Rowayton pushes Norwalk zoners for respect toward neighborhood in debate with mosque-like aspects

Norwalk Zoning Commission Chairman Joe Santo, left; Zoning Commissioner Nora King, right.

NORWALK, Conn. – Rowayton has won part of its battle with the Norwalk Zoning Commission, in that applicants will be asked to notify more of their neighbors of any changes proposed for waterfront properties.

That was the result of a contentious Zoning Committee meeting Thursday in which a group of six or seven Rowayton activists were told they were being rude as they spoke up from the audience with occasional comparisons to the Al Madany Islamic Center’s application to build a mosque and the words, “You’re wrecking our neighborhood.”

The meeting also featured Zoning Commission Chairman Joe Santo asserting that the state is trying to take over Norwalk, and a question from Planning and Zoning Director Mike Greene regarding requests made by Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP): “By what authority?”

The crux of the battle was about whether there should be public hearings on waterfront applications. Zoning staff has maintained that no public hearing is needed for a single family home, but there were three separate applications in Rowayton – taken together they change a neighborhood drastically, activists said.

An application to reconstruct the flood protection on a Wilson Point home also brought contentious comments.

Zoning Commissioner Nora King has been pushing to require a public hearing for any waterfront application. Paradoxically, she agreed with other commission members that the applications for new single family homes at 14 and 16 Farm Creek Road did not require public hearings – the details of those applications had become widely known during the controversy over Bruce Beinfeld’s proposed home at 2 Nearwater Road, she said. But the application to build a home at 7 Sammis St., next to the walkway for the Farm Creek preserve and next to the first two applications, was not well known, she said.

“I’m not happy that this didn’t go up to the state and I’m not happy that I bet you there’s a lot of people in this area who do not know this is taking place,” King said. “That upsets me and I think that, based on the proximity to the walkway there, that the neighbors should be aware of this and this should be fully disclosed to all of the people who live in this neighborhood.”

“An application was made and it’s a public record,” site planner Frank Strauch said.

“It’s a cat and mouse game,” Lisa Thomson said from the audience, which also included Bunny Scott, Julie Burton and Maggie Trujillo.

“If we have a public hearing there’s no impact on the coastal resources then nothing is going to change,” Santo said. “I can’t recall the last time we had a public hearing on a single family home, whether it’s on the water or not.”

“It’s three homes,” one of the audience members said.

“You’re being very rude,” Santo said.

“You’ve destroyed Rowayton,” Thomson said.

“You’re not allowed to speak during these meetings,” Zoning Commissioner James White said. King went on to say that not having public hearings for “these things” is “sickening for the community,” causing another comment from Thomson, “You are supposed to be representing the community.”

“Ma’am, please,” White said. “You’re not allowed to speak!”

The conversation moved on to the Wilson Point applications at 10½ and 12 Woodland Road. DEEP Senior Coastal Planner Marcy Balint had required changes to the application to reconstruct a seawall damaged by Superstorm Sandy, but had not yet weighed in on the current plans, Strauch said. Waiting would mean going into November without getting any work done, he said.

Engineer Holt McChord said Balint had been out of town. She was requiring them to use the same stones that were already there and build it so it is structurally sound, he said. There will be plants back from the tidal line, and DEEP did not want the revetment extended, he said. A structural engineer had signed off on it, he said.

Santo asked if it would protect the property. McChord said it was the best that could be done.

“Sounds like a patch job,” Santo said.

“It’s a bit of a one hand behind your back to try to build it,” McChord said.

Norwalk Zoning Commissioner Adam Blank.

Zoning Commissioner Adam Blank asked if there could be a special committee meeting next week, before the Zoning Commission meeting, to advance the application if Balint had responded.

“What is this Marcy going to say that’s going to make this any better? It sounds like she’s making it worse, really. … She’s requiring them to do a patch job,” Santo said. “Really, the way it sounds, she’s just trying to be hardball here.”

“She’s trying to protect the environment,” King said.

“She’s not letting them protect their property the way they should be able to. Really. It’s a Mickey Mouse job what they’re doing there now,” Santo said.

Greene suggested putting it on the Zoning Commission agenda. If there’s no comment from Balint it can be tabled, he said.

