Zoning Commissioner cited, claims harassment

Santo Mushak 042514
Zoning Commission Chairman Joe Santo, left; Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak, right


Updated 8:15 p.m. Saturday, April 26, with attached copy of Michael Mushak’s Letter of Zoning Compliance from the Zoning Commission.

NORWALK, Conn. – A Norwalk zoning commissioner who has been issued a cease and desist order by the Planning and Zoning Department is calling the order an act of harassment.

Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak learned from this reporter that the Elmwood Avenue property he co-owns with David Westmoreland was being cited. The order, attached below, indicates that it was sent Wednesday by certified mail. Mushak said Friday that he and Westmoreland had received the certified letter notice, but had not yet gone to retrieve the mail.
“Before we even got the notice somebody was orchestrating a press barrage,” he said on Friday evening. “I have been subjected to a pattern of harassment by Joe Santo on the Zoning Commission and this fits into that pattern. This is how whistleblowers get treated in Norwalk. The same way Laurel Lindstrom was treated, and a whole bunch of people who tried to fix things in Norwalk. The abuse of power is frightening.”

“I know the violation went out yesterday,” Santo, Zoning Commission chairman, said Friday afternoon. “He should have it by now.”

Santo provided the copy of the order to NancyOnNorwalk.
Santo said Mushak should resign.

“This is a sitting zoning commissioner that should know better,” he said.

Mushak and Westmoreland are in violation of section 118-1220J of the Norwalk building zone regulations, according to the order, for having a parking space within the front setback. They are ordered to cease parking in the front setback and bring the property into compliance with zoning approval granted Nov. 29, 2007, or face penalties.

Santo said the complaint was filed by a neighbor of Mushak’s in retaliation for a blight complaint filed by Mushak.

Mushak said he hasn’t filed a complaint against anyone.

Golden Hill Association President Jim DelGreco mentioned a blighted Elmwood Avenue property last week in reference to enforcement of the new blight ordinance. The comment appeared in a story on this website.

Mushak said Friday the house is abandoned.

“That owner is never there. This is a smokescreen,” he said.

Mushak said he and Westmoreland have a 2008 letter from Zoning Inspector Aline Rocherfort approving the property’s driveway arrangement. Zoning Compliance Officer Adam Carsen came to the property and studied the situation, he said. His recommendations were followed, Mushak said.

Click here to see a copy of the letter: 2008 09 09 Zoning Signoff

The order is signed by Deputy Zoning Inspector Vladimir Mariano.

Mushak’s second term on the Zoning Commission ends July 1. He would need votes from a two-thirds majority on the council to be reappointed.

“He probably won’t be reappointed,” Santo said. “I think maybe perhaps he should resign now, save everybody a lot of aggravation. He’s just lost all of his credibility. Nobody wants to listen to him anymore and listen to his diatribes.”

Mayor Harry Rilling said Friday afternoon that he did not know about a cease and desist order. His follow-up email about Santo’s comment: “Inappropriate comments for a commissioner to make about another commissioner.”
“(Santo’s) bullying including ending meetings illegally without proper votes and ignoring the master plan and numerous studies,” Mushak said. “I think it’s Joe Santo who needs to resign so the city can move on with its business. This is petty retaliation, using city staff to retaliate.”

The April 10 Zoning Committee meeting ended with an argument, as Mushak tried to get Santo to put something on the agenda. NancyOnNorwalk was not there, but recently listened to the recording made by the city. It is attached below.

The argument began with Emily Wilson making a motion to adjourn. Mushak called a point of order, and Santo said, “We’re adjourned.”

Nate Sumpter agreed with Mushak that the meeting was not adjourned, and mentioned people walking out the door. Later, Sumpter said, “I mean, how rude. Let’s just talk about this. You mean you’ve got three folks that want something on the agenda and you just walk out of the room?”

It’s obvious on the recording that Santo and other Republican members were gone at that point.

The recording continues with voices fading, and then someone walking down the hall with the recorder in their pocket.

Mushak said the recorder wasn’t shut off because there was no vote to end the meeting. Santo, Wilson, Linda Kruk and Jim White walked out, he said.

“We were adjourned,” Santo said. “(The item) will probably be on the agenda for the May meeting, which I told him I would do from the beginning. He wanted it on the agenda because he wanted it on the agenda.”

Santo said Mushak has a “history of doing illegal things.”

“Two times in the past he had his vehicle parked at St. Paul’s (Church),” Santo said. “He was claiming they were legal. St. Paul’s can’t have contractors on their property. He was told to move them, he moved them once then put them back. Most recently, he apologized to Andy Glazer for slander. He apologized in public.”

Mushak also met with neighbors’ of the proposed Lowe’s illegally and had to recuse himself from participation on that issue, Santo said. Mushak has been writing comments about the Al Madany Islamic Center, in violation of a judge’s order, Santo said.
Mushak addressed the allegations point by point:

  • He declined to comment about the mosque. A Feb. 27 comment on this site concerns a flier about the issue put out by Councilman David McCarthy (R-District E) before the election. On Feb. 26 he mentioned the mosque in reference to zoning regulations.
  • Mushak said he promised a neighborhood group that there would be crosswalks put on Stuart Avenue as part of the Lowe’s project. Staff was not responding to his requests to include the crosswalks. He said he requested a meeting in the mayor’s office with then-Mayor Richard Moccia and state Rep. Larry Cafero (R-137) who represented Lowe’s. Cafero asked him to recuse himself and he did.
  • Trucks were parked at St. Paul’s for 10 years before he began parking his Tulip Tree Design trucks there, he said. He was volunteering for the church and using the trucks, he said. He also paid a fee to support the church, he said. “As soon as I started given Joe Santo a hard time for him not following the bylaws, a complaint shows up against our church,” he said. The complaint was anonymous, and was written in “chicken scratch,” he said. Many churches in South Norwalk have trucks parked there and no one bothers them, he said. The trucks at St. Paul’s were not visible from the road, he said.

“They’re after me. They don’t like me. They’re using the city code to come after me,” he said. “As far as we know we have no violation (on Elmwood Avenue) and we had no violation at the church. It’s very curious that the press got to see the cease and desist before we did, which indicates and organized effort to smear my reputation.”

Mushak said Santo refused to hold a public hearing regarding Glazer’s property on Rowayton Avenue, even though there was a letter from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) seeking mitigation because the proposed project was removing a water-dependent use. Staff was ignoring the letter, he said. Mushak speculated in a comment on this website about the connection between Glazer’s donation to the campaign to re-elect former Mayor Richard Moccia.

“I made a rush to judgment and I apologized,” Mushak said.

It was “really shocking for a zoning chair to just ignore regulations,” Mushak said.
“My highlighting these infractions — there’s a pattern of corruption of process — it angered him,” Mushak said. “Also a pattern of corruption of process by staff, not answering questions and deliberate attempts to influence decisions by the commissioners. … They’re going to force me to get a lawyer and go to court over a gravel driveway.”

