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P&Z Commission approves plans for 1 Cemetery St., despite objections from East Norwalk residents

The Norwalk Planning and Zoning Commission meets Wednesday in the City Hall Community Room. Attorney Adam Blank, representing the applicants seeking to build a mixed use development on Cemetery Street, is shown on the iPad in the foreground.

NORWALK – The Norwalk Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-2 Wednesday to approve plans for 1 Cemetery St., which call for building 77 apartment units, of which seven would be workforce units; 102 parking spaces and additional on and off-site improvements. The approval came despite dozens and dozens of residents speaking out against the project, even more writing letters to the commission, and more than 700 residents signing a petition asking the developer to scale the project back.

The approval came at the third meeting for this project—the first was a more than three-hour presentation by the applicant with a small bit of public comment; the second featured exclusively public comment for about five hours; and the third was a rebuttal presentation by the applicant, which included question and comments from Planning and Zoning Commissioners.

Planning and Zoning Chair Lou Schulman listed the special permit criteria under the East Norwalk Village TOD Zone, which he said the project met.

“These regulations were intended to allow and encourage the possibility of development since it [didn’t] seem to be happening under what were the existing zoning regs,” Schulman said.

The plans reflect a City proposal to turn Cemetery Street into a one-lane road, but that decision hasn’t been finalized by ConnDOT and the City’s Transportation, Mobility, and Parking department. The applicant has said the project can work with two lanes, but by taking away a lane it adds things like on-street parking and a bike lane.

Colin Grotheer of Beinfield Architecture presents plans for The Lofts at Mill Pond to the Planning and Zoning Commission, March 2 on Zoom.

Comments from Zoning Commissioners

Many Commissioners said they supported the project and hoped it would “reinvigorate East Norwalk.” Commissioner Mike Mushak recalled how East Norwalk used to have factories that employed 3,000 people and when shifts got off the restaurants and streets would be bustling.

“It was busy,” he said. “What you see now is a hollowed-out version of what East Norwalk used to be and that’s what this project helps restore.”

Mushak said that he’s been in the audience before as a Norwalk resident when he’s agreed with, and been upset with decisions made.

“There’s a lot of fear, a lot of anger,” he said. “I’ve been disappointed, I’ve been elated. I have stood out there and sat out there…we’ve listened carefully to everything everybody had to say.”

However, he said that advice he received years ago was to vote based on “facts and not fear,” and so he said he supported the project.

Other Commissioners were more hesitant, expressing favorability for parts of the planliked but also concerns.

 

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Ana Tabachneck watches a Zoom presentation while sitting in the City Hall Community Room during a hybrid meeting.

“I am concerned that the number of spaces may not be sufficient for guests for retail if there really, truly is meaningful retail,” said Commissioner Ana Tabachneck, who said she lived a few blocks from the project. “There’s a number of things about this project that I really like, but I do still have some concerns with how it will impact the neighborhood and fit in with the neighborhood.”

Tabachneck voted no.

Commissioner Tammy Langalis said she have a lot of mixed emotions about this project.

“I think the applicant has done an excellent job of trying to answer many concerns,” she said. “I think the quality of their projects have been good; they’re interesting, they don’t try to make one massive monolith structure. But then I hear the pain of the people in East Norwalk. They want to get to and from their homes like everybody else.”

Langlis said the city needs to do more “traffic engineering” in East Norwalk to address traffic issues, particularly on the way to I-95.

“They’re upset, they feel like their neighborhood is getting dumped on,” said Langalis, who voted that she was “opposed without prejudice.”

Upset About Zoning

Citizens attend the March 2 Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing on 1 Cemetery St. (Harold F. Cobin)

Attorney Adam Blank, a former Zoning Commissioner representing the developer, said that many of the opposition comments from the public weren’t actually against the project itself, but against the approved zoning that allows it.

“Really the vast majority of the opposition—I mean, you could say that it was about this project—but it wasn’t about this project. It is about the zoning,” Blank said. “They’re unhappy with the zoning, they’re unhappy with the East Norwalk Village TOD regulations. And that’s what the primary gripe is—folks that didn’t like the zone change came out to oppose the project.”

The city approved the East Norwalk Transit Oriented Village District in 2021, which permits structures to be 2.5 stories high, with 3.5 stories allowed by special permit if a developer achieves certain bonus points, such as providing amenities like public space. Many residents at the time expressed concerns about the study allowing for more development.

Schulman said that he also believed this is what residents were upset about.

“We changed the zoning code to make something like this possible and I tend to agree with Attorney Blank that has a lot to do with what the neighbors are complaining about,” he said. “They’re not happy with that change.”

Still, Blank argued that this project followed the city’s adopted regulations so it should be approved.

“But what’s in front of you isn’t a request for a zone change. It’s not a request for a variance,” Blank said. “We’re asking you to fairly apply the existing village TOD regs to this application, and the application fully complies with the existing regulations,” he said.

He also said that they specifically heard a lot of comments about scaling back this project, but he noted that it was “already scaled back,” as under the zoning, they could have up to 87 units, but they are only proposing 77.

 

Colin Grotheer of Beinfield Architecture presents plans for The Lofts at Mill Pond to the Planning and Zoning Commission, March 2 on Zoom.

‘One of the Nicest Buildings’

Blank, who lives in Norwalk and represents many developers in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said that he’s seen a lot of developments come before the board.