The discussion moved to other topics, until the end of the meeting. King had requested a discussion of Coastal Area Management (CAM) exemptions, in reference to the desired public hearings.

“I really do think we ought to change at least the portion of the reg that says we may hold a public hearing on single family residents,” Blank said. “… There should be some universe of neighbors that gets notified before we decide not to hold a public hearing.”

He suggested having applicants send letters to people within “some distance,” but said, “The regulation is what it is, even if there’s neighborhood opposition we might still say we don’t want to have a public hearing because we don’t want to deny it anyway. We get it that people don’t want there to be big houses in their neighborhood, but we can’t change that.”

“What grounds do we have to deny these applications?” Santo said.

Blank said sometimes the public brings up things that commissioners haven’t thought of. Zoning Commissioner Mike O’Reilly and White agreed that it was a good idea.

“You have a public hearing, you go through the expense of presentation, the expense of hiring an attorney, the expense of doing all the renderings, and then what legal right do we have to deny it?” Santo asked.

“If they can build a $2 to $5 million house I think they can afford to (prepare for a public hearing),” King said.

“That’s your opinion,” O’Reilly said.

King said everyone had been put on the commission to represent neighborhoods. O’Reilly said that wasn’t true; if it were then everyone would just be looking out for themselves.

King said commissioners bring with them expert knowledge of their neighborhoods.

“You are looking at it very focused on the individual homeowner’s right, you are not looking at it as a cohesive body of a neighborhood and what it does to that community,” King said.

“That’s your opinion as well,” O’Reilly said.

“It’s private property. This isn’t a communist country,” White said.

“What about the mosque? What you guys did with the mosque, I’m sorry, it’s inconsistent,” Thomson said, from the audience.

“You’re changing the neighborhood,” King said. “You’re basically saying to the community that the community doesn’t have a right to know what’s going on.”

“I am saying the community doesn’t have the right to dictate to a private property owner what they can put on their property as long as it conforms with the regulations,” White said.

King said she had talked to Balint and Sue Jacobsen of DEEP. “You know what they said? We have the most shoreline out of any, any city in the state of Connecticut,” King said. “We have the most relaxed laws and we do not fight or defend our coastline. When somebody up at the state tells me that Norwalk is the worst city in the state that does this…”

“That’s her opinion,” Santo said, as the audience rumbled.

“We should be looking at what other areas and towns and cities are doing,” King said. “Greenwich has done a pretty good job of protecting their Old Greenwich neighborhood. They have put FAR (Floor to Area ratio) restrictions in there, they are not going by setback lines. They are respecting drainage issues, water issues, the fact that now you have to build higher houses – you’re going to be adding, what is it now? Another 16-15 feet in the floodzone. These houses are going to be going higher than ever before.”

That’s federal law, Santo said, referring to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) regulation changes.

“You have B lots in Rowayton and you’re putting these monster houses up on these B lots with no respect to the (overall) concerns of the neighborhood. Let’s not even look at it. Look at what happened with the mosque? We’re just not respecting the neighborhoods within these areas of Norwalk,” King said.

FAR should be discussed another day, Blank said.

“We are not doing this from scratch. We have quite a bit of housing stock already out there. Depending on what the FAR regulation said we could make 90 percent of our homes pre-existing non-conforming, which we may or may not want to do. So let’s give that some thought,” Blank said.

Greene said a draft regulation would be written for consideration at the next committee meeting, to require more public notices be sent out by applicants who want to avoid a public hearing. In the meantime, staff will strongly suggest that applicants send out a lot of notifications.

That ended that issue. For a moment.

“I do want to have a conversation with the state,” King said. “I’ve had a state senator agree that he can help us with some of this. I think that we should be mapping what the state recommendations are for our waterfront property. When the state comes back and says that Norwalk is the most lax, I have a problem with that. I think our staff should be working with Marcy and Sue Jacobsen how to tighten it up… and come back with some recommendations.”

She addressed Greene. “Marcy says she’s talked to you, about bringing our regulations in (line),” she said.

