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For Coverage: March 15, 2007 - November 2, 2007
November 7, 2007 - December 31, 2007 and 2008
set on Cranbury Park master plan during Jan. 13 committee meeting
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
The public is invited to comment on the draft Master Plan for Cranbury Park during a hearing before the Common Council's Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee at City Hall next month.
"Anybody who is interested in giving any input regarding the plan is welcome to attend," said Michael A. Mocciae, the city's director of recreation and parks.
The public hearing is set for Wednesday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 125 East Ave.
The draft master plan recommends, among other things, better defined trails, planting trees, adding a splash pad to the playground, using the southern part of the park, creating a winery and community garden, and developing revenue-generating programs and events.
"I think the plan is fantastic. It covers a lot of area. It makes it a multi-use park and it has a lot of good things," said Councilman Fred A. Bondi, former parks committee chairman. "I would personally like to see us grow some fruit trees and maybe put a small working winery in there."
The plan was prepared, at a cost of $33,000, by the consulting firm Stantec with input from a steering panel comprising officials and members of Friends of Cranbury Park. The plan was released last summer. Since then, the city has held two public information forums on the unfolding plan.
The draft plan calls for creating an Adventure Play Area on the park's south parcel to accommodate visitors, and students and teachers from Cranbury Elementary School.
It also calls for redefining trails to keep visitors "within trail limits," protecting wetlands, getting the Gallaher Estate listed on the National Register of Historic Places, adding a path along the west side of the Great Lawn, planting conifers along trails, and adding a splash pad for children to the playground.
A recommendation to clear trees and create a community garden and winery on the park land west of Grumman Avenue, however, has generated concern among some elected officials.
Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom, newly seated to the parks committee, said she will attend the public hearing and listen to the presentation on the plan to learn more about that recommendation.
"I'm actually going there to hear the presentation and just get a sense of what the response is from the public and the rest of the committee. If the plan is to take the amount of trees down that were mentioned, I'm opposed to that," Lindstrom said. "It's a natural setting and it's very beautiful, and I don't want it to end up being commercialized to the point it's not recognizable."
The Department of Recreation and Parks has seen its budget and staffing levels cut for a number of years. To generate revenue to maintain city parks for residents, the department has put forward a number of proposals, such as opening a miniature golf course at Veterans Memorial Park. That plan was pulled.
Mocciae is hopeful that recommendations in the master plan find favor and boost interest and use of the park.
"The plan ... allows the city to form partnerships and raise funds which the city is not getting -- the community area for gardening, anything that would raise money through the park," Mocciae said.
Bondi, while also supportive of generating use of the park, said that the proposed winery and community garden are merely recommendations, which may or may not be built depending on money and other factors.
"What people don't realize is it's just a plan," Bondi said. "This doesn't mean that everything that's in this plan now is going to be implemented. It's basically if the money if available."
Following the Jan. 13 public hearing, the draft master plan will be considered by the Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee and later by the Common Council. If the council approves the plan, the parks department will begin requesting money in the city's annual capital budget. Friends of Cranbury Park will search for grant money to help implement recommendations within the plan, according to Mocciae.
The draft Master Plan for Cranbury Park may be found on the Department of Recreation and Parks home page at http://www.norwalkct.org/CityDept/recpark.asp.
Common Council to weigh hiking mooring fees
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
After discussion and input from several boat clubs, the Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee on Wednesday night advanced to the Common Council a proposal to hike mooring permit fees in Norwalk Harbor.
The council is expected to take up the proposed increases, as requested by the Norwalk Harbor Management Commission, in January.
"It is the commission's hope that the council will see its way to move this as an (action) item at their next meeting," said Tony D'Andrea, Norwalk Harbor Management Commission chairman. "We're going to have (the permit applications) ready to go, based on whatever they say."
The commission requested the hike as part of an effort to become more self-sustaining. At present, the commission relies upon a nearly $14,000 grant from the city each year.