“I think it’s hard to argue that this isn’t the most attractive multifamily development that has come in front of the Zoning Commission in the last 15 years,” he said. “It’s a great project architecturally, it really is. And when you couple that with all of the infrastructure improvements, all of the improvements that are going to be made on Cemetery Street and at the site to make it more make it a more neighborhood feel, make it safer, pedestrian-friendly, bicycle-friendly. I do think that it’s a great project.”

Colin Grotheer, an associate with Beinfield Architecture and the architect for the project, compared the size of the project, particularly its height to others in the surrounding area, and then placed them on the site to show how it would fit compared to the current proposal in an effort to show that the project would fit in with the neighborhood.

“I went through and I did a quick survey, we’ve got the 11 Roger St. building, this is a three story building, very prominent. It’s about a 1600 square foot footprint. If we were to place that on our site, that’s what it would look like. So a pretty large building, occupying most of the site,” he said, showing how it would fit.

He said that his review of buildings around East Norwalk and other areas showed that: “you’ll often see on street parking buildings close to the street, sidewalks and street trees, varied facades, typical massing throughout New England, two and a half to three and a half stories is typical, sometimes higher.”

 

A drone’s view of the East Norwalk Cemetery and the streets around it. (David Fales)

Traffic Responses

Many of the public comments at the last two hearings centered around traffic and many of the Commissioners had questions as well.

Greg Del Rio, traffic engineer of the project, said that they heard residents’ concerns about the traffic, particularly that the traffic counts were not done during the summer. They worked with ConnDOT and the City to access data counts during the summer, both from the Walk Bridge counts in 2016 and from cell photo data that tracks trips in 2019 to analyze how the traffic from the project could impact in those months. Del Rio, along with the City’s traffic consultant Marissa Tarallo, said that there was “no significant impact” caused by the trips generated by the site.

Blank and Del Rio said that ConnDOT also gave preliminary approvals to either of the alternatives for Cemetery Street, both of which would make it one lane. Final approval couldn’t happen until the local Planning and Zoning Commission approved the project, Blank said.

Mushak raised a concern about delivery trucks and asked to make some of the on-street parking spots into delivery zones. This was part of the conditions of approval, that the applicant look into turning some of those spots into delivery zones.

The decision on what to do with Cemetery Street hasn’t been made yet, as it is conditioned based on local approval. That decision would be worked out in the coming months. The resolution also includes an ask for the City to explore a “resident parking pass system” for East Norwalk.

 

A PowerPoint slide presented Wednesday by Attorney Adam Blank.

Environmental Concerns

Matt Popp, the developer’s environmental consultant, said that the project would not impact the wildlife that lives at Mill Pond, and actually would improve it, due to improvements to the water quality on the site.

At the last meeting, Diane Cece of East Norwalk Neighborhood Association, said that ENNA is “being entered as an intervenor in any follow-up proceedings after this,” under the Clean Air Act to “address some of these environmental issues.

The Commission received a notice that an “intervenor petition” consistent with state statute had come in from the East Norwalk Neighborhood Association. The commission voted 7-1 to approve a resolution which stated that based on reviews of the site and testimony that “the Planning and Zoning Commission…does not believe that the application as submitted will have the effect of unreasonably polluting, impairing, or destroying the public trust in the air, water, or other natural resources of the state.”

Blank used a slide and said that they were following the regulations, including DEEP and EPA’s.

The applicant also noted that in response to concerns about being in a flood zone, that the first floor of the building is higher than required by FEMA for the type of zone they are in.

 

Attendees of the Norwalk Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Wednesday in the City Hall Community Room.

Final Comments

At the end of the meeting, Schulman thanked everyone for their participation in the process.

Mushak said that he was upset by some “uncivil behavior” at the last public hearing when the few speakers who were in favor of the project were “laughed at” and he wondered if others in the audience didn’t speak up because of this. He said that he was waiting for an apology from the East Norwalk Neighborhood Association for this behavior.

Cece spoke up on behalf of ENNA, even though no public comment was technically allowed, but asked the commission to put her comments into the record because “Mr. Mushak indicts our organization and our community every time he speaks.”

Cece said that ENNA doesn’t control people who come to public hearings.

“We don’t censor them,” she said.

She added that the organization provides assistance to members of the public who want to participate.

Langalis added for future conversations that the city “really should listen” to many of the concerns of its residents.

“Many of our residents feel that projects being approved are too large,” she said. “We’re not Stamford, we’re Norwalk. We have to try to do what they want while growing and improving the city at a reasonable pace.”

Kelly Prinz, formerly Kelly Kultys, is the founder of Coastal Connecticut Times.

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Comments

33 responses to “P&Z Commission approves plans for 1 Cemetery St., despite objections from East Norwalk residents”

  1. Scott Vetare

    This is what happens when you have bullies running the city! They don’t care about what we have to say just do what they say or get out. ! Can’t wait To get out!

  2. David Muccigrosso

    Good! Glad to see that they weren’t deterred by a bunch of busybodies and worrywarts pretending they’re the majority.

  3. Mike Mushak

    To Ms. Prinz, journalist who wrote this article, thank you for your article and please include the video of the entire meeting linked here. https://youtu.be/cvCw1xtwpAM

    I gave a 20-minute talk starting at 2:50:15, where at 3:05:40 I complement ENNA for their efforts at notifying the public about the Norden warehouse project a couple of years ago.

    And later in the meeting at 4:04, I support the effort by ENNA board member Roberta DiBisceglie to have a resident parking pass system in East Norwalk near this project and where she lives and works.

    This is to counter the claim made by Ms. Cece that I “always indict ENNA every time he speaks.” Everyone can see from the video that is not the case.