2008 09 09 Zoning Signoff

Mike Mushak 012

140410_001 zoning committee_02


63 responses to “Zoning Commissioner cited, claims harassment”

  1. Dottie

    Seems, this is pretty petty and illustrates what Mr. Mushak has been saying for quite some time, regarding the overreach of authority and immaturity and disrespect displayed on the board. Mr. Mushak may very well have a claim for harassment and perhaps even a civil rights violation. In the interim, – standing tall, above it all, is the right call. Perhaps, Mr. Wattage our own quasi oficiando political rapper, who has had his own hills to climb and has also taken some lumps in the sandbox, can put a beat to that for us and upload. Here’s a possible simple solution Mike, put a rock out there with a smiley face. Thank you Mike for all you have done, are doing and trying to do for Norwalk, against all odds. Your efforts are much appreciated, at least by others without tiny minds, stuck in time, dropping dimes, on non existent crimes.

  2. anonymous

    @Chapman, for this alleged illegal parking space, did Mushak provide the ’08 letter from zoning inspector approving the arrangement, the recorded zoning approval?

  3. the donut hole

    You reap what you sow. Imagine that. The guy needs extra parking spaces for himself. But according to him, you and I are supposed to ride bikes everywhere. The toxic situation he finds himself in is of his own making.

  4. Oldtimer

    If their parking arrangement was approved by zoning enforcement people in 2008, it would seem that present zoning enforcement would have a record of that and would have referred to it in reply to “anonymous complainant” instead of citing Mushak & Westmoreland. Isn’t there a 3 year time limit on how long Zoning has to act on a violation before they lose the right to cite a property owner ? If this turns out to be illegal harassment by Santo, he should be sued and removed from office.

  5. Suzanne

    Mr. Santos has just revealed his true colors by being completely petty, vindictive and punishing of Mr. Mushak. He should look in the mirror before citing anyone else for poor behavior and lack of compliance – that would be lack of compliance to his appointment to the Zoning Commission where he is SUPPOSED to represent the constituency in THEIR best interests in the City of Norwalk. Mr. Santos has raised the bar for harassment and is doing what he can to get rid of what he sees is a fly in the ointment of performing Commission duties. I, for one, feel fortunate to have Mr. Mushak representing me as a taxpayer or this Commission would be running willy-nilly without regard for regulations, the environment and numerous very expensive studies Mr. Santos and his ilk do not want to follow. I don’t care what Mr. Santos wants and I do care about having a town that protects the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. I believe Mr. Mushak performs these duties admirably and beyond the call while Mr. Santos continues to pick at a voluble, yes, Mr. Mushak who Mr. Santos and friends intends on either ignoring or driving out of his appointed position. I am sad to consider what our town would be if Mr. Mushak was not performing his duties so admirably. Mr. Santos, do your job and leave the man who is doing his, Mr. Musak, alone.

  6. Sara Sikes

    Thank you Mike Mushak for all your efforts representing the needs of Norwalk constituents. Anyone as articulate and persistent as you always faces ugly and petty personal attacks in this town. Keep up the good fight!

  7. EastNorwalkChick

    “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

    ― Mahatma Gandhi
    Mike, I believe you are in the fight stage, you’re making them nervous, and thanks to forums like NON, you have shined a light on the goings on the zoning commission and city departments. You have exposed them and they are not taking it kindly.
    You’re ideas are fresh, well thought out, backed with data and when you do make a misstep, you admit it and make corrections. Not many are willing to do that.
    There are many of us in Norwalk who support you, OK, maybe not all your ideas. But clearly, from what I can see, your intentions are not self serving, but are only to make Norwalk a better place….hang in there.

  8. Debora

    We are lucky to have Mike Mushak looking after the interests of the residents of Norwalk.

  9. John Hamlin

    This incident is one more reason, among a long list, to consider the staffing and ineffectiveness in City departments — and planning and zoning in particular. The pettiness of the political process in Norwalk is shocking, and anyone who promotes the public good and speaks truth to authority is likely to get harassed by the political establishment. But as long as the public puts up with the cronyism and fist fighting and abuse of power, that’s what we’ll be subjected to. Mr Mushak is one of the good guys, working to make Norwalk a better place and trying to bring it closer to the 21st century. He’s a community supporter and activist to be admired — if only our planning and zoning department were as competent as he is. This incident is a shocking abuse of process and power. (Even if this order were legitimate, wouldn’t Mr Santo normally be expected to step aside and let the process take its course and not turn from neutral Commission into a zoning high school hall monitor?)

  10. Lisa. Thomson


  11. Joe Espo

    @John Hamlin: Not only Mr. Santo, but the Mayor, as well, should have refrained from commenting on the issue, regarding the propriety of Mr. Santo’s comments. Yet the Mayor’s own sense of propriety was somewhat deficient when he, as a sitting zoning commissioner AND potential chief elected official of a defendant in a law suit, accepted a mayoral campaign contribution from a pending zoning applicant and plaintiff, Al Madany. Now that Mr. Rilling IS the chief elected official of the defendant in the Al Madany suit, he, as did zoning commissioner Mushak, should recuse himself from any involvement in litigation or settlement because of the appearance of a conflict of interest stemming from the campaign contribution. In fact, his corporation counsel should recuse himself as well, since he was appointed by the Mayor and takes orders from him pertaining to litigation strategy.

  12. Nora King

    As someone who serves with Mike Mushak I only have respect and admiration for him. Out of everyone on the commission he does his homework on every issue. He is prepared for every meeting and he works hard for the citizens of Norwalk. It is a shame that the Zoning Director has allowed this to happen.

    It will also be a shame if the Common Council members do not vote him back into office. As a voter we should take note of those Council people who would not support his reappointment. He has worked hard for our city and he should not be treated like this. This is political pettiness!

  13. Boyd Utcher

    If Mr Mushak is not reappointed by the common council will we know how they voted? It will be useful information. This way we know who to vote out.

  14. Sally V

    Nora King, perhaps you should begin your comment “As someone who will say anything to protect a Democrat who has done wrong”

    If you can name one thing he has done in however many years on Zoning, I will apologize. He threw fits to make issues to make Moccia look bad and now you’ll see how fast Harry runs away from him.