The hike would establish a permit fee of $3 per linear foot of permitted vessel, raise the one-time application fee for new applications from $40 to $75, and raise the reinstatement fee for persons who fail to renew their permits from $110 to $165. Current mooring fees are $30 for boats 20 feet or less in length, $45 for boats between 20 feet and 30 feet, and $60 for boaters longer than 30 feet. The proposed changes would be the first increases since 2004. The committee sent the proposed increases onto the council following a presentation from D'Andrea, input from members of several local boating clubs, and questions from committee members.
According to Richard A. McQuaid, parks committee chairman, the increase is reasonable but was not communicated well to the boating community. He said the committee will work with boaters "to have the communications open, to make sure all the people who need to be notified are notified properly."
"I myself look forward to (the increases) being approved, because we haven't had any increases since 2004," McQuaid said. "The harbor commission has still had to operate with the price of business going up, and we're really not getting opposition from the public."
Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom, also on the committee, said D'Andrea answered committee members' questions regarding the hike. She lent her support.
"There haven't been any increases for quite some time, four or five years, and the (fees) that are being recommended are less than in the surrounding communities," Lindstrom said.
On Dec. 7, the harbor commission held a public hearing on the proposed fee increases and asked the council take action the next night. Council members, citing the short time period after the hearing, referred the matter to the parks committee rather than taking action.
rethink cost of having city upkeep private road
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Residents of the private portion of Woodbine Street appear to have cooled to the idea of turning their private road over to the city, after the Common Council last month approved a $2,500 application fee to review such requests.
"I did get the application, and it's just an exorbitant price, because our road would never conform to city standards, so we'd be wasting money," said Jennifer Gordon, president of the Woodbine Road Fund. "Secondly, there are so many outstanding prices and so many question marks about who would cover all the expenses."
In their last meeting, members of the 2007-09 Common Council on Nov. 10 approved a $2,500 application fee for residents of private streets wishing to turn their roadways over to the city.
There are at least 140 privately owned streets in Norwalk. Some are 50 years or older and do not meet city standards. Residents of private streets typically approach the city when they no longer want to pay for snow plowing and other expenses. Recently, only residents of Kristen Lane and the private section of Woodbine Street have expressed interest in having the city take over their roads.
Department of Public Works officials proposed the application fee to cover expenses associated with determining whether such roads meet city standards. That review includes researching land records, drawings, surveys and legal documents, as well as performing field inspections, borings, preparing new documents, coordinating with the Department of Planning and Zoning, and preparing a report for the council. The council has the final say on whether the city should accept a private roadway.
Collectively, the research and field inspection engages numerous engineers, takes 27 hours to complete and costs $2,530.54, according to estimates prepared by the department.
While paying the application fee doesn't mean the council will accept the street in question, applicants needn't necessarily pay the $2,500 fee to find out their road doesn't meet city standards. They may ask the city to return their fee, if public works staff haven't expended too much time or energy, according to Harold F. Alvord, the city's director of public works.
"Let's say we find out there are no drawings, there are no plans in planning and zoning or public works," Alvord said. "So we say to them, 'Okay, look folks, now it's going to get a little more expensive, because we're going to have to start doing physical stuff in the field. Do you want your money back and stop the process right here?' If they say, 'Yes,' then we give them their check, and that's the end of it."
If drawings are found that show the history of the street, residents still may request their fee back -- regardless of whether the street appears to conform to city standards or not. Beyond that, the review process turns to extensive field work, and the fee would not be returned, according to Alvord.
Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom, former chairwoman of the council's Public Works Committee, sought clarification of the application process from Alvord and from the city's law department. She said it is important that residents know what to expect when considering whether to pay the application fee.
"That was the prime reason for contacting the law department: That there were no surprises and that (residents) would know up front what the costs would be," Lindstrom said.
Robert F. Maslan Jr., head of the city's law department, said the application procedure is a multi-step process that leaves applicants the opportunity to get their fee back early in the process. If the fee is paid and all review and field work indicates the street meets city standards, the council has no legal basis to reject accepting it, he said.