    To continue, in my 20-minute speech I debunk the common myths surrounding rental housing, in response to the many members of the public who spoke during the hearing who repeated these myths which tend to demonize renters as some kind of threat to single-family homeowners.

    Myth #1: “Renters don’t pay taxes, and are supported by owners of single family homes.” The truth is exactly the opposite. Renters pay more in property tax per square foot (included in their rent) than single family homes, and use less taxpayer-funded services as they don’t require maintenance of miles of streets that require paving and snow plowing, as well as the utility maintenance. The compact density of rental buildings eliminates the need for all that extra cost.

    Myth #2: “The city is growing too fast.” Wrong. The city grew at 6.5% in the last census decade from 2010-2020, slower than the general population growth of 7.5% and one of its lowest growth rates per decade over the last century, when Norwalk’s growth rates often were at 20 and 30% per decade when the city grew exponentially with suburban sprawl as our urban cores emptied out.

    That recent census includes most of the large projects completed around town before 2020 including Waypointe, both Avalons (Belden and Norden), Soundview Landing, Harbourside, Ironworks, and The Pearl.

    In the 1990’s, when the city was controlled by a Republican mayor and had Republican-controlled Planning and Zoning Commissions, the city grew at 5.9%, slightly less than the 6.5% of the most recent decade, when the city was also controlled almost equally at different t times by both parties.

    The point is the city grew at the same rate regardless of political leadership.

    To add to fellow commissioner Tammy Langalis’s claim that “many residents think the projects being approved are too large”, it’s important to remember that Norwalk is still growing at a rate less than general population growth, and is still in a serious housing crisis due to high demand and short supply of housing.

    And for the record, the largest apartment projects in recent memory were approved under Republican Mayor Moccia and the Republican-controlled Planning and Zoning Commissions before 2013 when Mayor Rilling first took office.

    These projects include Waypointe (650 units, approved in 2011), Norden Avalon (240 units, approved in 2010), Belden Avalon (311 units, approved in 2008), and Wall Street Place (formerly POKO), 151 apartments and originally approved in 2008 but stalled for over a decade from bankruptcy and lawsuits, and revised in 2020 and finally in progress again.

    The point is large apartment buildings have been approved under many administrations for years to revitalize our city and keep up with population and economic growth, and is not unique to any one administration including the current one.

    In general, it’s simply smart growth in denser and more walkable and sustainable neighborhoods near transit stops, and smart investment in our future that most cities across the country are seeking to accomplish.

  4. April B. Wennerstrom

    Great reporting. I’m sure this is quite a disappointment (to say the least) to the neighbors in this area. It appears that more of the proposals currently in P&Z’s control — e.g. the one intended for 1500 plus units and two 11-story buildings near the Merritt 7 station — will come to fruition in due time. Buckle up Norwalkers.

  5. Audrey Cozzarin

    Why hold public hearings at all? That is a VERY BIG question for the city of Norwalk.

    I am truly shocked at this outcome, against the objections of so many of its residents. And how quickly the decision came.

    I do believe we need to vote differently.

  6. Bryan Meek

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard more bullcrap than last night. Mostly from one commissioner who lives in a neighborhood you can’t even get a fire truck through safely with cars parked like sardines all over the place……and traffic hasn’t gotten worse in this city over the last 10 years? I must be living somewhere else.

  7. Noah Wilker

    Once again, the commission demonstrates zero concern for the taxpayers and voters they are there to represent.
    To Mr Mushak: ENNA does a superlative job informing and organizing the community here, and is obviously not encouraging bad behavior of a few residents nor is Diane responsible for that. What a cowardly accusation.

  8. Fred Wilms

    Tammy Langalis is spot-on: “We’re not Stamford, we’re Norwalk”.

    Sadly the Rilling administration policies are turning us into Stamford, or some other metropolis.

  9. Patrick Cooper

    This decision was inevitable once Harry Rilling was re-elected in 2017. Yes, in 2017.

    I have to applaud the efforts of the ENNA team, including but not limited to Diane Cece and Mimi Chang. Thank you. While this result may feel like a brutal defeat this morning, it was a step towards a better Norwalk. By the very public nature of this community activism, you laid bare how “rigged” the entire process is against taxpayers. It’s all for campaign $ giving special interests & developers, and you helped make more folks aware just how desperate the need for change is in our municipal government.

    Rilling has to go. Cut the head off the snake. Then, clean up the mess he left behind.

    I’m sorry to all the virtue signaling progressive D’s in this town, but your emperor has no clothes. Worries about affordable housing? How did this fix that? Worries about climate change? Yes, engineer the process so one-sided that developers control the outcome, and then let them build density on top of environmentally fragile waterfront that is truly a city asset (the “commons”). Can’t believe more of the purity princesses were not aghast. Want a democratic process to ensure the community is heard and respected? Someone should splice a 5 minute excerpt of these hearings to focus on the repeated outlandish displays of condescension, arrogance, and peevish reactions to simple questions, with genuine and sustained blatant hostility to residents. This P&Z Commission is representative? Oh, that’s right – zero are elected – 100% Harry appointees. I would expect an apology from the chair about the same time as Mushak is welcomed into MENSA.

    This pattern will continue unabated until city leadership changes. There is no pivot ahead.

    So, there is really only one fix, but it is the one thing this town can’t seem to do: vote differently. Or, like with all of these other community Facebook groups – another can be started called – 10 steps to get the hell out of Norwalk fast, and leave nothing behind.

    Choose. Or stop complaining.

  10. James Mitchell

    Very sad for all taxpayers in Norwalk. Apparently we have no say in what is built in our home town. I look forward to the next election to see if we can make some significant changes for our own future.