  15. Jlightfield

    Before being nominated to be on the Zoning Commission, Mike Mushak brought his property into compliance. Ironic that had we city emails for all commissioners the record of those emails would be on hand. Should Mr. Mushak find himself without the “paper” trail on this I will dig out the appropriate emails.
    The zoning staff should be commended for the neutral way on how zoning violations are handled. Zoning enforcement only is triggered upon a complaint being filed in writing.
    In a concession to the fragile nature of neighbor relationships I did not seek the end of anonymous zoning complaints. However I did pass a rule that all complaints submitted by elected and appointed officials could not be anonymous and had to bear a signature of the official. This ended a dubious practice whereby officials would submit anonymous complaints on behalf of “constituents.”
    Finally it would be nice if the zoning commission would generate discussion about issues, like tackling the driveway issue on a neighborhood issue instead of a uniform regulation that forces homes in older neighborhoods to increase the size of driveways reducing lawns in addition to reviewing the demand for on street parking in residential neighborhoods.

  16. Lisa Thomson

    Mr. Mushak is knowledgeable on P&Z matters and is a reformer looking out for Norwalk. The future vote on his reappointment will be a critical one. Those Common Council members who choose to vote against him in favor of someone with less experience or ‘play along to get along’ tendencies will demonstrate their status quo cronyism on P&Z matters and Norwalk voters should take note.

  17. Marianne DiRosa

    This comment has been disallowed due to potentially libelous content.

  18. Mike Mushak

    Thank you for all your kind words. I have scanned and sent to NON the letter of zoning approval, dated September 9th, 2008, certifying that our project was IN FULL COMPLIANCE WITH ZONING REGULATIONS, signed by Aline Rochefort. We did exactly what Zoning Inspector Adam Carsen told us to do, which was add some grass in a curved outline to reduce the gravel area in front of the house which he came out and approved when we were done, to more closely follow an old survey from 1982 that he had in his hand at the time even though it had been expanded before we bought the house and figured it was approved. We thought it was overkill at the time as we have a huge front yard with gardens, and a fence, but we did as he asked, which he then approved resulting in the approval letter from Aline. We made no changes since then. That is why this complaint makes no sense to us.

    I will not comment on whether or not it was Joe Santo who made the anonymous complaint against us in violation of our own commission policy, as Jackie Lightfield states above. But his assertion is highly suspicious that the complaint was from someone we made a blight complaint against on Elmwood Ave, as that is flat out wrong as we made no complaint.
    We simply adore in a romantic way the abandoned house that draws crackheads and prostitutes on the trash-covered lot on the corner of Hillside and Elmwood that we see from our sunroom and get to walk past with our beloved doggie 5 times a day, a house with a hole in the roof and a collapsing porch with ripped screens, and a crushed garage from a tree from Sandy which was never cleaned up, oh, and an abandoned car in the driveway like a cherry on top. But we never complained about it as there is never any follow up or results, as we can attest to after years of trying to get improvements on so many properties in our area owned mostly by out of town wealthy slumlords who defy health, safety, and zoning codes with impunity as their is no real enforcement policy except to shove teh complaints over to our overworked legal staff who then anger the judges who are tired of our city not enforcing its own codes like other cities do. Our abandoned romantic “folly” across the street reminds us that we are in Norwalk, where well-paid city staff have the time to pursue frivolous complaints against political enemies of the well-connected instead of actually doing their job enforcing codes that affect serious health and safety issues including people’s lives all over the city. Yes, it’s that bad, and that corrupt.
    Go see the abandoned house for yourself at Hillside and Elmwood, and while you are at it drive around our neighborhood to check out the cars parked all over muddy front yards that have destroyed the curbs and sidewalks to such a point that many folks just walk in the street, numerous illegal and deathtrap apartments where we see folks emerge through bilco basement doors every morning, and trash all over the place from unenforced trash rules and toppled cans that stay out on the sidewalk all week that are attacked by animals and deposit bottle hunters. You will see a once beautiful neighborhood that has been slowly destroyed through a complete lack of code enforcement by city officials over decades. But thank goodness the staff have the time to follow up on obvious retaliatory complaints where no violation exists. This truly is one of the better examples of your hard-earned tax dollars at work, soon to go down in the history books as the low point of public service in Norwalk. And folks in City Hall wonder why they have such trouble finding willing and qualified professionals to volunteer for boards and commissions.

  19. Mark Chapman

    We have added a link to the Letter of Zoning Compliance to the above report.

  20. minimum wage worker

    Stay strong Mike!

  21. John Hamlin

    So the bottom line is this: a specious complaint was filed about a property issue that the Planning and Zoning Department had already certified or approved in writing as in compliance with the City’s zoning regulations. Nevertheless, the department issued a cease and desist order without even contacting the property owner or doing proper due diligence — not even checking their own records. And before the order has been delivered to the property owner, the Chairman of the Zoning Commission is crying bloody murder and calling for the property owner’s resignation from the Zoning Commission. Perhaps the property owner is owed an apology? Unfortunately, this seems typical of the work of our city departments and the nature of politics in Norwalk. Can’t we graduate from high school and move into the 21st century?

  22. John Hamlin

    No question after this incident that we need Michael Mushak on the Zoning Commission, and anyone on the Common Council who votes against his reappointment should be voted out of office.

  23. the donut hole

    Time for new blood all around on this commission. It should be a bi-partisan effort with fresh faces. Not that two wrongs make a right, but Mushak is an instigator of the first class and everyone knows it. He’d have more credibility if he went on a crusade about the […] neighborhood he lives in first instead of attacking anyone and everyone in the city who didn’t agree with him on everything else.

    This comment was edited for language.

  24. Suzanne

    I have just listened to the recording and, in addition to the FBI-ish surreptitious feeling by listening to this scratchy tape, it seems like a scene ripped right out of “Mean Girls”. back-biting, rude, derisive, argumentative, dismissive: for what? Following proper protocol to get an item on a meeting agenda, that had been requested earlier. Not even an action item! A vote! Not even a discussion of the issue because discussion is not allowed by King Santos to take place in the interest of Norwalk citizens? Then the follow-up: a dubious citation at best for the most reviled Commission member by King Santos for a frivolous “violation” and a call for the resignation of said member of the Commission. It’s like King Santos just can’t stand the cooties emanated by a member of the group who actually wants to get things done. I feel insulted as a resident, constituent and taxpayer: the business that was being forwarded, now who knows what since the group was somehow adjourned/not adjourned by the reigning King, not public servant, was not only not discussed for some solution that would benefit the Norwalk citizen, it was completely eliminated from consideration at all. Mr. Santos’ sense of power is running rampant right over the Commission, the mayor, you and me. He needs to go. A more discerning, fair minded and conscientious person needs to take his place – starting with an absence of the polarization that seems to reign in this town between political parties. This Commission should NOT be about D’s and R’s and previous administrations. It SHOULD be about doing the work that affects so many of us, situations that come under the umbrella of Zoning, responsibly, and including the studies done by experts and at great expense. Who do these people think they are? If it had any affect at all but I believe narcissism has trumped service, shame on all of you that left that room, shame on Mr. Santos for deceiving the Commission and ignoring the greater good of Norwalk. “Dismissive condescension impedes productive discourse.”

