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Zoning to consider Glover Avenue master mega-plan

A rendering of the proposed Glover Avenue master plan put forth by BLT (Building and Land Technology).

NORWALK, Conn. — A Stamford developer’s plan to redevelop much of Glover Avenue into apartments is the focus of a Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing tonight, June 2.

BLT seeks Zoning approval for a master plan that would allow 15-story tall buildings on Glover Avenue’s western side. The application would establish a new definition for Executive Office Development Park and to permit the new use in the Executive Office zone in the area.

It’s much more complicated than that, though. Some of the conglomerated parcels were formerly part of the Route 7-connector right-of-way and were zoned AAA to safeguard the properties until future uses were identified, and rezoning them now “makes sense,” Planning and Zoning Director Steven Kleppin explained in a memo to the Commission. “There are several applications that are part of this project, including text amendments, map amendments and a special permit application.”

The master plan would take years to implement and “should be considered in three phases, southern, middle and northern,” Kleppin said. “This would allow the applicant to seek approval on the first (southern) phase, if they are able to demonstrate that the traffic generated by the first phase of the proposed development is consistent with the traffic generated by the prior uses that are being replaced as a result of this redevelopment, and that they do not exacerbate existing traffic conditions.”

He continued, “The second phase (middle) of the project would only be allowed pending the proposed improvements to the Merritt Parkway/Route 7 interchange, which are scheduled to begin in 2025. The third phase of the proposal could only be approved pending completion of the needed improvements at Glover Avenue and Main Avenue. There is no scheduled dates for these improvements.”

This application dates back two years and “the City required outside peer review of the traffic, including remodeling of the applicant’s analysis with the latest data and preferred alternate from CT DOT, which include their traffic projections as well as the anticipated road improvements,” Kleppin wrote. “As stated, the applicant has agreed that a phased approval approach is acceptable, based on the significant infrastructure improvements that must occur before the later phases can proceed.”

While an 12-story hotel could be built under current zoning, the concern about BLT’s desire for 15-story apartment buildings is “will that loom over any residential properties?” Kleppin wrote.

“The closest properties are the Oakwood Avenue residential units, which are considerably higher in elevation than the Glover Avenue grade which abuts the residential development,” he said. “As you proceed north on Glover Avenue, the grade rises, but the abutting development becomes scattered. While a 15- story building will be visible from the northern portion of the site, there are no properties to impact from a loom perspective.”

Other zoning regulation factors add up to say, “the height of the proposed buildings should not be significantly taller than the existing Merritt office towers,” Kleppin wrote.

The virtual Commission meeting begins at 6 p.m., though other items are on the agenda and it may take some time to get to the BLT public hearing. Instructions for participation are in this PDF: 6_2_22 PZ Agenda

Staff Memo_Public Hearing 5.27.22

North7 – master plan 02.28.2022

North 7 Design Standards 220602 DRAFT 220527

18 comments

Joel June 2, 2022 at 6:49 am

Do we really need more high-density development in Norwalk? I am not trying to be cynical – I would just like to know what the rationale is. We are already under water restrictions.

DryAsABone June 2, 2022 at 8:06 am

BLT makes buildings that fail,with non-union labor. Look at Stamford’s South End to see what you will be getting. Warehouses for people who desperately seek alternatives to NYC rents.
How they became the developer of choice around here is beyond me…

Kenneth Werner June 2, 2022 at 8:16 am

I’m having trouble visualizing this. Will the Norwalk River Valley Trail be placed in a canyon between the Glover construction and Merritt 7?

matthew merluzzi June 2, 2022 at 9:42 am

Oh, yeah I’m sure this will improve traffic along main avenue. When is enough enough?

Patrick Cooper June 2, 2022 at 10:54 am

Ever try putting 10 pounds of poop in a 5 lb sack? Apt analogy, I think.

It’s long past obvious that Norwalk is not in control of anything – Hartford owns us. It’s all about maximizing every sq. inch of this city to fit as many bodies (“any-bodies”) as possible. They will get their revenue primary from sales and user taxes, but who knows – some of the folks who will live here may actually file an income tax return as well. Likely will be working in NY – where the jobs are.

So – the one with the most skin in the game is – Hartford. So, let’s leverage that.

Here is a novel idea. How about – sure, to all of it – with one caveat (it will give our team time to think). Not a single shovel goes into the ground on this project until the state extends the Route 7 connector up to (at minimum) Route 33 in Wilton. That alone would address what is likely going to be a traffic nightmare on Grist Mill Road similar to the Van Wyck in Brooklyn (24 hours a day gridlock). Once all that “cut-through” traffic is managed, it might be feasible – and equally important – it makes Wilton a participant in providing some regional transportation infrastructure – rather than only Norwalk (as always).

Last question: does Bob Duff either directly or indirectly work for BLT?