  11. Joe Giuliano

    I have lived in East Norwalk for over 65 years and I am certain a lot of this project will hurt my fellow East Norwalk Residents. This is a really sad approval for East Norwalk. I blame the city for their East Norwalk Zoning changes, many that were pushed along during covid while East Norwalk residents voiced their opinions and were left unheard, all while Steven Kleppin did whatever he pleased.

    Mr. Mushak can really talk forever on points that hardly matter, and his overwhelming confidence in his opinion is truly embarrassing. If he lived on Gregory BLVD or somewhere else in East Norwalk he would feel very differently about this project and would be less inclined to chime in and make talking points that help the developer, and only hurt East Norwalk residents. He can dream of a bus stop (Never going to happen) on Cemetery street, and worry about the bike lane all he wants, but he’ll eat those words when he can’t even make it down to the beach to enjoy the sun because it won’t be worth the time taking the roads that lead there after Cemetery street becomes one lane. To Mr. Mushak, you mean well and its clear you have a passion for things you believe in, but sadly you aren’t representing the people of this city, and instead are just helping the developers line their pockets. Do yourself a favor and talk to some of the East Norwalk residents that oppose this project, its overwhelming how many are opposed vs for this project and that is clear.

    The mayor should be ashamed of himself for what he is doing to Norwalk all over. Yes we need more housing and nobody disagrees with that, but we are NOT STAMFORD.

    I own 2 restaurants in Norwalk and I commute between them each day. I will now have to figure out the least painful way back home after this monstrosity is built and 1 Cemetery Street is made into a less viable path to our beautiful community.

    I’ve been alive long enough to see most of the changes in Norwalk, from this crew, and many before it. This is by far least out of touch I have ever seen Norwalk officials. I’m not sure what you are turning this town into, but it is NOT what I think any residents envisioned or want.

    What’s next on the agenda? I can’t wait to see the next few proposals that make their way to the zoning board and I’m already preparing for more hurt and for the East Norwalk residents to lose more.

  12. David Muccigrosso

    @Mike – Thank you for helping to combat the myths and slander against renters.

    @James – That’s absurd. Other people live here too, not just YOU. They get a say too. It’s called an election.

    @Patrick – ENNA did little more here than manufacture the mirage of a NIMBY consensus that DOES NOT EXIST. As Mike elaborated, Norwalk is growing slower than at any point in recent decades, and it’s because we’re being held up from densifying.

    And I’ll remind you that there are those of us progressives who actually DISAGREE with the way Harry’s going about it. Our growth should be from the BOTTOM UP, *NOT* top-down. All zones should allow, BY RIGHT, only the next increment of housing. Gentle density and organic growth.

    But if we can’t have that, then high-rises it is, because I *REFUSE* to live in a world where my housing costs are dictated by those who’ve “already got theirs”, where I can’t afford to save for a down payment in even the CHEAPEST neighborhoods, because there’s so much pent-up demand. I refuse. Just because I disagree with Harry doesn’t mean I owe you or any other NIMBY my vote. If it were up to me, we’d vote Ranked-Choice anyways, because the whole edifice of the two-party system is barely any better than one-party rule.

  13. Jim Anderson

    Why would a commissioner, yes Michael I speaking to you, bring up political parties in a sensitive topic such as this project. Wrong on all levels. East Norwalk is bound by the sound, narrow streets and limited number of exit streets and avenues. Stamford had the ability to raise homes and reconfigure streets on the water side of the interstate. Your logic of making EN like it was with factories/manufacturing? How come Norden park doesn’t have this? Or why companies have moved out? Perhaps that should be asked. Michael your comments of mentioning politics only reinforces others, that there are commissions such as the one you are on, that only support one party and that in itself is totally wrong. For the record, it was I who lost control and yelled out and for that I publicly apologize here now. The commission has a difficult task but as I resident owner for many years, I ask that the TOD take into account the variety of make up of the different sections of Norwalk. West is different then South or East by many factors. Again for EN, it’s limited access roads. My knee jerk response was when it was so clear that a staff member (that be you Mr Kepplin) obviously supported this project and manipulated notifications and answers to the benefit of this project. In the future I’ll just either let my lip bleed and let a one sided government run the quality of life for me, give up just as many will do. Or not. It’s very hard to change once you grow up in a environment that takes in consideration in all aspects, others opinions. Governor Fitch (no policial party by the way), his family (son who sang Yankee Doodle dandy), many civil war solders and residents who died from the British Invasion, know the residents tried for you to rest in peace. Can’t say the same for others though.

  14. Michael McGuire

    Really, is anyone surprised? This is a completely predicable outcome given the decade long one-party rule in Norwalk.

    Just look at the messes we are dealing with – A failing school system plagued by CRT issues, a draconian parking authority, a new high school we really don’t need and certainly can’t afford, raw sewage flowing into LIS (where are our local Greens on that given all the new apt. units), crazy budget increases, a revolving door of over-paid department heads, sanctuary city status that is fueling the affordable housing crisis, a depleted police force, POKO, a two-tiered municipal system that seems to play favorites (think not, if it were Milligan putting this project forward what do you think the outcome would be?)

    Thankfully, recent events in the CC have seen several newly minted CC members, though democrats, having the chutzpah to stand up to the powers that be. And Brian Meek provides a window into what is actually happening fiscally.

    Patrick Cooper is right – the people are growing tired of the authoritarian bent of the democratic party. Change comes slowly, but it is coming. Consider that the people voted in those radical Democratic upstart CC members (thank God). It’s only a matter of time before the appointed “party first” members of the various commissions are replaced.

