Those were the days: Unwelcome developers left Norwalk, no lawsuits

By Patricia T. Conlin

NORWALK, Conn. – I think that the mosque issue has tainted the Zoning Commission’s behavior for years to come here in Norwalk. The Zoning Commission is obviously running “scared” and those unfortunate enough to stumble upon its path will suffer the consequences such as we have.

Norwalk taxpaying residents are clearly being “thrown to the wolves,” the wolves being the billionaire out-of-state developers such as Brightview/shelter development. In the past, developers of substance would have walked away, sensing the unwelcome attitude of the community. The commissioners would have then, after receiving significant, valid opposition from neighbors, voted against the developers and in favor of the neighbors, allowing the developers to either walk away or sue;  few ever sued and residents temporarily rested, feeling safe once again from business intrusion.

I would personally never have expected Harry Rilling to have voted  against Brightview at Norwalk, the senior center planned for the Sons of Italy property, not since the scathing remarks recently published by Republican Town Committee Chairman Art Scialabba appeared in the press. After all, Harry  hopes to be a mayoral candidate so he quickly put his tail between his legs and tried to prove Scialabba wrong by voting in favor of this over-sized development.  But  I would never have expected the entire commission vote to be unanimous in its support of Brightview — that presented as a legitimate “red flag” in my eyes (better yet, a hen house full of yellow chickens!). And to have immediately voted without the opposition present was the ultimate act of repugnance !

Norwalk is fast becoming glutinous in that it is now beginning to”eat its own,” so to speak, its own being the residential, taxpaying backbone of this city.  No neighborhood can any longer consider itself safe from their gutless, ravenous behavior. With the likes of special permits that allow intrusions such as  the mosque and public driving ranges and hideous, over-sized businesses such as Brightview in your backyard,  the commission has pretty much all it needs to invade any residential zone.

In answer to what do I think happened? I’m trying desperately not to think evil thoughts and thus submit the previous comments with tongue in cheek, possibly reserving future comments for another time.

Respectfully submitted,

Patricia T. Conlin


6 responses to “Those were the days: Unwelcome developers left Norwalk, no lawsuits”

  1. Suzanne

    There seems to be no balanced consideration for the community’s valid points. Given those that populate the Commission, my expectations for constituency views would be that they be taken seriously and weighed equally if not more than the presenting developer. Norwalk is “our town” after all, the developer often an interloper whose prime consideration is to make money in their business. The quality of the development, not just the potential income to the city, seems to be of little concern to the Zoning Commission.

    As usual, the examples cited in this letter, represent a haphazard, money-infused viewpoint from the Commission rather than an overall view of what this city is becoming. The neighborhoods of Norwalk are scatter shot targets vulnerable to the next developer’s eye for an empty lot (or what is deemed “blighted”.)

    The Zoning Commission? Forget the neighborhood! How much money are “we” going to make? There is no reason conditions could not be placed on the Sons of Italy property based on the modest requests voiced by the neighbors. And yet, the vote took place without consideration, a massive facility with inadequate parking will be built and any reasonable buffers to the neighborhood a pipe dream.

    The Zoning Commission represents what Norwalk has become and it is a very sad picture indeed. We, the taxpayers, have no control over our own communities, no say in what happens to them while they are in place, in power, and doing whatever the heck they believe is politically expedient. Shame on all of them.

  2. Joe Espo

    However hodge-podgey Norwalk may seem to be, it’s the effluent of the garbage predecessor Zoning regs extant way….looooong before any of us were out of diapers and looooong before we had the opportunity to lend our baby-boomer, New York Times-ey ideas about “Walden” to Norwalk’s current Plan of Conservation and Development. A reminder for the post-Woodstock great urban thinkers who pine after the type of planning style that some surrounding suburbs have: Crosby, Stills and Nash, those hippy pied-pipers of the day, we’re singing the praises of communal living on Yasgur’s farm and encouraged abandoning the cities. And so did we, and to a lesser extent, our children. That’s what happened to Norwalk, and thank God not to the extent of Bridgeport. So here we are. And if you want the Zoning Commission to have the testicular fortitude to resist something like Brightview, stop by in 2017 when the Plan of Conservation and Development is re-visited. Maybe you can encourage Harry to put soimething on the Zoning agenda – anything – that calls for a zoning change to stop big boxes and senior housing. Or perhaps, in the case of Brightview, some of us forward thinking Norwalk citizens will see that Brightview will fast become a desirable place for your parents, my parents, anyone’s aging relatives in town, and even us, to live close by their children and grand children with some semblance of dignity, when that 3000 sq. ft. house and second floor bedroom become too much to handle, and their kids become more willing to call in meals on wheels rather than take turns making them a home cooked dinner.

    So…why, Ms. Conlin, do you want to deprive Norwalk’s seniors of the dignity of having a place to live close to their families? Are you an “elderphobe?” Are you an “age-ist.?

  3. Curious

    @Joe Espo..Brightview said in the meeting that their rates start at $3,000 per month and go up to $6,000 per month. Thats $36,000 to $72,000 per year. How many Norwalkers do you know that can/will pay that? And then the clown from the Chamber of Commerce had the nerve to call this low income housing. This is a development aimed at serving the needs of New Canaan…not Norwalk.

  4. Suzanne

    Mr. Espo, the desire for senior living facilities is not what is being objected to. You need to read what was said by those who spoke up – a down scaling of the facility more appropriate to the land with a greater buffer and increased parking is what I read. Certainly, there will be the naysayers who do not want any new development at all. That is not what these citizens were asking for. Yes, to senior living but no to the over-extended scale of the building. In addition, there are at least two new Maplewood facilities in the area with additional senior living facilities being planned. No one is asking for seniors not to live here, on the contrary. Rather, they are asking the Zoning Commission to look at things such as scale, buffers from residential areas and parking, subtleties that seem to elude them. In addition, there are many resources on line about sustainable cities that apparently no one on the Zoning Commission is paying attention to (except for maybe Mr. Mushak who presented some urban planning ideas in NN in recent months.) Urban areas all over the world are adopting more sustainable approaches to development and considering adjacent impacts for new development in addition to required infrastructure. There is no reason Norwalk cannot “do development” in 2013 in an evolved way like other cities in America sans the tree-hugging and Woodstock like elements you allude to.

  5. Joe Espo

    Suzanne: commission judgments about “scale, buffers from residential areas and parking…” must be products of the zoning regs. Do you not understand that these commissioners cannot be driven by aesthetic impulses but must be guided by the law?

  6. Suzanne

    I fully understand that these commissioners are guided by the reg’s but, also, that there is a good deal of discretionary judgement that can be brought to bear upon any development. Thus, wetlands get bulldozed over, setbacks are made shallower, height restrictions waived: these types of incidents happen all the time for the developer who has the “right” lawyer and legal argument and with the Zoning Commission bowing to the desires of said developer without listening to the expressed desires of the constituency. I know the reg’s need revision and have worked toward that with at least one organization who had to bow out due to time and financial restrictions. But, the will of zoning and development has to start somewhere and I would like it to be with the very commission under whose auspices these regulations and listening to the constituency could be balanced. No one was asked the Commission to break any rules. They were asking for the kinds of considerations that would make this development and adjacent neighborhood better and more livable.

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