“We’ve had conversations,” Greene said. “We’ve had conversations with the other towns who have the same regulations as we do and they are not being told by the CAM office that they don’t comply; in fact Marcy didn’t say we didn’t comply.”

King said she hadn’t said Norwalk didn’t comply. The description had been “lax,” she said.

“Have her confirm that with Mike, if she’ll say that,” Santo said.

“Put it in writing,” Blank said.

“We hear it from you but we need to hear it from her,” Santo said.

“There was an email bouncing around and she asked us to change the verbiage in one of our rules,” King said.

“I sent it back to her and said you reviewed the regulations we have now and supported them,” Greene said.

“She asked us to make a change and you told her no,” King said.

“I said, ‘You supported the regulations as they exist,’” Greene said.

“She has since asked us to make a change,” King said.

“By what authority?” Greene asked.

“OK. Wow. I happen to think that the authority is that she is at a state level giving us a recommendation. I say that is an authority,” King said.

“She and I were having a conversation that is not over. As you heard she went away,” Greene said.

Santo said that years ago the state had come in with recommendations for Water Street. “They were trying to take over over there. We told them no way,” Santo said.

“And look what has happened to Water Street,” King said. “We’ve had massive floodings down there and drainage issues.”

“They want to do more than that,” Santo said. “They want to take over the town again.”

DEEP emails_Aug6


28 responses to “Rowayton pushes Norwalk zoners for respect toward neighborhood in debate with mosque-like aspects”

  1. Lisa Thomson

    Thank you Nancy – this article highlights the actual transcripts of how members of our P&Z operate on a regular basis. They ignore the state, the neighborhoods, and the public. The whole process of planning and zoning in Norwalk is a Mickey Mouse joke.

  2. Tom Castiglione

    Not surprising at all when you see what has been done to Norwalk

  3. Scott

    Where is the line drawn between fairness to the neighborhood and fairness to the property owner. It’s almost a catch 22. There is a difficult balance that needs to be achieved and I don’t think anyone has found the answer yet. I do not envy the commission’s position. The most bothersome piece out of this story is the seawall on Wilson Point. I agree that we need to protect our natural resources but this home is pre-existing. The home owner should be allowed yo protect their investment.

  4. Suzanne

    First, I find it remarkable that a Commission meeting can be held with members of the neighborhood that will be most affected present and they can’t say a word. Ridiculous.

    The paranoia for power by Mr. Santo, Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Greene is evident. They don’t want to help Norwalk. It is more like they don’t want to cede power.

    Read this transcript carefully. The only individual that seems to be at all concerned with Norwalk is Nora King. She is one person among many and cannot carry this entire burden of regulation and Zoning on her own.

    I find Mr. Blank judiciously legal but ambivalent about the Norwalk citizenry. There is a long time ago need for change that needs to happen now. Recently, three neighborhoods have been incurred by these outdated, badly managed Zoning Regulations.

    Mr. Santa loves to make flippant and dismissive remarks as does Mr. O’Reilly. It is time we set some significant buildings and, perhaps, arrange for a few floods on their personal property. I imagine their defiance and rudeness would change quickly.

    Kudos to the citizens trying to get their say. Sometimes, it feels like the only way to be heard is to go to a meeting where the public is not allowed to speak and speak anyway. And, I really don’t care about the process of a public meeting versus a “regular” Commission meeting. The Zoning Commission is NOT listening.

    Wake up Norwalk!

  5. Lisa Thomson

    I want to point out that those of us who were in the audience are not directly impacted by the proposed homes on Farm Creek or even Mr. Beinfield’s 2 Nearwater property. So this is not a case of NIMBYism. We are just citizens trying to hold our officials accountable and create some transparency to shine a light on the farce called P&Z . The folks who will be impacted on Farm Creek Rd. Won’t even know what is happening until the developers all show up to start building. The real story here is that our P&Z ignores the state and thinks that any attempt to protect wetlands or waterfront is akin to communism. We need to find a middle ground – we are not unreasonable people but the tone and behavior of some of these commissioners, sheds light on why we have problems with city staff. In fact, if there is any display of communism, it is the P&Z chairman trying to hush up any notification to the neighborhoods of construction. I also hold the Planning Committee of the Common Council responsible. If our ELECTED officials don’t demonstrate any interest in updating our processes then it is time to vote them out next November. The P&Z meetings, in one form or another are a regular weekly spectacle. The only thing missing is the popcorn.