    I think we are seeing the awakening of the democrats.

  15. Ben Hanpeter

    P&Z made the right call here. The additional housing this will provide is desperately needed, and building it near transit is just common sense. I’m glad all the misinformation and hostility didn’t prevent the commissioners from seeing how necessary this project is. Looking forward to seeing it break ground.

  16. Charles A DiBisceglie

    A Transit oriented development around a train station that has only 1 train per hour on off peak hours? No need for a car if you work nights or need to go to the market in the new EVTZ zone? Who are you kidding?

  17. Diane Cece

    After having previously called ENNA and East Norwalk residents “nimbys” and “racists” and referring to East Norwalk neighborhood as “unsafe”, “ghetto”, “slum” and “sh*t hole”, one would think P&Z staff or Commissioner Schulman or the mayor himself would have insisted that Mr. Mushak recuse himself from ALL discussions and votes regarding East Norwalk, or better, ask him to step down. But no, the mayor reappoints him. Just. Beyond. Belief.

  18. Victor Cavallo

    Truly, Norwalk should be renamed Harrytown or Rilling Village- like the mega-sized apartment farms in NYC: Stuyvesant Town and Trump Village. Another two years of Harry will surely bring us a Bronx-like Co-op City development proposal for East Norwalk.

  19. Effie Gavrielidis

    The fix was always in. It’s time to wake up and vote differently Norwalk. What a sad day for East Norwalk.

  20. Bryan Meek

    So according to one poster the 700+ who were against this should bow the demands of the corrupt system. It’s more important to have housing he can afford here by building more of it. I can count on one or two hands the numbers supporting the density drive. Or am I missing the list of 700 plus who support this?

  21. David Muccigrosso

    Charles’s comment is a perfect example of innuendo in the rhetorical sense of the term, which many people may be less familiar with than its everyday connotation.

    What we see Charles do here is first assert his incredulity to anchor the reader’s expectations, and then bring up several not-particularly-relevant edge cases — which don’t actually prove his original assertion! The edge cases, after all, don’t themselves disprove that *anyone* could live carless in this development, they just highlight some weaknesses to the proposal. (And guess what? No proposal HAS to be perfect!!!)

    We should also note how the “only 1 train per hour on off peak hours” comment uses a very specific, vivid detail to make his claim seem like he understands the intricate minutiae of the problem, but he delivers it without ANY context that would tell us whether that train frequency was actually appropriate to serve the community! The edge cases are likewise vivid, designed to conjure up mental images of our own experiences working late, distracting us from evaluating whether the claim is actually valid.

    The net effect here is that it gives the impression that Charles has thought this entire thing through and proven his claims. THAT is innuendo: using fallacies that each come across as superficially true, in order to imply a conclusion that isn’t true without ever proving it.

  22. David Muccigrosso

    @Bryan, 700 people is not a majority. Surely you know that Norwalk’s population is just under 93k.

    Our population was just under 86k 13 years ago in 2010. Surely, no small proportion of those 7000 newcomers *wanted somewhere to live*, and in the most literal sense possible *voted with their feet* AGAINST stasis.

    Unless you’re proposing a referendum to put a “We’re Full” sign at the city limits, and ESPECIALLY to stop taking all those lovely tax dollars that newcomers like myself spend (city records say my landlord pays ~$4.1k/year out of my rent revenue!) I’d like to hear your proposal for how we serve the housing needs of this steady population increase.

    You know that I’d actually prefer more *conservative* methods than Harry’s, something you ostensibly might be ideologically inclined to agree with. But “burying our heads in the sand” is NOT an acceptable answer, again, not unless you want your We’re Full Sign Referendum to get voted down by an embarrassing margin of a LOT more than 700 angry neighbors.

  23. Charles A DiBisceglie

    In response to Mr. Muccigrosso’s comment – According to the definition of a deductive argument it always intends that the premises provide the sort of justification for the conclusion whereby if the premises are true, the conclusion is guaranteed to be true as well. Loosely speaking, my process of reasoning is a good one, if the premises actually do provide this sort of justification for the conclusion, then the argument is valid.

    It is important to stress that the premises of an argument do not have actually to be true in order for the argument to be valid. An argument is valid if the premises and conclusion are related to each other in the right way so that if the premises were true, then the conclusion would have to be true as well.

    A sound argument is one that is not only valid, but begins with premises that are actually true. It is true that the frequency of Metro North trains at the East Norwalk Train Station are greatly reduced after weekday rush hours. It is true that East Norwalk residents do not have supermarkets, hardware, clothing or shoe stores within walking distance. It is true that the hundreds of new tenants added to the EVTZ will require automobiles to reach these destinations adding to increased traffic and the lack of adequate parking.

    In short, a deductive argument must be evaluated in two ways. First, one must ask if the premises provide support for the conclusion by examining the form of the argument. If they do, then the argument is valid. Then, one must ask whether the premises are true or false in actuality. Only if an argument passes both these tests is it sound.

  24. Roberta DiBisceglie

    @David Seriously? I highly recommend you move to another city that you can make over in your own image and perhaps afford. We struggled for years and bought our first home in our mid-40s in 2004 and now we are stuck with a city government that doesn’t hear the majority of its citizens pleas for smart development – not NO development, SMART development. Have you not noticed that there is a finite amount of space here and it’s already well past its carrying capacity? It’s not okay that we’ve “already got ours” when you, poor dear, don’t have what you want? Is it not clear that even though a VOLUNTEER organization was able to engage hundreds of citizens who spoke their truth – passionately and plaintively – we were patently ignored? This is about profits over people. Plain and simple. Remember in November.