  25. pnolin

    The real problem here is that Zoning has created a rule that property owners cannot park vehicles in their driveway within the front set back of their properties. This rule has been aggressively enforced against many Norwalk homeowners. Don’t know if Mike Mushak has sought to change that rule or not. It is ironic, however, that a Zoning Commissioner is now caught under this same rule that has tied up so many other owners in the City. It is a terrible rule which came into existence long after most homes in the City were built, but only started to be enforced aggressively beginning during the Knopp administration. Let’s fix the real problem and repeal this crazy use prohibition. What is wrong with owners/renters parking in their own driveways??? Until we fix that rule our Zoning enforcement staff is obligated to enforce the rule whenever they get a complaint of homeowners/renters parking in their own driveway but within the front setback.

  26. srb

    for the most part I’m impressed with the dialogue on NON, overwhelmingly its constructive despite the every so often name caller. I have no horse in this race btw Santos and Mushak but as a homeowner with school age children I have an enormous stake in what goes on in the City of Norwalk and the evidence in this case is pretty damning against Santos. He knows Mushak, may for all I know detest him but they work together and he couldn’t give him any heads up? The purpose of a zoning citation is to get the owner to conform, in this case a simple call (even through a 3rd party) may have resolved this and not made Santos have egg on his face. Mushak clearly alienates some people but that doesn’t make his ideas wrong and clearly doesn’t warrant what to an outsider look like juvenile tactics

  27. EveT

    This is why people decline to get involved in city government, or if they do get involved, keep their mouths shut about questionable practices on the part of the “crony” leadership. If you look hard enough you can probably find some kind of code violation on almost anyone’s property. Most citizens would rather keep a low profile than to speak up for better government and end up getting harassed like this. It’s really a shame, not just for the parties involved but for the city as a whole because of the “chiling effect” on people’s willingness to serve on boards and commissions or to run for office.

    If it’s true that Mr. Santo filed this complaint in spite of Mr. Mushak and Mr. Westmoreland having gotten zoning approval, that seems like a clear example of misfeasance and/or malfeasance. In that case, I hope Mr. Santo can be asked to resign.

  28. sofaman

    @Suzanne: fantastic comments. I’ll leave it to the board to figure out if Santo should go, but one thing is sure, Mushak must STAY.

  29. Joe Espo

    Mike Mushak, as we ALL know here on NON and from other publications, is an angry bully, and chronic defamer who publishes hate-filled rants about his many detractors with reckless disregard for the truth. As we ALL know from his thousands of lines of venomous commentary on NON, he has wantonly shredded the character and reputation of dozens of people – his fellow zoning commissioners, elected and appointed officials, department heads and entire city departments such as his own P&Z, merely because they disagree with his perspectives on how the city should be run and because they deign to resist immediate acquiescence to his bizarre demands. Even something as insignificant as a meeting adjournment fuels seething anger toward people who choose not to put him on the pedestal he demands to occupy. His intense hostility, no HATE, for any one and any thing republican is WELL documented in the annals of NON…that is, if NON hasn’t sanitized this site of Mike Mushak’s libelous rants. He has even shredded the reputations of the very council members whose super-majority votes he needs to be re-appointed. A Dale Carnegie disciple he is not. If the Mayor has any conscience about keeping his campaign promise to bring CIVILITY to city governance, he will not place Mike Mushak’s name in nomination for re-appointment. Mike Mushak is knowledgeable about zoning issues .. no doubt about that… but his rants are toxic and divisive to the community he purports to serve. His brand is not community service; his brand is community demolition.

  30. EveT

    I meant “chilling effect.” Sorry for the typo, but it gives me an excuse to reiterate how this reprehensible behavior on Santo’s part goes beyond just a one-on-one disagreement between him and Mushak.

  31. Suzanne

    Mr. Espo, However Mr. Mushak writes and with which the content you obviously disagree, I have seen on NON a number of videos of meetings at which Mr. Mushak speaks. He is prepared. He is determined. And, I think, would not have to be so voluble if the interests he represents and presents were actually considered by those who insist on disregarding him. Mr. Espo, check your facts. Mr. Mushak, in preparing for the Commission meetings, cites facts and actual areas of concern that would protect the health, safety and welfare of Norwalk citizens. Yes, he is argumentative and, yes, he presses his points. If these meetings were run even half professionally, I do not believe this behavior would be necessary. But, the current leadership is not interested in the citizens of Norwalk but, rather, demolishing power, to use your metaphor. One does not have to be a disciple of Dale Carnegie to know when dismissing important topics by so-called “adjournments” (I listened to the tape, did you?) is simply not appropriate in running a commission so vital to the collective interests of Norwalk citizens. You have your perspective but I just can’t cotton to it. What you state is a reflection of you, I believe, and not the facts of what occurs in these meetings.

  32. anonymous

    @Chapman the zoning compliance letter allows for a 2-car garage, no mention of approval of a parking setback. The citation is for a parking setback, that’s different. It’s still not clear if there is a violation or not.

  33. EDR

    Thank you for pointing that out. After 32 postings your are the first to point that out. Pnolin was correct earlier. It is a rule that needs to be changed.

  34. Mike Mushak

    EDR, thanks of showing such an interest in this subject. I am sure you are very worried about us being harassed. The zoning approval letter included the driveway issue as it was specifically pointed out to me by Adam Carsen that we would not get the approval for our garage unless we brought our driveway into compliance, which we had no idea at the time it wasn’t in compliance as we bought our house like that. He used a 30 year old survey to show me what was allowed in the front, even though we had no proof that that was ever approved as well. We did what he suggested and then we got our approval letter from Aline, even though the letter did not specifically address the driveway as it was already there.
    Joe Espo, my rants as you call them are against the deliberate corruption of process that I see every day in Norwalk, especially in the Planning and Zoning Department, but also in the DPW. I back all of my claims with facts, and instead of disputing my facts as you ahem a right to do and I wish you would,, you repeatedly just go after my character with childish insults. It seems you cannot go after my facts at all so you get nasty, which is always the sign of a failing side of an argument.

