Updated 12:42 p.m., list of members; 2:36 p.m. with additional quotes from Mayor Rilling.
NORWALK, Conn. – A task force has been formed by Mayor Harry Rilling to further a conversation that began before the election about making improvements in SoNo to help the merchants there.
“One of the many issues we are going to be looking at is how we can work with the Parking Authority to make regulations a little less difficult and how we can make them a little more structured so they’re all consistent,” Rilling said.
Former Mayor Bill Collins, on whose watch in the ’80s Washington Street was renovated and the Maritime Aquarium was constructed, is the chairman of the SoNo Task Force.
“This task force grew out of a couple of meetings that Harry had with South Norwalk merchants and restaurant owners prior the election,” he said. “I attended those meetings with Harry and we got quite an earful. So Harry promised at that time that if he got elected that he would set up a task force to examine and codify and try to come up with a few solutions anyway to the main problems.”
Those meetings were set up by Democratic District B Chairman Bobby Burgess, Collins said.
There are about a dozen people on the task force, Collins said. The first meeting was at noon Friday, held in the offices of task force member Bruce Beinfeld, the architect who designed the development now being built at on North Water Street, SoNo Ironworks.
“It was a good meeting. We talked about some partnerships with the public and private sector that might be able to facilitate some of our programs and projects,” Rilling said.
Among the members Rod Johnson, who was director of the Redevelopment Agency when Collins was mayor; Stephanie Pelletier of TR Sono Partners, LLC; Common Councilman Travis Simms (D-District B); Chris Lloynd of the Maritime Aquarium; Susan Sweitzer of the Norwalk ReDevelopment Agency; Eric Rains- of Eric Rains Landscaping; Steve Semaya of Strada18; and Burgess. Common Councilman David Watts (D-District A) also attended the meeting, Rilling said.
“The committee is a work in progress,” he said. “The parking authority should have somebody at the table. But its still a work in progress. We’re trying to figure out who would be best to sit on the task force. There’s probably some other people who would be considered.”
“We’re trying to find the points in each problem where we can apply some pressure for change,” Collins said. “Parking is the worst one. Something has to be done to make parking more friendly. There is an issue of maintaining cleanliness in the district. Not terrible, but it’s sagged over the years. In some places the lighting is not adequate to make people feel comfortable.”
Everyone is bringing something to the table, Collins said.
“From my standpoint, there has not been any updating of the public art in the area,” Collins said. “It’s not so well organized. The district needs something exciting. I mean, it was exciting 30 years ago when we put up murals on blank walls. But after 30 years people get kind of accustomed so we need some new stuff.”