  25. Patrick Cooper

    One last point – before I depart these pages for a good while.

    The idea that by building (essentially unlimited) apartments, the local apartment rents will fall, is a total joke. Delusional. Go ahead, try applying Samuelson’s Supply & Demand rules, but you’re missing a key element.

    What a lark! “I refuse to live in a world where my housing costs are dictated by those who already got theirs”. Entitled much?

    Do you think that plays in Manhattan? Miami? Boston? LA? Anywhere?

    You want cheep? Try Hays Kansas – you can rent a house for under $1,000.00

    https://www.apartments.com/hutchinson-ks/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwlPWgBhDHARIsAH2xdNfHQ6CST9D2My69iyQrNF8rrCUXlPekcPXV7hv9U5wq5oB8MBxquXQaAr8dEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

    Riddle me this – what were “rent’s” for single bedroom apartments in Stamford in – say 2010. I’m going to speculate (post-housing crash) – about $1,200 to $1,500 – more for “better”. Since then – Stamford has added what – 15,000 units? Maybe 20k? What are rents today? What – it wasn’t enough?

    Next – Norwalk has added no less than 6,000 units since Harry became mayor. Probably more – with more on the way. That might represent a 15% increase to the stocks. Asking millennials – have rents dropped? Have they even stayed the same? No. The idea that we can build out enough housing within a single community in FF county to help drop rents substantially is absurd. Delusional. Not-going-to-happen.

    Tough love might say – move. Or – get a better job. Or – as others have done – stop eating out on Washington Street and drinking $5.00 coffee’s 3x a day – and save.

    You rent is never going down – until 20-25% of the current demand evaporates (it’s possible given the trajectory of this city under Harry). Vacancies will need to exceed 25%. Stop blaming people who faced the exact same challenges – and found a way. Blame comes home, bro.

  26. Mike Mushak

    I’d like to respectfully respond to Diane Cece’s previous strongly-worded comment. Yes, I most certainly did say in some meeting long ago the words “looks like a slum” when describing the long row of eight empty storefronts on Ludlow Square surrounded by chain link fence with trash all over the place, which has sat there for years next to Giant Laundry in the very heart of the East Norwalk community. I do regret using that word, and should have said “blight”, and I was referring to only one specific property in that comment and not the entire community, as I think any reasonable person could conclude.

    The city may now need to work on a solution to that blight, even if it’s private property and options may be limited under the law. Just writing this is inspiring me to look into it and ask what may be possible, and perhaps ENNA has a role to play in garnering community support for a solution.

    It is a shame that abandoned building is not filled completely with vibrant and essential stores and restaurants for that area, including all the residents and seniors at Ludlow Commons across the street and at The Marvin a few blocks away. Part of a walkable community is having nearby places to shop and eat, and that spot should be buzzing as it once was before the fire eight years ago. Perhaps the presence of more residents in the neighborhood might represent more potential customers for any business thinking about renting there, no? We can only hope.

    On Ms. Cece’s other point, that I referred to East Norwalkers as racist, that is simply not true and an absurd claim to make. However for the record and perhaps if this is what Diane may be recalling, I did once describe as racist and childish some of the social media comments that were based on a petition against a bike lane on Beach Rd in 2012, from folks who said things like “we don’t want those people from South Norwalk riding their bikes over here” and “its going to make our crime rate go up” and “these radical extremists who want the bike lane want to take over our lives, and shove their radical lifestyle down our throats!” It was both funny and sad.

    At the time I was also embarrassed for everyone who signed the petition, as it showed a photo of the traffic backed up at the First Street light on the 2-lane Gregory BLVD, which was a 1/3 mile north from the bike lane location on the 4-lane wide Beach Road. The photo had absolutely nothing to do with the bike lane, but they obviously needed a cheap gimmick to predict “gridlock” from the bike lane which is silly, and insults all car drivers as being too stupid to know how to drive alongside a bike lane.

    They obviously didn’t seem to care if it was both irrational and laughable, as it still scared people into signing the petition. We called it the “save the deathtrap” petition as that was what it was asking for, to abandon the bike lane and keep the interstate highway design for 70 mph all the while keeping Beach Road a deadly high-speed drag strip.

    Here’s how this saga started with the petition and opposition against the Beach Road bike lane proposal. It was all orchestrated by a couple of Republican Common Council members (who shall remain nameless to protect their privacy in their retirement), who sniffed a political opportunity in opposing a simple and safe bike lane that was being supported by the Democratic Common Council members. It shouldn’t have even been before the Council but Mayor Moccia did that to please the two Common Council members in their political stunt.

    They basically politicized the bike lane proposal and turned it into a political football and a referendum on extreme progressive ideas, like the shockingly “liberal” idea of making our roads safer for all users of all ages and abilities. I wish I was kidding but that’s exactly what happened just 11 years ago in 2012!

    It didn’t even occur to these two GOP Councilmembers, who weren’t well-traveled, that even in the deepest red states in the nation like Texas and Indiana, conservatives have embraced bike lanes as good for the economy and for encouraging young people to move back to or to stay in a community, as well as attracting families with kids and holding onto retirees who like to ride bikes. It’s about all that as well as the priority of simply improving public safety, but back in 2012 it was “oh no, we just can’t have a bike lane on Beach Road as it will destroy our community and our lives”! Thats the level of discourse it devolved into, all as a shameful political stunt.