"If you meet the specs, and you go through the process, there's no other basis for the Common Council to turn it down," Maslan said. "If it complies, they have to approve it."
groundwater testing for area around former Norden Systems, Inc. site
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
East Norwalk resident Rick Giordano on Monday delivered to City Hall a petition requesting groundwater testing for the area surrounding the former Norden Systems, Inc. property.
The petition delivery comes days before the city's Zoning Commission is scheduled to vote on a major housing plan the eastern part of the site.
"The problems with polluted drinking wells and soil contamination came to light during the process of rezoning ... (The property) was found to have been the source of chemical pollution," said Giordano during a news conference at City Hall on Monday. "I've delivered a petition with almost 300 names from Norwalk and from Westport, requesting that water test and soil vapor tests be performed for the residents living within a quarter mile of NordenPark."
On Wednesday night, Zoning commissioners are scheduled to act upon Spinnaker Real Estate Partners affiliate Norden Place LLC's plan for a 240-unit apartment building and four single-family homes on the vacant 38.4-acre parcel between NordenPark and the Westport border. A subcommittee of the commission has endorsed the plan.
The petition, which Giordano said was delivered to Norwalk Mayor Richard A. Moccia and would be delivered to Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, asks for "water sampling of wells and soil vapor intrusion testing for all residences within a quarter mile of the Norden Park site to test for unsafe levels of chemical contamination."
Moccia was not at the news conference but promised to pass the signatures onward.
"My role is to take the petitions and forward them to the respective agencies," Moccia said.
Giordano maintains that unsafe levels of volatile organic compounds, specifically trichloroethylene, remain on and near the property despite monitoring and remediation overseen by the state Department of Environmental Protection. He displayed a map board prepared by an environmental consultant in 2002 showing the spread of contamination from the former Norden Systems, Inc., property.
"The pollutants are definitely in the area," Giordano said.
Five people attended the news conference, including Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom and Diane Lauricella. Lindstrom said she is awaiting what Moccia has to say about the matter.
The District C councilwoman wants the issue placed on the agenda of the council's Health, Welfare and Public Safety Committee.
Said Lauricella: "The city needs to hire experts to advise them on whether or not they have a health problem (with such properties)."
Giordano pointed to an Oct. 30, 2009, letter from the DEP stating that "(United Technologies Corp.) and Norden Place, LLC, the owner of Lot #1, 8 Norden Place, have initiated discussions regarding preparation of an ELUR." The aforementioned acronym refers to Environmental Land Use Restriction.
"The site is not remediated. There's more to do," Douglas Zimmerman, DEP supervising environmental analyst, told The Hour later Monday. "Whatever the proposed development, they will have to take (any restriction) into consideration."
Officials from Spinnaker Real Estate Partners maintain the property "has gone through rigorous environmental investigation and remediation with direct oversight by the Department of Environmental Protection." Environmental land use restrictions are frequently prepared for industrial and former industrial properties, said Kim Morque, principal with the South Norwalk-based development company.
"The state is the regulatory body, so they have to review not only the investigation and characterizations of the site, but they have to review the remedial action plans," Morque said.
Last Thursday night, a subcommittee of the Zoning Commission recommended allowing residential use of the parcel, which is now zoned for restricted industrial use only.
The city's Conservation Commission last Tuesday granted Spinnaker Real Estate Partners a wetland permit needed to proceed with the development. Giordano pointed out that the commission imposed a number of conditions.
One is that water samples be collected and tested during construction.
Joseloff said he told Giordano that he would pass the petition and concerns to the Westport Weston Health District and await a report from the district "on whether they consider there to be any problems or need for testing of the kind that Mr. Giordano is asking for."
On the issue of water wells, Joseloff said most Westport homes in the area are on the city or town sewer system. Westport is monitoring the Norwalk development, he added.
"We're watching it very closely, not just on the issue of possible contamination, but on how it would affect Westport services," Joseloff said.
structure emerges on Norwalk boards
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Republican Richard J. Bonenfant will be majority leader. Democrat Laurel E. Lindstrom will serve as minority leader on the newly elected 2009-11 Common Council.
