NORWALK, Conn. – A letter regarded as a smoking gun by some opponents of the plan to rebuild Washington Village is now available on a state website for anyone to see.
The city’s response to Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) questions includes the plans to raise Day and Raymond Streets, as well as the letter from Mayor Harry Rilling suggesting that Ryan Park could be the location of a raised walkway, which Diane Cece and Ganga Duleep have protested.
“He virtually gives carte blanche approval that that park is going to be used some means or another for dry egress for this project,” Cece said at Monday’s DEEP public hearing regarding an exemption to flood management regulations.
Rilling said in an email that he does not favor bisecting the park.
“I have been working with Tim Sheehan and my position is the dry egress should be on the perimeter of the park, not bisecting it. I do not support any dry egress that will cut the park in half or render it useless,” he said.
In the letter, dated July 21, Rilling writes that the path would go from the east and continue to the west, but does not specify a straight path.
“A component piece of that dry egress has always been a newly constructed walkway through Ryan Park at elevation 12. As advanced in the preliminary design, the walkway would enter into the park to the east at Day and Raymond Streets and continue to the most western edge of the park, exiting in the parking lot located outside the flood plain and less than a block from South Main Street.
The concept design of the proposed dry egress components as previously represented to the Department of Housing will be incorporated into the city’s master plan for Ryan Park. Further, the dry egress improvements to Ryan Park will be completed prior to the Certificates of Occupancy being issued for the Phase 1 improvements to Washington Village,” the letter states.
Cece confronted Rilling about the letter at Monday’s public hearing. She went on to announce to everyone present, as she spoke at the microphone, that, “He has since realized he did not have enough information to have made those statements. I asked him on behalf of the taxpayers of Norwalk to rescind the letter and to do it in public.”
She went on to state that DEEP doesn’t have the right information, and referred to the “impact of coming through a public park which our mayor is not actually authorized to give away.”
Former Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak spoke next, and defended Rilling.
“I do think that the mayor has the best interest of the community and the city in mind so what was just said, that the mayor gave away a park, is completely inaccurate,” Mushak said.
Rilling has appointed an advisory committee to come up with a master plan for Ryan Park, he said.
“I don’t think that’s fair,” Mushak said. “The mayor was police chief for many years. He knows people in this community. He has worked closely with them. There is nothing sneaky or anything going on. I find that a pretty shocking charge to make.”
Away from the microphone, Cece said, “As a matter of public record right now that letter still stands, where he virtually guarantees that that park would be used for dry egress.”
While Duleep recently cited her status as an intervener in the DEEP matter as the reason she had access to state documents, state officials said they are subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents related to the Washington Village project have since been posted on the Connecticut Department of Housing’s website. NoN has downloaded the PDF in question and attached it below. The letter is on page 40 of the PDF.