    And guess what the couple of Republicans on the Common Council were willing to trade for that short-term political advantage? The answer isn’t pretty. They were literally willing to trade off the public safety on Beach Road, putting the lives of pedestrians, cyclists, and car occupants at risk every day as folks sped back and forth to the beach on an obsolete highway designed for high speeds which every one in town knew as a drag strip for years. The cops tried to enforce the 25 mph speed limit with tickets but since the road was designed for 70 mph, it was always a losing battle.

    Our simple proposal was to add the bike lane by narrowing the two oversize travel lanes, stealing 2 feet from each 12-foot lane and making them 10 feet wide, which FHA research showed average speeds by 5-7 mph.

    In real life, the eventual bike lane and narrower travel lanes on Beach Rd. dropped average speeds around 15 mph, as everyone can see now any day they drive down there. It used to be a dangerous drag strip with cars dangerously close to the narrow sidewalks. Sometimes pedestrians even got sideswiped by truck mirrors at the narrow spot across from Marvin School, as the travel lane went right to the curb. It was crazy. Now it’s calm and slow and safer for everyone using the road and sidewalks, even everyone in cars. No denying now it was a good idea, and even better solutions are surely out there in the future waiting to happen.

    The bike lane and safer Beach Road corridor finally happened after Mayor Rilling restored the proposal after he was elected in 2012, after Mayor Moccia had cancelled it earlier in 2012 following the petition. In the process Mayor Moccia broke his earlier promise to install the bike lane that he made to bike advocates as well as lots of parents in Marvin Beach who also wanted it for themselves and for their kids to be safer when they rode their bikes to the beach.

    That promise was made to a bike rally in the parking lot of Marvin School by Mayor Moccia in front of about 75 cyclists including children, who after the rally went on a group ride (without the mayor) to the beach with car escorts to keep the speeding traffic away from the group. I have photos of that event in some digital album somewhere. It was an exciting day in Norwalk, until the promise was broken a few weeks later.

    In the end, the stupid and dangerous political stunt backfired, as bike advocates exposed the petty scheme and got everyone they knew out to vote for Mayor Rilling as a stronger candidate on the issue of safer streets and better sidewalks for all users, which I’m sure helped him win that November. There were other issues in that election too, but improving road safety for all users was definitely a big one and still is for Mayor Rilling and his administration. All over the city are new sidewalks and bike lanes, slowing speeding traffic and encouraging folks to get around by bike or on foot. That’s progress.

    I know the Beach Road bike lane saga has been told many times by me but only verbally, as an example of how silly politicians can act sometimes while trading away public safety which is no laughing matter. Making any road safer especially with simple inexpensive paint by re-striping lanes to calm traffic should not be negotiable or used as a cheap political stunt, when lives of everyone including our most vulnerable younger children and senior citizens and people with disabilities and mobility issues are at risk.

    I’ll leave you with this statistic: A pedestrian or cyclist has an 80% death rate if hit by a car going 40 mph, which drops in half to 40% if hit by a car going 30 mph, and dropping further to a 10% death rate if hit by a car going 20 mph. Thats a drop in death rate from 80% to 10% from 40 mph to 20 mph. All those folks who use Beach Road now have a safer route back and forth to the beach whether on foot, bike, or in a car, with average speeds of 25 mph instead of 40 mph. This huge improvement is due to the leadership of Mayor Rilling who based his Beach Road decision on facts, not fear.

    Everyone can see now it was a good decision that just needed to be made regardless of the existence of the petition signed by 600 people, which was based on deliberate propaganda and lies and petty political motives. That kind of nonsense always backfires in the end!

    I want to thank Diane Cece for giving me the inspiration and opportunity to put all this on the record, which I had always wanted to do. I also want to thank Nancy on Norwalk who provides a valuable public service in this regard, beyond the priceless journalistic value, but also as an archive of city life and city stories like this one for the ages.

  27. Tom Belmont

    No one has faced the fact that Biden campaigned on these type of housing projects before he was (elected). He told the voter the plan was to change residential zoning law in every township in the country. Trump warned the (wives) of the suburbs an apartment project was waiting to be built if Biden was elected.
    So you see, the order has come down from Biden to the states, to the townships to change zoning in the suburbs. It’s all about equity. Nothing more.

  28. Bryan Meek

    @David. Grow up. The world doesn’t owe you a living or an affordable place to live.

    I grew up in Norwalk and when I was a poor slob, low income housing was in West Haven and I woke up at 5 a.m. every day to get to Stamford.

    Get over yourself or show me a petition of 700+ people who support this train wreck of an idea.

  29. Tysen Canevari

    @ Mike Mushak. Should we thank the mayor for his great leadership in letting the raw sewage spill into long island sound because the sewage treatment plant cant handle all of the apartments in town? No matter what the article or the topic Mike you always spin it to say what a wonderful job Harry the almighty does. Would it have anything to do with your appointment to a city commission by him? Just saying… One would think Norwalk was the Neverland ranch according to your point of view.

  30. Mike Mushak

    Tom Belmont, your theory that zoning laws in Norwalk were recently changed because of President Biden is quite the conspiracy theory, considering all the biggest apartment project over the last 20 years were approved under former Republican Mayor Moccia and Republican-controlled Planning and Zoning Commissions.

    These projects approved under the former Republican administration include Waypointe (650 units, approved in 2011), Norden Avalon (240 units, approved in 2010), Belden Avalon (311 units, approved in 2008), and Wall Street Place (formerly POKO), 151 apartments and originally approved in 2008 but stalled for over a decade from bankruptcy and lawsuits, and revised in 2020 and finally in progress again.