    The P and Z Department and Zoning Commission are currently ignoring millions of dollars in professional studies and our Master Plan, as most recently evidenced with the committee vote to kill the Main Ave zone change recommended in our master Plan and backed up with an expert study. This vote denied the public a right to comment on it in a public hearing, on a subject that affects entire neighborhoods of Cranbury and Silvermine, and public health and safety on one of the most dangerous and traffic-clogged roads in southwest CT according to SWRPA and the CT DOT.
    We are also completely ignoring a $200,000 Parking Master Plan, that said by 2014 we should have reduced our parking requirements by 25-35% all over the city. We haven’t even discussed this study once in committee as Joe Santo and staff apparently do not want to do the hard work of changing this, which developers and other city officials are desperately waiting for to make development more affordable, as well as increase affordable housing as each unnecessary parking space costs up to $30,000 to build in a structure, a cost which is passed onto potential residents in these projects with increased rents or purchase prices. Why are we ignoring this?
    We are also completely ignoring a Transit-Oriented Development Study for South Norwalk, paid for by taxpayers and completed in 2011, that would increase density and decrease parking requirements, which would result in infill development that would build more market rate and affordable housing as well as increase local businesses and increase much needed jobs. Joe santo and staff are deliberately ignoring implementation of this plan. Why?
    The most recent fiasco involved Joe Santo and staff’s refusal to put on an agenda a discussion to follow the $500,000 2012 Transportation Management Study, which recommended that P and Z implement new regulations immediately that pertain to traffic studies for large developments. The consultant, a nationally recognized firm that works all over the country and is widely respected, said our current regulations were “generic and useless”, yet we currently use them widely for large projects like Lowe’s and almost for BJ’s if that had wasn’t withdrawn. Taxpayers paid $500k for a study that examined our regulations and made recommendations to improve them, to protect neighborhoods, property values, public safety and existing local businesses as well as quality of life. Yet Joe santo doesn’t want to discuss it even though 3 commissioners asked him politely to put it on the agenda let month and he refused, sayng he’ll “think about it” before he refused. Why wouldn’t he just respond to a simple request?
    This is ugly obstructionism to the city moving forward following millions in expert studies and our Master Plan, which are certainly not just MY ideas as Joe Espo always gives me credit for which is bizarre, and flattering actually. It is pure corruption of process which has been manipulated to favor certain applicants and a stubborn ideology that experts and professional studies are all suspect and we should not follow them. What are they afraid of? That Norwalk may actually become well-planned and more vibrant and attractive as a place to live and work? Is it the change they are afraid of?
    Joe Santo promoted Mike Greene as Director into his position 20 years ago (Greene has been with the city for 36 years, since 1978), without any professional search for qualified applicants or interviews as most cities would have done for such an important position. Since then, we have ignored millions of dollars of taxper-funded plans and studies which just sit on the shelves and never get implemented. Norwalk was once considered a model of good planning in the 1980’s for the SoNo restoration and other initiatives, but since then we have become a model in professional planning circles around the state of how NOT to plan a city, relying on traffic-generating big box sprawl that has hurt local businesses and our once-thriving downtown areas.
    My struggle to get our stubborn staff and long entrenched insiders like Joe Santo to follow our plans and studies and make progress in Norwalk to update our obsolete zoning code and improve our dysfunctional planning process to make Norwalk a better city have been met with strong resistance, including the ugliest form of personal attacks an bullying, including frivolous anonymous zoning complaints like this latest cease and desist order.
    Norwalk will get better with increased professionalism and integrity, and so will the P and Z Department and the Commissions. It can’t get any worse than it is now. I am satisfied that I have created a debate about these subjects with the public despite the steep price I’ve had to pay for my business and my personal life through relentless public and private bullying including this latest fiasco. Many officials including in the opposite side of the aisle have personally thanked me for my efforts to fight the establishment as they understand what is at stake here. They know what I am going through as they have all experienced it as well, and it knows no party lines. Even Common Council members have been treated badly by a couple of the stubborn department heads who refuse to provide information or work with them. So it isn’t just me as Joe Espo claims above. I just don’t stand for it and go public for it, and for that I am labelled by some as a trouble maker, but by many others as a hero for standing up to this nonsense. .

    Imagine how amazing Norwalk would be if folks like me who have a lot to contribute didn’t have to waste their time fighting the bullying and nonsense of the old guard. But they are showing their last gasps, the gasps of a dying system of corruption that ran this city for decades. My contribution will be to have started the process of reform, and I do not intend on sitting back any time soon. I will continue to fight for what I know is the best future for our once-great city, whether or not I get reappointed in June. There is no going back to the old corrupt ways of back room deals and insider favors, and they know that, and they are scared.

  35. Suzanne

    The zoning compliance letter does not include the approval of a parking space within a setback. The point is, a leader in a Commission chose to make this relatively minor issue an excuse for public consumption through media and a call for Mr. Mushak to step down. I wonder if such derision would be used for the average citizen with a minor violation with some form of an attempt at public humiliation? Mr. Santos did just that and, whatever the letter says, could have chosen to deal with this issue privately and individually and with respect toward a citizen of Norwalk. His intentions are clear in this action and he even spoke them: he wants Mr. Mushak to step down and he will use whatever means is necessary to do it. Boo.

  36. Mike Mushak

    Thank you Suzanne. I already explained how the approval letter IS related to our driveway even though it doesn’t mention it specifically, in a previous comment this morning that says it is “awaiting moderation” so I think has not appeared yet. So to reiterate, the approval of our new garage was dependent on the driveway being in compliance, hence Adam’s site visit and subsequent recommendations which we followed and the final letter of approval from Aline which would not have been written if we hadn’t changed our driveway and had it approved, which by the way was no different before the change than what several other commissioners and thousands of other properties currently have as well. EDR would like to think otherwise but he’s wrong. The circling of the wagons is so obvious it is almost comical, but the truth is no one is laughing as it is all so petty and corrupt.

  37. oldtimer

    There are plenty of houses in Norwalk where the only parking spaces that conform with Zoning are inside attached garages, which, in my house, were converted to bedrooms many years ago. Nobody pays much attention to the zoning restriction against parking within the setback until somebody files a written complaint. With a large family, we parked a number of vehicles in an extra wide driveway just barely off the road for years. It just seemed much better than parking in the street on a narrow roadway. Finally, after all the kids moved out, I applied for a permit for an accessory apartment. Much to my surprise, one of the conditions required by zoning dept was to eliminate all the parking spaces in the setback, tear up that paving, and create three spaces behind the house, giving up a big piece of a tiny back yard, and spending a lot in the process. It seemed kind of silly, but there wasn’t much choice. I know others with very old houses in other neighborhoods, built before most people owned cars, who were forced to remove circular driveways in front of the house, but allowed to keep parking spaces within the setback. It is very hard, sometimes, to make sense out of zoning enforcement in Norwalk.