  6. Nora King

    @Scott and all. This is a very tough subject. No one wants to hurt an individual homeowner’s rights. There is a line that has to be respected. However, we do need to respect the integrity of the overall neighborhood. There are too many folks on zoning right now that don’t care about maintaining the integrity of our neighborhoods. If we had strong city planning we wouldn’t be having this problem. We would understand the value of our neighborhoods and recognize the importance especially within waterfront areas that successful planning helps areas grow for 5, 10, 15 years and longer down the road.
    A public hearing on waterfront properties, neighbors being notified and stronger planning needs to be done. The vision needs to be set by the Mayor and the Common Council needs to support this. For the past 10 years we have been putting our heads in the sand with a zoning department that lacks planning.
    I would love to see the neighborhood groups throughout Norwalk take a strong stance and form a strong coalition that fights for our unique communities within our city. Without strong voices change cannot take place.

  7. Bruce Kimmel

    Norwalk is considered a waterfront community; in fact, we have the longest coastline in the state. Our coastline is one of our most valuable geographical assets. How on earth can some members of our zoning commission not recognize that we need to do all that is possible to protect that asset and the neighborhoods adjacent to the Sound. And there is undoubtedly no better way to do that than to include those residents directly impacted by construction proposals.

  8. diane lauricella

    Thank you Commissioner Nora King for your tenacity!

    I was glad to see other citizens at a Committee-level Zoning Commission meeting. Committee level meetings , even at Planning Commission and select Council Committee meetings, is where much of the misinformation begins. Certain staff repeatedly show, by their advice….or lack thereof, that they have not kept up their skills, twist the facts or withhold their advice. This recently happened at DPW Council Committee meetings when discussing stormwater management….

    This is also a cat and mouse game that does great disservice to not only the city at large , but the elected and appointed officials expected to make informed decisions.

    Sounds like this is a great reason for the Council Personnel Committee to stop cancelling their monthly meetings and meet to take some action. Me thinks a review of staff training standards is needed immediately.

    The discussion was both revealing and essential. These discussion item topics need to continue and go “deeper” NOW in hope of finding needed balance.

  9. RU4REEL

    Santo, O’Reilly, Greene and anyone else with this backwards thinking has got to go! Can they be impeached? Make Ms. King chairperson and Mr. Blank what happened to you?
    You changed tune a bit since Moccia kept you out, get back to that person prior to that time.
    We may need Mushak back, I think him and Ms. King would be great!
    As for a resident not being able to speak I say b… s…!
    As taxpayers we have the right.

  10. Mike Mushak

    Great job Nora King! We need more engaged commissioners like her, and Adam Blank, who care about fixing the broken codes and planning process in Norwalk.

    I grew up in NJ and have watched in my lifetime of 53 years as the Jersey Shore (in places like the once-beautiful Barnegat Bay), have been ruined with poor planning combined with greed and overdevelopment, something Norwalk is now suffering from. In NJ, it has gotten so bad that even conservative GOP Governor Chris Christie has spoken out against the property rights arguments that have contributed to it, and is demanding for better planning and regulations.

    Does Norwalk really want to become the Jersey Shore of CT with miles of cheek by jowl overbuilt architectural obscenities and boat lifts that display trophy yachts under floodlights and competing sound systems? I am not trying to be funny here. The Jersey Shore can never go back, and there are countless folks like me who wish the Jersey shore had never been ruined like this, including the current Governor Chris Christie.

    I agree with Bruce Kimmel, and many others, that our waterfront communities and precious shoreline MUST be protected. That is our greatest asset, and we must not ruin it. After decades of poor planning decisions by the under-qualified Mike Greene, who disdains expert plans and studies and state law as this article clearly shows, we have compromised entire swaths of our once-great city to poorly planned sprawl and traffic congestion. Now our waterfront communities are under assault by this arrogance and lack of planning, and we must do something about it.

