk and do not believe the O&G’s requested changes for 7-55 Smith Street are in the public good since O&G is actively seeking to remove public assets from the community.

    Planning & Zoning have no authority over the Norwalk River itself, just the adjacent land. Therefore, from my point of view, P&Z needs to look closely at the impact the proposed changes would have on The Norwalk River Valley Trail route which is planned for the same area. Recent adjacent developments have in part been approved with modifications allowing for the completion of this trail. Why should O&G not be held to the same high standards of development.

    The other issues being reviewed are traffic, noise and pollution which have all been minimally addressed by O&G, apparently to the satisfaction of some Norwalk of Norwalk’s responsible boards who are acting within the guidelines of their authority but not under the hard review these issues demand in the continuing revitalization of Norwalk.

    More importantly, I believe the complete blockage of the Federal Navigation Channel by these barges is the largest communal asset which O&G would be taking from the public. The channel is directly adjacent to the bulkhead and thus docking any barge here will impede the free right of navigation to travel the channel This, however, is not under the purview of the P&Z nor the DEEP and may only be slightly under the authority of the state appointed Harbor Master. The USCG has final authority for control of the federal waterways but like the Harbor Master have not replied to my enquiries.

    As another tact to impede O&G’s efforts to use land use regulations to rob Norwalk residents of the wonders of the Norwalk River, anyone else may want to contact as I have:
    [email protected]
    [email protected] attn: Katie Lawrence

    I do hope Mayor Rilling will make his views known on this issue.
    Roger Shields

  19. Sid Welker

    I really enjoy walking through down town Wall Street all the way towards the apartments buildings on Smith street until it stops at the O&G site. Ive been hearing for years that the walk is going to continue on down the river but with the O&G site wanting to re-open, I don’t see that happening in my lifetime, which is a shame. All of the hard working Wall street businesses and developers have done a great job cleaning up the area. Just to see it be brought down again with dust, noise, and most importantly, an enormous amount of tri-axle truck traffic. These said trucks will tear up the roads, spread the dirt and exhaust and put families with young children and other pedestrians like myself in harms way. Just because a puzzle piece fits in that spot doesn’t mean it the correct piece to complete the puzzle. Do the right thing Norwalk officials and deny O&G, its big wallets and scary lawyers. The future of Norwalk, its environment, but most importantly, its people deserve the best. And O&G isn’t it!

  20. Marissa Florio

    This is a disaster. There is enough noise, pollution and traffic to contend with in this area as it is. This project needs to be shut down immediately.

  21. Tysen Canevari

    Sid The mayor never makes his feelings known on anything Thats how he stays in office He just sits back and waits to be informed if he should show up for the photo of compliment the council for squashing the project. Thats what politicians do: NOTHING

    1. Sid Welker

      Hi Tysen, All of this political talk makes me regret leaving my hometown of Kannapolis, NC. And while I do agree that most politicians don’t live up to everyone’s expectations, Mayor Rillings has gone on record in saying he wants Norwalk to be the most greenest City in Connecticut. To me, that’s a very big commitment to the citizens of Norwalk. If Mayor Rillings doesn’t step up and openly condemn O&G from reopening its plant along the River to halt huge trucks coming into a downtown, polluting the roads, river and people, then I will gladly walk besides you in your constant public shaming of Mayor Rilling. If a man doesn’t have his word, what does he have? Until then, I hope the Mayor steps up with a definitive position on this matter.

  22. Erik Vitaglione

    Will the company doing the development pay for repairs and improvements the roads would require for such industry? I walk along the “River Trail” from East Norwalk to Wall Street often, which passes O&G, and those roads are already decrepit. Adding exponential more tonnage on a consistent basis will have a more destructive impact on already frayed infrastructure. How much more in taxes will this project generate in relation to the obvious environmental, traffic, and quality of life issues this truck depot will bring to the community?

  23. Susanne Lapsien

    As a resident by the Norwalk River, I strongly oppose the restart of the company. With the town striving to become the greenest in Connecticut, allowing such a business to resume operations would contradict our efforts. Not only would it pose environmental concerns, but the pollution and noise would greatly impact the quality of life for residents and the rowing club. Let’s prioritize sustainability and the well being of our community.

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