  38. joe santo

    Joe Santo
    We all need to the truth about the serial zoning violations of Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak. Twice he had to move his business trucks from behind St. Pauls church that were illegally stored. Yes, the church can have their own trucks stored. But, not an outside contractor.
    Second,after the public hearing was closed on the Lowes Home Center he illegally met with groups opposed to lowes. Zoning members are not permited to receive new info unless we direct questions through the zoning staff.
    Third, MR. Mushak made defamatory statement toward Andy Glazer and had make a public apology or be sued. If he was taken to court the taxpayer would have had to pay to defend Mushak.
    Now, he has an illegal parking spot in front of his house that he was told to put a boulder to block it. Mushak removed the rock and is parking in the illegal spot. One of his neighbors made the complaint to zoning.
    Finally for all of you defending a repeat zoning violator you know the rest of the story

  39. Mike Mushak

    Joe Santo, I am glad you engaged me on this site. You had the cease and desist order in hand and sent it to the press before we even saw it. How was that? You said a neighbor we made a blight complaint against made the complaint, but we made no such complaint. You said that to distract from the fact that you made the complaint so you could create a story to publicly harass me yet again in a long pattern of harassment.
    You told staff not to amend minutes when I requested it to reflect actual conversations, a serious violation of interfering with official documents.
    You refered to the by laws when you wanted the right to solely pick your committee chairs, overlooking long term members like myself and Nate Sumpter who were in line to serve as a normal courtesy, but you then ignored the by laws for years when it came to required financial statements and the right of the commission to supervise staff. You pick and choose the by laws to suit your own purposes and ignore the ones you don’t like, a serious ethical violation for a land use commission chair. That alone is reason for you to step down.
    On Lowe’s, I had simply copied a neighborhood activist by mistake in an email to the commission, staff and the mayor, after the public hearing was closed but before we voted on it (I was out of town for the hearing), asking for a meeting to discuss the complete lack of crosswalks for a mile through a dense meighborhood full of families with children on Stuart Ave. This area will be highly impacted with speeding traffic from the north seeking shortcuts to Lowes, through local side streets, the same as happened near Home Depot. We can collect extra information through staff after a hearing is closed but since I copied a member if the public it was deemed “ex parte” communication which was my mistake and I recused myself from the vote as Larry Cafero requested (he represented Lowes which raised some eyebrows as he was also a State Rep representing that area, but that was the strong opinion of others).

    I was told Lowes promised in a public information meeting to help the neighborhood if the city simply asked them to, but staff and other commissioners allied with you decided it wasn’t important enough to ask. All we got was a promise to look at it in 6 months and see if it was necessary, a bogus carrot tossed out to appear concerned. I was even told by one commissioner that there was no need for crosswalks on Stuart Ave as there are school bus stops down both sides, and kids could wait for the bus to stop to cross! I replied, “what do they do in the evenings, on the weekends, and in the summer when there are no school buses to stop traffic?” Silence was my answer as the absurdity of his position was too much even for him to handle. .
    My recusal from the vote meant that there was no condition put on the applicant, a huge international corporation, to provide relatively inexpensive safety improvements to the dense family neighborhood on Stuart Ave. that their project will certainly impact with increased traffic and speeding, especially at peak hours when children are going and coming from school. Larry Cafero won one for his client as any good lawyer would (although as a state rep is questionable), and the city and his constituents lost. I was wrong to have a mild accidental “ex parte communication”, and for that I feel badly as I let down the neighborhood I was trying to protect.
    With Glazer’s Rowayton property, he got caught in the middle and took an unfair statement from me out of frustration, which I apologized for, but here’s the real story which had nothing to do with Mr Glazer who is an outstanding and generous member if the community. Staff presented his project to the commission with these words “staff has determined this project is in full compliance with state and local law and we recommend approval”. Oops, except for a letter from CT DEEP buried in the packet that said the EXACT OPPOSITE. The letter said the project was NOT in compliance with state law and recommended the Zoning Commission discuss and approve mitigation measures for the projects replacing a public water dependent use with a private residence. When I read the letter into the record, staff was dumbfounded as I had just contradicted their advice to the commission. I then asked Joe Santo that considering this letter, we needed a public hearing on this project, at a minimum, to work out mitigations as the state instructed us to do AS REQUIRED by the State of CT Coastal Area Management Act. Joe just looked at me and laughed, and said he would rule that no public hearing was necessary, defying state law and preventing the public the chance to give their feedback. This was just weeks after he did the same illegal action in violation if state law with another Rowayton project, a highly controversial house in the middle of Farm Creek. The public went ballistic with hundreds of emails.
    I could not believe that Joe Santo would turn around after that fiasco and break state law again on violating the CAM requirements for waterfront projects. But he did, and I got very angry and lashed out at poor Mr Glazer who clearly was not responsible for Joe Santo’s illegal behavior and staff lying to the commission. But I connected a campaign contribution to this decision which was not appropriate and I apologized profusely for. So I ask you, what was the worse offense, my comment or Joe Santo and staffs pretending that state laws don’t matter on waterfront projects in Norwalk that impact the environment and neighborhood character forever?
    I will spare you the church story for now, as that is yet another classic example of a broken zoning code used to harass a struggling institution, while widespread violations continue to occur out of necessity as churches struggle to stay open all over the city. It was an historic accessory use that we continued until Joe Santo decided he wanted a piece of me, and a piece of my church, obsessing over it at every meeting for months. Another great example of your taxpayer dollars at work, and city officials fiddling while Rome burns.

  40. the donut hole

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

  41. SMH

    Mr Mushak – Mr Santo The rancor and bitterness between you both should be enough cause for each of you to step down from your positions. Norwalk deserves better than this. GROW UP. Whether you are right or wrong you are engaging in conduct that most of us grew out of by the 9th grade.

    Perhaps Mayor Rilling should pull you two aside put an end to this c-r-a-p. NON set you both up and you each fell for it.

    1. Mark Chapman


      For the record, NoN set no one up. NoN received a call from a third party informing us that Mr. Santo had asked the party to let us know he wanted to speak with us and what it was about. We called and left a message; he called back to tell us about the situation. We then went to Mr. Mushak for his response, as required by standard journalistic practice.

  42. SMH

    Rancor refers particularly to the sort of ill-will associated with resentment, envy, slow-brewing anger, and a very personal sort of hatred.


  43. EastNorwalkChick

    Mr. Santo, there are hundreds of zoning violations in every neighborhood in Norwalk. Commercial vehicles parked on lawns and on the streets in residential areas, illegal apartments everywhere, a mishmash of zoning laws that haven’t been updated for years and we disregard the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on a “Master Plan”. Apparently that’s not your priority.
    But, going after a Zoning Commissioner that you deem a nuisance because he rocks your boat, for removal of a boulder in his driveway is.
    You made the mistake of notifying the press before Mr. Mushack received the compliance letter, you’re the one who has made this personal/political vengeance public for all to see. Don’t be surprised that it comes back to bite you in the future….even those of us who don’t always agree with Mr. Mushack see this for what it is.
    The people of Norwalk deserve better than this….

  44. Delores O

    While the gotcha isn’t the best thing in the world, Mr. Mushak has certainly been on the wrong side of this one. He admits to having had knowledge of this issue, he fixed it, and then unfixed it after being called out on illegally parking at the church. Parking at the church is ok, because other people had done it. The rules seem to apply to everyone but Mr. Mushak. He just doesn’t seem to get it, he can’t see that he is wrong, even when it is right in front of his face.