    The point is large apartment buildings have been approved under many administrations for years to revitalize our city and keep up with population and economic growth, and is not unique to any one administration including the current one.

    Also, our current growth rate of 6.5% over the last decade, from 2010-2020 based on the latest census data, is one of the lowest growth rates per decade in the city’s history over the last century, when 20-30% growth rates per decade earlier in the 20th century were quite common.

    Our current growth rate is also less than general population growth of 7.5%, so we’re not even keeping pace with population growth which adds to increased demand and higher housing costs for everyone.

    This current growth rate also compares almost equally to the 5.9% growth rate in the 1990’s when Norwalk was controlled by Republican Mayor Esposito and Republican-controlled P and Z commissions.

    In general, it’s clear that the responsible folks on both sides of the aisle support smart residential growth, that also attracts businesses and jobs, in denser and more walkable and sustainable neighborhoods near transit stops, and smart investment in our future that most cities across the country are seeking to accomplish.

    It’s also where people want to live, and what the market demands. Many people don’t want the burdens and expense of owning a single family home like the old days of car-oriented suburban sprawl, especially if they are retired, empty-nesters, single middle age folks of which there are more than ever, or young folks right out of college, which makes up a big percentage of the residents of the new apartment buildings that fill up as fast as they are built. This is because the demand is so high and supply so short of high-quality residential units with the walkable and sustainable amenities many folks are craving.

  31. Johnny cardamone

    Out of control!

  32. Ken Kinsley

    I don’t have a dog in this (fight) discussion.

    I’m not an architect or building planner.

    It seems to me though that if you have 75 apartments, that you need 150 parking spaces. Not everyone owns only one vehicle. Two bedrooms apartments could very easily have 3 people going 3 different ways in the morning.

    One hundred something (106?) Pretty much guarantees that noone will be inviting guests over for birthday cake and forget about Holidays.

    I don’t know about ratios but I could understand 50 apartments with 150 spaces.

  33. Mimi Chang

    Attorney Adam Blank’s rebuttal was arrogantly, astonishingly inaccurate. He generalized that some public speakers were for, some against “The Lofts at Mill Pond” proposal as if equally split, where the vast majority of roughly 60 speakers’ comments over two public hearings disprove him. Of just two speakers for the proposal, one was a nonresident of East Norwalk who schooled participants off topic frequently from a book at the lectern, and the other was an unannounced Norwalk Zoning Board of Appeals appointee who presented a conflict of interest by speaking publicly with bias to a land use application. The vast majority of speakers asked, pleaded, that the project be scaled back due to valid density/traffic related concerns. Mr. Blank emphasized one or two who were for no development, wrongly lumping speakers into all or nothing groups, whereas the vast majority simply sought scaled back development. Mr. Blank duplicitously ascribed that most speakers had no problem with the project, that their “gripe” was with the zoning amendments/amenity bonus points system. That Chair Lou Schulman agreed with him was disturbing. The vast majority were against both the primary structure’s scale/massing and the staunchly opposed points system (voted through by the Commission against the people’s will) which compounded scale/massing. Mr. Blank’s rebuttal deliberately mischaracterized stakeholders to marginalize majority opinion, which was disdainful and underhanded. False intentions he ascribed to them should be struck from the record. That not one Commissioner called his deceptive tactics out was unsurprising, as some routinely, disdainfully marginalize public opinion as Mr. Blank did. Mayor Rilling is well aware that certain appointees name call, libel and regularly dismiss stakeholders, yet his failure to address their behavior fosters an unhealthy us versus them culture and emboldens a reknowned bully. If Norwalk’s majority complicit P&Z Commission functions to expedite controversial development while gaslighting engaged stakeholders, an undemocratic process which guarantees that every special permit application outcome will be one-sided/predetermined, what then is the need for pesky public participation? The system is tyrannical if the Mayor’s appointees permit his campaign donor developer friends to overbuild whatever they want against the people’s will while their go-to attorney runs roughshod over them.

    The Cemetery Street/Mill Pond application passing against the will of 770 plus petition signers, impressive speaker turnout over several meetings and letters to the Mayor/P&Z Commission seeking compromise/balance, and against almost 60 public speakers steamrolled by the applicant’s attorney who’s on record stating that he never sees a lot of traffic on East Avenue, has hopefully shown stakeholders that if they want fair representation on future development, then they must vote differently. By doing so, they’d create an opportunity to bring in new blood and mend a broken P&Z Commission whose Director/Commissioners function more like spokespersons for developers and for the Mayor’s unconstrained density agenda, and not at all like surrounding towns’ elected planners who fulfill their roles by actually representing their stakeholders and routinely sending applicants back to the drawing board to produce scaled finished product which all parties can live with. If Norwalk doesn’t vote for change, two more years of Mayor Rilling, Steve Kleppin and the same ol’ crony Commissioners and oligopoly of self-enriching developers, suspect traffic consultants and Adam Blank are guaranteed to overstuff Norwalk until it achieves Stamford population density; Norwalk already packs in more residents per square mile than Stamford does. “The Lofts at Mill Pond” passing set the density bar high for several parcels to come within the EVTZ. Congratulations, Steve Kleppin and P&Z Commissioners who voted yes, for not responsibly planning a density cap to prioritize existing residents’ quality of life, but instead, for granting carte blanche to developers to determine their own density so that every future developed parcel will be overwrought, and piecemealed, bought traffic analysis will continue to lowball traffic counts, sending an already traffic-choked, accident-prone East Avenue corridor into irreversible overdrive. Smart development? Reckless is more like it. Remember in November.

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