Sumpter predicted to succeed in Norwalk Zoning reappointment, even if it’s been bumpy

Norwalk Zoning Commissioner Nate Sumpter.
Norwalk Zoning Commissioner Nate Sumpter.

NORWALK, Conn. – Tuesday’s Norwalk Common Council meeting may feature the first public note of disagreement on an appointment made by Mayor Harry Rilling.

There have been rumblings that some people would work against the reappointment of Democrat Nate Sumpter to the Zoning Commission, a source said, calling it “an undercurrent of people trying to keep him off” by lining up votes against the appointment.

All of Rilling’s appointments to this point have been smoothly approved by the council, the dirty work of sausage making having been done behind closed doors.

Majority Leader Jerry Petrini (R-District D) said that Republican Council members were told at Monday’s caucus to vote as they wished. “I don’t know if he’ll get all the votes but he’ll get enough. He doesn’t need a super majority, but I can’t speak for everybody but we were in caucus, to be quite honest, we talked about it and ‘Vote the way you guys want to.’ So me personally, I’m going to vote yes. Even if I didn’t, I don’t think they needed me,” Petrini said.

On Monday evening, Council Minority Leader Travis Simms (D-District B) urged Democratic Town Committee members to attend the meeting to support Sumpter’s appointment.

“I want him to have the support of all the members of the DTC,” Simms said. “… I think it is very important that we do have some diversity there. Nate has certainly been there and has done a remarkable job, as has Mike Mushak.”

Mushak did not seek reappointment.

Rilling, who also was at the DTC meeting, said that, when he was on the Zoning Commission prior to being elected mayor, he was impressed with Sumpter’s thoughtful performance. “He was always asking the right questions, making very, very intelligent decisions,” Rilling said.

“I don’t have any problem with Nate,” Petrini said. “I’ve talked to people and he’s been there and he adds a lot of things.” Plus, “Our mayor is a Democrat and it’s his job to put up names and all. Unless I see something really, really at fault he should have his way with the boards and in this case. Doug, Harry, myself and Travis, in  this case we spent a lot of time going over the applicants and talked it out because nobody should be embarrassed on the council floor and that is a big commitment, Zoning.”


Also on the council agenda: sidewalk permits, not fines or liens

Simms didn’t score so well at the DTC meeting on another topic – a council agenda item.

“There is important item on the agenda that is going to be up for discussion and it’s regarding having taxpayers pay for sidewalks, right? My issue is the same issue Councilman Watts had as well and Councilwoman Bowman. The ordinance they are proposing to change to have taxpayers be responsible for taking care of their sidewalks as well as snow, etc.,” Simms said. “I’m a little concerned about that because our districts, A and B, we have the most sidewalks in the city. To put that kind of pressure back on the constituents, the residents of this city, in the poorest districts, I don’t think is fair. We have a lot of senior citizens that are on both districts and to say that if you don’t plow your sidewalks that we are either going to fine you or put liens on your property. I am a little concerned about that.”

Ordinance Committee Chairwoman Shannon O’Toole Giandurco (R-District D) confirmed later that Simms was mistaken. The item on the council agenda is Chapter 96 of the city code, regarding permits for construction work on sidewalks. The liens and fines are in Chapter 95, a review of which hasn’t made it out of the Ordinance Committee yet.

Third Taxing District Commissioner Deb Goldstein attempted to correct Simms at the DTC meeting. “It’s very unlikely it will be up at the council for discussion without an action associated with it,” she said.


7 responses to “Sumpter predicted to succeed in Norwalk Zoning reappointment, even if it’s been bumpy”

