Two recent decisions of the Planning and Zoning Commission to approve projects affecting Norwalk’s historic resources did not fulfill their obligation to protect those resources under Chapter 6 of the Norwalk Citywide Plan: 2019-2029. The Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD):
Goal 1. Norwalk protects its most important historic resources and encourages adaptive reuse of historic sites to maintain and enrich the city’s character.
A. Preserve the integrity and character of historic structures, historic landscapes, and cultural resources sites within the City of Norwalk
As a result of this, The National Register of Historic Places-listed Udelman Building at 31-35 South Main St. will be lost and the streetscape in that part of SONO will be irreparably damaged.
Is the Planning and Zoning Commission required to follow its own Plan of Conservation and Development when approving zoning applications? If not, why do we have a POCD, other than the fact that State requires one? Norwalk is about to revise its entire zoning code and a requirement that applications for new projects must comply with all pertinent elements of the POCD, including those involving historic preservation, would be a welcome change.
The first application (approved on Feb. 15) #2022-55 SP/CAM – 31-35 South Main Street – Eight (8) story addition to existing Marriott SoNo Residence Inn hotel to add 48 rooms and 45 off-street parking spaces. This application requires the demolition of the National Register of Historic Places-listed Udelman Building (1927) at 31-35 South Main St. It seeks to demolish a significant building without any attempt to adaptively reuse it or to include it in its plans for an addition. The loss of this building would substantially damage the remaining historic streetscape on the west side of this section of South Main Street.
The second application (Approved March 22) #2022-24 SP/CAM – Mill Pond Holdings, LLC – 1 Cemetery Street (District 3, Block 42, Lot 27) – Construction of a 77-unit mixed-use development within two (2) buildings, 98 parking spaces and other on-site and off-site improvements, is for the construction of a large housing complex on the former site of a bank building, directly across Cemetery Street from the East Norwalk Historical Cemetery. This cemetery, founded in 1655, is our oldest and it is our only tangible link to the founding of Norwalk. It contains the graves of Thomas Fitch IV (c. 1699 – July 18, 1774), governor of the Connecticut Colony from 1754 to 1766, his son Colonel Thomas Fitch V (1725-1725) who is believed to be the source of the song “Yankee Doodle” and at least eleven of Norwalk’s founders. The applicant was not even required to submit a study of the possible effects of such a large development so close to this important resource.
The approvals of these applications are in direct opposition to the goals and strategies listed above. As a result, these applications should have been denied as presented. In case of the hotel, the applicant should have been required to show how they made every effort to incorporate the Udelman Building into their expansion plans. A third-party should have evaluated the Udelman Building’s historic integrity and the possibility of its adaptive reuse. In the cemetery application, the applicant should have been required to submit a study showing possible effects of the development on the cemetery. There is still time to add those conditions to the approvals.
Norwalk Preservation Trust
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