    We already have some planning in place to protect at least some of our waterfront communities from overdevelopment. It is called the Norwalk Harbor Management Plan (NHMP), a state-approved document to protect waterfront communities form overdevelopment that the P and Z Department is REQUIRED by law to follow, yet is NEVER even mentioned by Mike Greene who has disdain for that and so many other plans and studies including our own Master Plan (he said recently that document is useless.)

    Don’t take my word for it, just ask some past and present members of the Norwalk Harbor Commission if P and Z is following the NHMP. You might get an earful on that. The Five MIle River does NOT even have a Harbor Management Plan, even though they have a Harbor Commission, and they need one desperately. You would have thought our P and Z Director would have noticed that serious oversight to protect Rowayton years ago and done something about it, but considering that Greene thinks all plans are meant to be ignored, including the crucial NHMP on the other side of town, it makes sense that he didn’t bother ever pushing for it. “That’s not my job” is his famous line we are all getting tired of hearing from this $165,000 a year employee with 2 full months per year paid vacation. In 2014, no city should tolerate being ripped off like this by an overpaid employee who is clearly not doing his job in protecting Norwalk communities including Rowayton from poor short-sighted planning decisions that favor quick profits for individual property owners over long-term economic sustainability and preservation of neighborhood character which is what good planning is supposed to do.

    We also need FAR reductions to follow standards of other local towns and cities where they work just fine (why should we be so lax here-are we that desperate to be mediocre and overbuilt and ruin our communities?) Note: the mosque application proved how lax our FAR regulations are are as that project followed our code exactly yet everyone saw how big it was for the site.

    The argument I heard in this meeting that we might create too many non-conforming properties if we change our FAR is not valid in my mind, as it ignores the overwhelming majority of properties in Norwalk not just in our waterfront areas but all over the city, that are not built out yet and are potential candidates for the kind of behemoth architectural obscenities we now see in Rowayton (which we just saw with the Sammis Street application). The number of properties that have been fully built out already and will become non-conforming is relatively small, but each year that goes by where nothing is done makes that number bigger and the task harder. Urgency is called for.

    The arrogance of Mike Greene and some commissioners continues to run our once-great city into the ground just as they have done for decades with a complete lack of accountability and transparency. Now that a spotlight has been shown on this broken process by NON, and with an upwelling of grassroots anger over numerous ill-conceived projects including the mosque and BJ’s that our broken code encouraged, there is no turning back. Greene needs to be replaced with a qualified professional, our code need to be fixed, local plans like the excellent Norwalk Harbor Management Plan need to be followed instead of ignored with impunity, and state laws need to be followed instead of met with astonishing lines like “by what authority do they have?” which Greene threw out revealing his utter disdain for DEEP and other state and federal agencies.

    Norwalk taxpayers, businesses, and our communities all deserve better than this nonsense they are getting now, and have been getting for decades from a broken system led by Mike “that’s not my job” Greene.

  11. Taxpayer Fatigue

    The new zoning task force led by Mr. Blank, should include representation from the DEEP. It is ludicrous that Norwalk Zoning ignores state laws and policies, especially with regard to Long Island Sound. It is especially laughable that “Big Box Santo” called a member of the public “rude” given how he treats other commission members, especially Nora King and former Commissioner Mushak. Old “Big Box” thinks the state wants to take over Norwalk? Really? The P&Z director doesn’t respect the state’s authority? Who are these looney bins?

  12. John Frank sr

    Both the harbor management commission and the shellfish commission routinely review DEEP permit applications from waterfront property owners for projects extending below the high water mark, where DEEP permits are always required. Mostly these projects are for piers, docks, & bulkheads and drainage into the harbor. Sue Jacobson has been the analyst for such permits in Norwalk for some time. In my experience (23 years on shellfish comm.), it took a lot to get her to limit projects that effected natural shellfish beds and it was almost impossible to convince her to refuse a permit. There were cases where the Army Corps of Engineers refused permits DEEP allowed. It took a lot of time and effort to review all the permit applications and try to influence the ones that were damaging to the shellfish beds or objectionable for other reasons. It was action by these local commissions that got both the Army Corps and the DEEP to start refusing permits for any project that would cause docks and boats to routinely rest on the bottom at every low tide. Neither commission had much influence on zoning permits where construction was not below high tide lines. We were not routinely notified of proposed drainage issues and only became aware of them when DEEP permits were applied for.