  1. Mike Mushak

    Nate was and will continue be an excellent zoning commissioner. He supports smart development that follows regulations, and as the commission’s lone minority member he is not only a strong voice for the unique issues that affect the minority and lower income South Norwalk community, where I also live, but he also understand big picture issues that affect the entire city. He fights for what he believes in, with a passion that is admirable and which I always respected while serving with him on the commission for many years.
    What should be really disturbing to everyone on both sides of the aisle is Zoning Chair Joe Santo’s behind the scenes campaign of weeks of phone calls allegedly spreading lies to Common Council members, after stalking Nate’s home and business just as he did to me, to try to keep Nate off the commission, simply because he apparently does not like Nate’s outspoken nature and strong advocacy for issues like workforce housing.
    How ironic that the only reason Joe Santo is back on the commission at all (after previously serving for close to 20 years total off and on since the 80’s and resurrected by Mayor Moccia) is because of a lone swing vote two years ago by the only black Councilman at the time, Carvin Hilliard, who is now retired in South Carolina.
    Santo must have a short memory to forget that favor, which it was since Hilliard had said before his surprise vote that he would never vote for Santo who he had known for decades and whose positions were well known and not popular, especially in the black community. He admitted, when asked on the record, that he voted for Santo because Mayor Moccia offered him a favor. Now, get this, Santo is trying to get the only minority member of the commission off by allegedly spreading lies to Councilmembers! It seems Carvin Hilliard’s initial worst fears about Santo he shared before actually voting for him were spot on.
    Santo’s relentless threats and troublemaking on the commission didn’t even end with my term being up on July 1st. He approached me after the last zoning committee meeting on July 10th where I sat in the audience to listen, and said he was watching my house every day and if I moved a flower pot (required by zoning staff, absurd as that sounds) in my driveway just one inch he would make a new complaint against me. All I could do was nervously smile, as the statement was so absurd and frighteningly sociopathic at the same time as to seem surreal. The exchange was witnessed and reported on by Nancy on Norwalk.
    This established pattern of harassment by Santo not just against me but against other commissioners as well is very disturbing, and should be a concern to our city leaders on both sides of the aisle. This is no way to run an important land use board, like some small town organized crime syndicate with personal vendettas and threats, instead of dealing with the important issues that affect the future of the city which he is ignoring, angering many local developers who are waiting to invest in our city and need smart zone changes to help make it happen.

    Santo seems to now be fighting any changes at all in our broken zoning code, regardless of the millions of dollars of expert plans and studies by professional planners that tell us we are falling years behind other cities, as small businesses continue to struggle and hundreds of properties especially in SoNo and Wall Street areas remain under-developed or blighted.
    The inattention by Santo to implementing much needed smart zone changes affects all of us, and affects jobs, property values as well as our TAXES, and the affordability of housing to everyone regardless of income (our obsolete parking requirements from the 70’s are a sick joke among developers and planners now, as we are the very last city in CT to change them, and which keep new commercial development unaffordable to finance and housing expensive for everyone, not just lower income folks). But Santo has plenty of time to stalk, threaten, and harass commissioners he doesn’t like. Unbelievable, but true. How sad that all we want is a professionally run P and Z department and commissions that help move the city forward following expert plans and studies. Is that too much to ask?
    Good luck Nate. You deserve to serve your city as the dedicated volunteer that you are, and as the only minority member of the Zoning Commission, despite Santo’s nasty and inexcusable campaign against you. He really owes you and me an apology, but more importantly, he owes the city an apology for bringing the Zoning Commission down to new low in sleazy behavior. Hopefully the smarter folks in his own party will do something about it.
    Norwalk can’t afford this nonsense much longer, and the good folks of Norwalk and potential investors deserve much better than this petty old-school thuggery on their major land use commission.

  2. EveT

    Let’s hope Nate Sumpter is reconfirmed. He has impressed many as a smart, honest, conscientious and hard working commissioner.

    As for the accusations against Joe Santo, they are pretty horrifying. How can this kind of behavior be tolerated?

  3. Adam Blank

    Nate’s a good guy and I always valued his perspective on the Commission even when it wasn’t the same as mine. Hopefully he gets reappointed.

  4. One and Done

    Same old, same old.
    Petrini said “Unless I see something really, really at fault he should have his way with the boards and in this case.” Speaking of the mayor.
    Considering his and everyone else’s YES vote to put the person who was responsible for oversight at NEON onto the BET says a lot.
    How screwed are we?

  5. Carol

    the commission needs new blood-get rid of all the ones that have been there for more than 2 terms and lets get things moving in norwalk!!!!!

  6. Norewalk Lifer

    Mr. Santo should be removed, there is no place in Norwalk for this kind of behavior.


    Norwalk Lifer

  7. RU4REAL

    It is time for a change Joe.

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