  45. Suzanne

    DO, Do reference Mr. Mushak’s statement above your own. He is frank about his mistakes and the need to apologize for some and fix others. He also refers to real laws and real process that Mr. Santos, in his rancor (see SMH above), factually, see Commission meeting minutes or videos, chooses to ignore for his own mysterious purposes. Where is the service in any of Mr. Santos’ statements above? I would lose it too after a while no matter how much equanimity I possessed with this constant barrage of accusations that keep the entire Commission away from the real work they are supposed to be doing on behalf of Norwalk citizens. (I would also like to know in reference to Mr. Santos’ list of violations above, where is the harm to citizens of Norwalk? How do these “violations” accrue enough concern for the entire Commission that Mr. Mushak needs to step down? Where is the issue with health, safety and welfare that is the Commission’s mission?) Mr. Santos is quite experienced at making unfounded accusations, trying to kick a person he doesn’t like out and following his own procedures rather than those of the Town. Mr. Mushak, on the other hand, comes prepared and is a land use planner, Landscape Architect, with much to offer to the City of Norwalk as it develops. That he is insistent and not perfect in his delivery, I believe, is the result of being ignored and disregarded when he has many skills to offer on behalf of a Town he loves. Mr. Santos needs to stop this nonsense or step down and Mr. Mushak needs to be considered and respected for the expert he is.

  46. Joe Espo

    Mr. Mushak, to the extent the Zoning Commission has been remiss in implementing your fancied studies, it is substantially YOUR failure! Clearly, you don’t have the ability to persuade your fellow commissioners to consider most of the proposals you put forth. And it’s because your inimitable talent for mutilating the very personal fabric of all those whose collaboration is indispensable to you, garners from me both wonderment and shock, and is wholly to blame for the paucity of your achievements. You’ve alienated almost everyone that has authority to muster empathy for your ideas and help you advance them. And it seems that you enjoy it! In fact, you’ve succeeded, uniquely, in cultivating a visceral repugnance to almost anything you advocate, triggering a paroxysmal impulse among your fellow commissioners to avoid you, as they would avoid any odium. I should not think that the Mayor would put forth your renomination. It would unnecessarily reflect adversely on him. But if he were to re-nominate you, you could not possibly garner the super-majority council votes sufficient to approve your office; especially not from the Republicans to whom you’ve directed your indefatigable and unbridled hate.

  47. EastNorwalkChick

    Mr. Espo, so because he failed to play the “go along to get along” game, did not get on bended knee, kiss a few rings, it’s all his fault, therefore he must GO….did anyone from the other side of the isle even bother to listen to his ideas? I highly doubt that it is all as one sided as you say it is.

  48. Joe Santo

    OK. I will try for the last time. Yes there are many zoning violations that exist or go unnoticed. However when the repeating violator is a six year member of the zoning commission it does rise to whole new level. There is no excuse for Mushak not to know he has purposely violated many zoning regs. For all of you to excuse his behavior as being picked on. He has brought this on himself. Once the newest problem is corrected it will be in the past again.He has ten days to put the boulder back in place that he knew when he removed it he was committing an illegal act. At that time he will again be in compliance

  49. Mike Mushak

    Ok, I caught my breath. Thanks, East Norwalk Chick. I am touched that our friend Joe Espo thinks the MILLIONS of TAXPAYER-FUNDED studies are all MY OWN “fancied studies”! As if I commissioned them myself and that the hundreds of highly credentialed professionals who have told us time and time again that Norwalk’s existing zoning code and regulations are obsolete and holding Norwalk back from national urban planning trends are all just my fantasies. Thanks for the laugh!

    The dying gasps of a corrupt system can be totally amusing at times. And the anti-intellectual Joe Espo worldview where experts are ridiculed is EXACTLY the reason Norwalk is struggling with high taxes and a struggling economy. I trust the planning experts because I visit the cities that follow their advice, and I can say with confidence that they have much higher quality of life, vibrant downtowns, and stable economies than Norwalk does. I suspect the [unhappy older folks] like Joe Espo rarely leave Norwalk as they seem to be clueless as to the potential Norwalk possesses to be a truly amazing affordable city instead of a case study in bad planning, high taxes, and dysfunctional zoning. Good night and thanks for the humor in your nasty post!

    This comment has been edited to conform with our comment policy against name-calling.

  50. piberman

    Given the serious issues affecting Norwalk is this minor story really worth the “ink” ? Will it continue to play as another soap opera ?

  51. Mr Norwalk Ct

    Mr Mushak should do the right thing and step down.. Thanks Mr Santo for holding zoning commissioners accountable.

  52. Suzanne

    MNCT, By your standard, Mr. Santos should be the one stepping down. And yes, piberman, there is far more important work to do than continue to rail as Mr. Santos does, “for the last time” about boulder placement in a driveway.

  53. Don’t Panic

    And the word of the day, today, boys and girls is “Selective Enforcement”.

  54. Joe Espo

    “The dying gasps of a corrupt system…?” Well, Mike, that’s rich!
    But Nancy, why can’t you protect me from being called an “…anti-intellectual…” and a “…miserable old fogie?” Oy vey, I’m so verklempt I could plotz!

    1. Mark Chapman

      @ Joe Espo

      I apologize for that comment slipping through. I had not seen it as I was working on a story. I left in the first compound modifier, as some people would not see that as an insult. I have edited out the other offending term, and replaced it with something more genteel. And, even though it repeats that term, I have left your comment intact, however — it was one of the highlights of the evening. We appreciate a good sense of humor!