    As far as waterfront buildings that become an issue because their size disturbs nearby neighbors, without specific limits in the zoning ordinances on the size of waterfront buildings, there is not much zoning can do. Nearby owners never did get a vote on building permits. There is also some reluctance to get into disputes with wealthy waterfront property owners, which may explain why there are no such limits now.

  13. piberman

    Is Mr Kimmel the only Councilman who has public views about the P&Z nexus ? Others tongue tied ? Looks like an opportunity here.

  14. Suzanne

    piberman, What a good question.

  15. WOW just WOW

    Sounds to me that Mr. Santo is the only voice of reason in this group. Nora is becoming more and more comical everyday. Now she wants to hold public hearings on single family homes.. What’s next holding a public hearing on what color you can paint your living room?

  16. Suzanne

    Poor WJW, you just can’t help yourself. You bait like dirty fish. Mr. Santo is clearly obstructing progress arguing for a retrospective look at Zoning regulations instead of moving forward. Mr. Greene and Mr O’Reilly as well. The voices of reason are coming from Nora King, who respects the needs of taxpayers and Mr. Blank, who knows how to accomplish them. You are becoming a troll. Enjoy your negative notoriety and have a great day!

  17. Hobbes the Calvinist

    It’s the Luddites vs. the neighborhood Bolsheviks in an epic battle that rivals cafeteria table battles of junior high school.

    Sadly, Mr. Santo’s characteristic unpolished, uncouth style obscures that alleged “neighborhood activists” didn’t think the rules applied to them and heckled meeting participants. Come on- what’s next- holding your breath until Rowayton is granted independence from Norwalk?

  18. Scott

    Didn’t they already try that and got turned down? It’s the Rowayton section of NORWALK. Just like East, West, South, Cranbury, Silvermine, and Broadriver. Hope I didn’t leave anyone out but we are all NORWALKERS. Our beautiful city together.

  19. Lisa Thomson

    Hobbes- please don’t make glib, annonymous comments by attempting to shift attention to your obvious bias against the Rowayton section of town versus the real issue of our broken P&Z system. How is it that neighborhoods in West Rocks can fight BJs or West Norwalk can fight the mosque but Rowayton can’t fight to protect its waterfront? That nice ~20% tax contribution to the city’s coffers comes from the 1600 households on this side of town. That could drastically drop if P&Z continues to allow overdevelopment and not because of your ridiculous claims of ceceeding or independence. At what stage do people quit buying overtaxed properties in a seaside village, when the majority of households can’t see the water anymore due to three story McMansions on subdivided properties courtesy of the City of Norwalk?

  20. John Hamlin

    The real question for many is whether the zoning approach of the last 25 years has permanently ruined the city. Many of us still have hope that the damage can be reversed, that Norwalk can move forward productively, but it’s clearly time for a new approach. And the article above is further strong evidence that we need change.

  21. Scott

    Your property is worth more. That’s why you pay more tax. The houses in my neighborhood are 3 to 4 times lower in value than yours. You can move to this side of town. It’s completely your choice. Everyone pays taxes commensurate with the value of their property. You just happen to live in a city with a diverse population of different economic levels. If you want all the same there are homes for sale in our neighboring towns.

  22. Adam Blank

    I would like to explain why I am not leading the charge for public hearings on single family developments.

    I see the CAM/Waterfront issue as really two separate issues. First, are we allowing development to occur that pollutes or has a negative environmental impact on our shoreline? If the answer to this is yes, then we need to change our regulations to address this concern. This would solve problem #1 and would be unlikely to result in the need for public hearings on individual applications.

    I welcome feedback from anyone who has specific environmental concerns. We need to do a better job in the regulations with respect to what happens on the site during the time in between zoning approval and CO. Right now we do little to prevent contamination etc. during construction.