On Tuesday night, the 2009-11 Common Council will hold its organizational meeting at which council members will be sworn into office and named to subcommittees.
The new council also will elect a president. The council president typically is from the majority party. With Republicans now in the majority, the name of Douglas E. Hempstead is being discussed.
"I'm flattered and I'm very interested in being council president, because I have some ideas how we can make the council more accessible to the public," Hempstead said.
Over the last several days, Republicans and Democrats have been speaking among themselves and with one another regarding leadership positions and committee assignments on the new council, which comprises 10 Republicans and five Democrats. As the majority party, Republicans will hold the positions of council president and majority leader, as well as all committee chairmanships.
On Friday, Republicans released the name of their new majority leader.
Bonenfant served on the council from 1995 to 2001 as a representative from District A. He served as majority leader in 2000. He was re-elected in 2007.
"I am honored and humbled that the Republican council members have asked me to be their majority leader in the first year of our term," Bonenfant said. "When speaking on behalf of our caucus, the responsibility transcends my own personal opinions and it will reflect our collective input."
District D Republican Kelly L. Straniti, minority leader on the 2007-09 council, said Bonenfant is "the perfect person to pass the torch along to as the leader of our caucus."
"His past and current work on the council has exemplified him as the right person for the job. I know he will work well with the other side and speak well on behalf of our entire caucus," Straniti said.
Hempstead said Bonenfant is a good communicator who "works well with people and certainly has a unique approach to issues."
"I know he will do a good job representing the Republican caucus," Hempstead said.
Democrats, meanwhile, are hoping to maintain a voice that is proportional to the number of council seats they won in the city's municipal elections Nov. 3.
"The voters of Norwalk have just elected five Democrats to the 15-member Common Council," Lindstrom said. "To respect the will of the voters the makeup of the council committees must reflect this proportionality. This means two Democrats and four Republicans need to be assigned to each committee."
Council subcommittee typically comprise six members. Lindstrom said Democrats have asked Republicans to include a third Democrat on any council subcommittee that contains seven members.
"If the majority party decides to add a seventh member to a committee, then that additional committee member should be a Democrat," she said. "The balance needs to remain 2:1 to respect the will of the Norwalk voters."
Bonenfant said he believes that two Democrats on each six-member committee will work fine.
"I think that's how our guidelines are," Bonenfant said. "The question comes up if there's going to be a seventh member. ... We'll listen but we're not making any promises at this point."
"We're going to have to work together. We're all going to courteous and honor each other's requests," Bonenfant added.
Republicans, despite being in the minority at the time, were given two committee chairmanships on the 2007-09 council. Lindstrom would like to see that pattern repeated on the 2009-11 council.
"The current council with a majority of Democrats gave two committee chairmanships to Republicans," Lindstrom said.
"Therefore, the same number of chairmanships needs to be given to the newly elected minority Democrats," she said.
Lindstrom said Democrats have proposed that Carvin J. Hilliard chair the Personnel Committee and Nora K. King chair the Finance and Claims Committee.
Republicans made no promises.
(Minority party chairmenships) have been done both ways probably over a 20-year period," Hempstead said. "A lot depends on what coalitions are needed to get things done."
Makeup of Common
Council should reflect proportionality
To the Editor:
The voters of Norwalk have just elected five Democrats to the 15-member Common Council. To respect the will of the voters, the makeup of the council committees must reflect this proportionality. This means two Democrats and four Republicans need to be assigned to each committee.
If the majority party decides to add a seventh member to a committee, then that additional committee member should be a Democrat. The balance needs to remain 2:1 to respect the will of the Norwalk voters.
Additionally, the minority caucus organizes itself and appoints its own members to the committees.
These members are:
Health, Welfare and Public Safety: David Jaegar and Travis Simms.
Public Works: Laurel Lindstrom and Nora King.
Personnel: Carvin Hilliard and Travis Simms.
Finance: Nora King and David Jaegar.
Land Use & Building Management: Nora King and David Jaegar.