Piberman June 2, 2022 at 11:01 am

City renters now outnumber homeowners – the stable population – making Norwalk even more transient. Why would anyone protest even more renters downtown when City Hall claims “renters bring growth”. Elsewhere in the “real world” new business and new homes bring growth. But not in Norwalk. We depend on renters. A City Hall focused on attracting renters isn’t likely to attract new business. Or be concerned with our 10% poverty rate.
Or our City schools failing to meet CT standards.

george dombakly June 2, 2022 at 1:00 pm

Norwalk should NOT change its ceiling height to 15 stories just to allow BLT to profit.

george dombakly June 2, 2022 at 1:06 pm

Heavy development along super 7 should be halted until Norwalk can reduce the level of congestion along Grist Mill Road as well as the heavy congestion off Exit 2 of Super 7 leading into Main Avenue. City can and should install additional exit ramps off super 7 onto Glover Avenue to avoid the heavy congestion at the endpoint of Super 7 both for left and right turns onto Grist Mill Road. Any fool can see during rush hour it takes three times longer to move through the intersection than any other intersection in the city of Norwalk. Allowing heavy development to go into poor roads only hurts the residents of the City of Norwalk. But who cares just as long as BLT makes money on Norwalk.

V. June 2, 2022 at 2:28 pm

It’s not just the traffic, which would be absolutely horrible. it would also mean that there would be a number of 15-story “skyscrapers” right next to a so-called “Parkway”–higher than any along building along I-95. Why?? Just because the developer proposed it? And, of course, there would be paving a large place that absorbs water through the earth, and a massacre of trees, and a disaster for wild animals. WHY does Norwalk have to expand–and, even worse, expand UP? Is it now competing with Stamford to become an extension of New York City? And, as noted in the post by Kenneth Werner, this project would be a travesty for the Norwalk River Valley Trail (already devastated by cutting down the mature trees along Riverside Avenue). Who is making money from these developments?

Lisa Brinton June 2, 2022 at 4:39 pm

When will folks realize they voted for all of this, including the blank vote Republicans. 🤣IMHO – the majority of credit goes to the 10 term, ambitious state senator and his eager political student, the 5-term family-compromised mayor. The Hartford machine loves that sort of political combo – ambition & vulnerability, making Norwalk ripe for the picking. While the tax credited apartments and parking lot giveaways leave us short changed for paving crowded streets or cleaning up city park dog waste and generally running the city, perhaps the new regional high school is just as well, given we’re no longer a diverse, high performing city school system, just an underfunded, underperforming poor one, pushing 70% free and reduced lunch and 75% high need students, who struggle to read, write or do math. Makes one wonder why bother having a city council, BOE or state reps, Bob & Harry have us covered. Funny or sad how hypocritical Hartford is – leaving neighboring towns’ schools & Planning & Zoning alone – and saving all of their attention for Norwalk.

S June 2, 2022 at 4:51 pm

Traffic in Norwalk is ridiculous nowadays, I don’t think we have the infrastructure to create moe housing unless other things are dealt with. Creating more businesses and housing is good ONLY if the rest of the infrastructure matches. SO please DON”T.

John O'Neill June 2, 2022 at 6:18 pm

Anyone who signs off on this monstrosity should be thrown in jail. It’s really that simple..
Disgrace

CT-Patriot June 3, 2022 at 7:55 am

This is nothing more than an attack on the suburbs through the AFFH Act.

All those single-family homes — row upon leafy row, set back from the street, well-tended lawns and mailboxes — were examples of racism — literally “structural racism.” The only solution, the Obama people announced, was much greater density: more subsidized housing complexes.

Ask Westchester country how this worked .

Peter Franz June 6, 2022 at 12:34 pm

It’s really silly seeing everyone point as many fingers at politicians (Obama, really?) over these apartment buildings as possible… instead of taking time to actually understand the issue.

What we have here folks, is called capitalism. People want these apartments, so developers build them. Then they rent them.

It’s not rocket science. And, to help make clear this isn’t your friendly local politicians to blame, this is happening around the nation, and even the world. The idea of expanding white picket-fenced neighborhoods forever outwards until you need 20 minutes to hop in your car and drive to get a dozen eggs is not sustainable. And city after city and town after town around the world is learning this lesson the hard way just like Norwalk.

We’ve had, for years, good people in Norwalk begging to be heard about “Strong Towns” and “traffic calming” and more pedestrian-friendly planning, only to be shouted down as people hunker down into their left/right tribes, many insisting they know best and that massive roads will lead to easier traffic. I’m sorry to tell you, as you are seeing, it’s just not so. Like so many other issues, I’d strongly advise that this issue not be looked at as a political issue because it’s not. This is about smart planning.

My wife and I love to watch a British show called “Into the Country” which profiles folks who, as the title gives away, are eager to leave their busy towns, London, Manchester, Leeds, etc. and move to a quieter simpler part of the U.K. Guess what is consistently the Number One complaint they have about where they live? Traffic. By a huge margin. Again, this is not a unique problem to Norwalk.

We are in an era where we are learning the errors of our ways: that while the automobile will be part of our transportation needs for a very long time, it’s also a huge mistake to plan your urban and suburban layouts as if you are a slave to the automobile. The only question, is how quickly will we all learn this lesson, in order to pressure government to act more aggressively to fix it. And trust me, the solution will come from government, acting on our behalf, the answer will not come from developers.

David Muccigrosso June 12, 2022 at 12:34 am

Couldn’t have said it better than Peter. It’s so sad to see people who claim to love this city retreating into their despicable tribes instead of fixing the issue.

Just some food for thought: How about we upzone everything by just the next increment of density across all of Norwalk, and separately we don’t allow any other new development until we can implement a “use it or lose it” scheme to punish landlords who’d rather sit on empty retail and speculate than bother bringing in vital businesses for reasonable rents.

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