    The second issue is whether we want to preserve open views or access to the water in some or all of our waterfront neighborhoods. This is a much tougher question. If the answer is no, then we don’t need public hearings on single family CAM applications. If the answer is yes we must decide whether we should preserve waterfront access through the City’s acquisition of properties along the shore or whether we want to preserve waterfront access by limiting the size of development (through FAR or stricter setback and height limitations). We can limit the size of development through regulation changes, which would also result in no need for public hearings on most single family developments.

    This is why I’m not a full blown supporter of public hearings on all single family developments. I staunchly believe the City ought to start strategically acquiring key waterfront properties to preserve open space/public access. I would want to hear more from some title insurers, lenders, realtors and appraisers before I went all-in on the FAR bandwagon.

  23. Hobbes the Calvinist

    A fine way to shift attention by Lisa Thompson who suggests that the ends justifies the means. You can disrupt meetings, heckle public officials and disparage folks in the name of “protecting” your neighborhood. But be a City official who enforces the rules and Lisa Thompson labels you as being on a vendetta or as uncaring.

    My objections aren’t due to any Rowayton bias. My objections are all about NIMBYism at its worst. Folks with big houses and water views don’t want any newcomers to enjoy the same perks- sorry, but that’s just wrong. If objections were coming from Rowaytonites worried about parking (nearly impossible to visit a Rowayton business) or business development, I’d have some empathy. Concerns about multi-family dwellings, I’ll protest with you. But, trying to stop legal residential construction on legal residential lots is just a land grab that costs property owners their rights and Norwalk taxpayers lots more in legal fees and lost revenue.

  24. Lisa Thomson

    Adam Blank – Thank you for your balanced and logical approach to the mess we call P&Z. I welcome ANY reform that you can bring to the discussion.

    Hobbs – You never liked my opinions on NPS education reform, so I don’t expect anything less than annonymous snarky comments regarding me or Rowayton’s waterfront and wetlands issues.

    Scott- I am aware that Rowayton’s properties are worth more (relative to some of the other neighborhoods in Norwalk) and hence the higher taxes. However, my point was- how much longer will the Rowayton market pay up for ‘water’ when, unless one has a home directly on the water, they no longer have access or even sight of it. This is simply another ‘neighborhood’ example of what’s the Master Plan for the different neighborhoods around Norwalk.

  25. Nora King

    @Adam. I agree to a certain extent. I think we need to have a clearly defined strategy. We need to preserve and protect. So there are two issues that are occurring. I don’t really think the city has the budget to acquire properties though. The Land Trust was having issues raising the money for 2 Nearwater. We owe it to future generations to protect the waterfront. Not every inch of it should be filled with huge houses. What works for a B zone in other areas may not be the right solution for homes that are on the water or near the water.

    You don’t want to take a way a person’s right, however you don’t want to take the rights away from a community or future generations. Right now Norwalk doesn’t have any strategy in place for preservation of waterfront or the shoreline and we certainly could be doing more with the State to work on being much more environmentally responsible.

  26. Don’t Panic

    Mr. Blank has it right. Building another ill-advised process on top of a broken process will make the situation worse.

    The regs need to be looked at post-haste, as the core of the problem. Boxing in Mr. Greene with written regs decoded by smart, ELECTED officials should be possible.

    A word on property rights and state sovereignity. When a private owner builds in a coastal location without regards to the rights of the “commons”, it is often the latter who pays for those decision. Federal FEMA funds subsidize rebuilds after flooding and storms. Our waste water treatment plant, our harbor commission, our DPW and private owners in other locations have to build to more costly coastal water pollution targets. And Norwalk needs to remember that all of its governmental power is derived from the state by municipal charter. Every ordinance must be grounded in state statute.

    The hardship to private owners starts when we continue to look at these projects AFTER the property is purchased and AFTER plans are fully developed. Well written regs will filter these bad ideas out BEFORE the owners have expended significant time and energy and emotional investment into them.

  27. Don’t Panic


    The city’s own POCD calls for acquisition of la d to preserve open space and the CGS contains a whole section empowering easements for conservation purposes. Conservation strategies can include waterfront, not just trees.

    Think how much open space we could have protected with the costs from the settlement with Al Madany.

  28. John Hamlin

    Now we read that there is hesitation on the commission with respect to FAR? That’s truly a “set back.”

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