  55. Mike Mushak

    Exactly what I have been saying all along, Don’t Panic! Thank you. Joe Santo’s property rights ideology certainly extends to big box stores, including his recent support of killing the Main Ave zone change that would have limited retail size on that dangerous stretch. Our fellow commissioner Linda Kruk treated us to the GOP property rights theory when she said that the Zoning Commission had NO right to tell any property owner on Main Ave what size they could build to, since they had PROPERTY RIGHTS. Now take note of the hissy fit Joe Santo is having in his post above about how I dared to move a boulder in my driveway!
    The truth is it was a flower pot, not a boulder, that was required by the ever-vigilant zoning staff, an item that we had no idea was an actual condition of approval as it wasnt listed anywhere in our approval, but lo and behold Adam Carsen had written it down on a plan we had never seen before yesterday. Yes, the plan actually showed a FLOWER POT in the middle of our driveway that would prevent anyone from parking in front of my house. Our crime requiring a CEASE and DESIST was actually not keeping a flower pot in the middle of our driveway! So where are the property rights proponents on this one I wonder?
    Mr. Norwalk CT says he is happy Joe Santo is holding zoning commissioners accountable. I agree! I stuck a flower pot back into my driveway yesterday and guess what, I’m legal again! Well folks, I can’t resist any longer. The addresses of the zoning commissioners are up on the city website, so this is not private info. If you have Google Earth, type in Joe Santo’s address, 14 Eugene Drive. Go into Streetview with the little guy icon on the side, that takes you down onto the street as if you are there. There you will see Joe Santo, Zoning Chair, parking in his front yard setback, and you can also see his trash bags that are not in cans just tossed onto the ground waiting for pickup. Norwalk Ordinance Code 94-5 requires trash bags to be in covered cans at all times, or you will be fined $250 a day under Code 94-17. Imagine how much Joe Santo, Zoning Chair, owes Norwalk taxpayers for being too lazy to keep his trash in covered cans like everybody else does! To the few folks like Mr Norwalk CT above who are demanding accountability for zoning commissioners, does that extend to Mr. Santo as well? I certainly hope so as he is a notorious trash violator and parks in his front yard setback! Resign you heathen violator!
    it also appears there are two other commissioners, Jim White and Emily Wilson, who also have questionable parking spaces in their front yard setbacks. I could care less, but I was just curious as my driveway became famous overnight for teh lack of a flower pot thank to the valiant efforts of Joe Santo, so I figured I would just use Google Earth and look around at what my fellow commissioners had going on in their yards. Perhaps Mr. Norwalk CT, who was so concerned that I didnt have a flower pot in my driveway as required by the City of Norwalk, might want to inquire as to Jim White’s and Emily Wislon’s status of legality as he believes zoning commissioners should be held accountable. (Hint, Emily Wislon actually has a parking space that is ONLY 8 feet 3 inches wide on the side of her house, instead of the required 8 feet 6 inches. That makes her normal parking space in front of that and in her front yard setback completely and irrefutably illegal.) And horror of horrors, even with this blatant zoning violation, she’s not only Vice Chair of the Zoning Commission, she is also a lawyer, and is also running for Sate Rep! I personally could care less, but since the nasty folks who are after me are making such a stink about my lack of a flower pot in my driveway, turning it into the crime of the century (from Joe Santo: “Resign immediately you heathen zoning violator!!”) perhaps the existence of entire illegal parking spots in other commissioners front yards, or their lack of responsibility in following trash rules as in Joe Santo’s case, might be of higher concern to you. But somehow I doubt it. This crowd is definitely throwing stones while living in glass houses.

  56. Joe Espo

    Mike: my gift to you is on its way so that you can prep for re-appointment:


    But do you have a Kindle? That version is only $2.99 and will save me some bucks so that I can buy my very own flowerpot.

  57. Mike Mushak

    Joe Espo, you are too kind! I love how you are suddenly avoiding the facts in this discussion now that the hypocrisy and blatant harassment of your friends on the Zoning Commission has come to light. I get raked over the coals over a missing flower pot by folks who are in violation of city codes themselves. End of story! Well unless I decide to take further legal action by this obvious harassment strategy.

    And your repeated attempts to smear me by saying all zoning commissioners hate me is ludicrous. I get along just fine with everyone when the behavior is professional and we need to do the city’s business. We all got along fine before Santo was put on. It’s when that behavior breaks rules of civility and proper meeting decorum by your friends Emily Wilson and Joe Santo, when meetings are ended illegally (listen to attached tape to this article), where I do not stand for it. The public has commented widely on this observed bad behavior so it is not my fantasy that the ZC has become toxic and abusive towards me and others. I have much respect by many folks for not rolling over and taking this obvious bullying. No one should expect me to sit back and take this kind of nonsense that is on the record and that my fellow Democrat Zoning Commissioners and many members of the public have been subjected to. The nasty bullying on the ZC is not my fault-it was brought onto the ZC by the toxic personality of Joe Santo and spread to his fellow GOP commissioners who circle the wagons. This never happened when Jackie Lightfield was Chair. .
    Big Box Santo who gave us the poorly planned nightmare of CT Ave in the 90’s was brought back out of retirement by Moccia to bully the ZC into approving Lowes and BJ’s which he wanted to help get him re-elected (it backfired actually) and to open up the dangerous and overcrowded Main Ave to another big box explosion where the art of the back room deal could flourish. .
    Lowes was a classic old-style back room deal between Moccia, Santo, and Mike Greene. They got a zone change that saved them millions, a zone change Mike Greene said he was unaware of any specific applicant that this would benefit in the hearing, on the record, just months after Moccia met with Lowes and accepted a huge gift to the city. Soon after the zone change Voila!, Lowe’s applies without having to build a second story that would have increased property taxes and made that project more marketable for mixed use and less of a white elephant in the future if Lowes closes some day on this volatile retail market we have now. After that huge favor to them, Larry Cafero made sure his client had to spend the least amount on public safety improvements, leaving a struggling dense lower income neighborhood nearby with few pedestrian amenities that will be greatly impacted by Lowes traffic with no crosswalks that they were promised earlier by Lowes. Instead I got a recusal request by Cafero because he knew I was trying to get his client to spend a little more after we had saved them millions on a zone change. Cafero basically worked against his own constituents on that one. Thanks Larry!
    I have not tolerated that kind of nonsense as no one should, and I have shined a bright spotlight on the flawed strategy that ignores public health and safety and expert studies as well as our Master Plan.
    I know there are many Republicans who regret that decision as it is bringing down the entire party, and making the city look bad in its flawed decisions and stalled initiatives that Santo is responsible for. Even GOP leader Doug Hempstead came out publicly and strongly against BJ’s before it was finally withdrawn, and many folks on both sides of the aisle thanked me privately for fighting so hard on getting the facts out over the monstrous impacts BJ’s would have had on our city and surrounding communities. To this day, Santo and Wilson have made sure BJ’s or any other store could still apply anywhere on that dangerous traffic-clogged stretch of Main Ave with obsolete zoning still intact as well as our “generic and useless” (as a national consultant described them) traffic study regulations. Who will suffer? Small businesses across the city and entire neighborhoods like Cranbury and Silvermine.
    I have made some enemies no doubt for fighting for what I believe in and supporting the experts and professionals we have hired to help us. That is why I have been subjected to a well orchestrated attack on my business and my residence with complaints and smears. Now that the attackers are shown to have their own violations, I expect they will find another strategy soon! Can’t wait to see what that will be! Bring it on!

  58. EveT

    Mike, thank you for elucidating the absurdity of the complaint against you. This is clearly a case of petty, vindictive retribution and I hope it won’t be tolerated.

  59. Don’t Panic

    If zoning enforcement (and other ordinances, for that matter) weren’t left to the passive approach of investigating only when there was a complaint, you wouldn’t have this problem.

  60. Mr. Ludlow

    There’s a reason Joe Santo was defeated after one year in the state senate.
    His time on the Common Council was equally inglorious.
    About the only good that comes from his time on Zoning is a reminder that we are better off without Moccia making appointments to boards anymore.

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