Ordinance: Carvin Hilliard and Laurel Lindstrom (Travis Simms if a seventh member is added).
Planning: Laurel Lindstrom and Carvin Hilliard (Nora King if a sevent member is added).
Recreation & Parks: Laurel Lindstrom and Travis Simms (David Jaegar if a seventh member is added).
Maritime Authority: Travis Simms.
Norwalk Facilities Construction Commission: David Jaegar.
Water Pollution Control Authority: Laurel Lindstrom
Historical Commission: Nora King in year two.
The Minority Leader will be Laurel Lindstrom.
The current council with a majority of Democrats gave two committee chairmanships to Republicans. Therefore, the same number of chairmanships needs to be given to the newly elected minority Democrats.
The proposed chairs are Carvin Hilliard for the Personnel Committee and Nora King for the Finance Committee.
Council members elect: Carvin Hilliard, David Jaegar, Nora King, Laurel Lindstrom, Travis Simms.
Note: above reflects correction made in Hour on 11-17-09
Registrars release official vote tallies
By A.J. O'CONNELL
Hour Staff Writer
Republican Richard A. Moccia secured his seat as Norwalk mayor for yet another term on Tuesday, beating Democratic challenger Steven Serasis by 1,950 votes. According to the official results distributed by the Norwalk Registrars of Voters at 2 a.m. Wednesday, Moccia, the incumbent, garnered a total of 7,925 votes, while Serasis took 5,075 and Independent candidate Scott Merrell took 238.
Tuesday's election showed an expected 30-percent voter turnout, with 13,539 of the city's 44,153 voters casting ballots.
The mayoral race was the biggest win of an election dominated by the GOP.
"We swept," said Republican Town Committee Chairman Art Scialabba, who arrived at Norwalk City Hall to wait for official results shortly after midnight. The GOP took all five at-large seats on the Common Council. Republican John Tobin won his race with 6,074 votes, Richard McQuaid won with 6,522, Fred Bondi won with 6,467, Douglas Hempstead won with 6,815 and Joanne Romano won with 6,273.
Democrat Anna Duleep also appeared in City Hall on Tuesday evening; she lost with 6,039 votes, closely tailing John Tobin.
"I lost by 40 votes," she said.
Duleep's close race will trigger a recanvas of votes, as will a close school board race; the Board of Education was largely captured by the Republicans. Erin Halsey won her race with 5,947 votes, Steven Colarossi took 6,671 votes and Sue Haynie took 6,400. Democrat Heidi Keyes won her race with 5,908 votes, shooting ahead of Republican Artie Kassimis' tally of 5,897 by just 11 votes.
Democratic Registrar of Voters Stuart Wells expects the recanvas of both races to begin Saturday.
"Either one is within the one half percent (needed for a recanvas,)" said Wells.
Results were mixed in the district races for the Common Council. In District A, Republican Richard Bonenfant won with 972 votes and Democrat David Lloyd Jaeger won with 967 votes. In District B, uncontested Democrats Carvin Hilliard and Travis Simms won with 859 and 884 votes, respectively. In District C, Republican Nicholas Kydes won with 1,530 votes and Democrat Laurel Lindstrom won with 1,432 votes. In District D, two Republicans won; Clyde Mount and Kelly Straniti won with 1,561 and 1,857 votes, respectively. In District E, Republican Andrew Conroy won his seat with 1,690 votes and Democrat Nora King won hers with 1,774 votes.
One major victory for the Democrats occurred in the Town Clerk race: incumbent Andy Garfunkel, a Democrat, regained his position as Town Clerk with 7,596 votes, over his Republican challenger Mary Roman's 5,115 votes.
Official numbers were released to the public at 2 a.m., after two false alarms. At approximately 10 p.m., GOP Registrar of Voters Karen Doyle Lyons hinted that the results of the election would be available. Shortly thereafter, the 503 absentee ballots were reviewed.
According to Wells, they were not recounted, although there was some confusion regarding the 1st Taxing District commissioner race in districts A-1 and A-2 because the original candidate, Democrat Kenneth Slapin, died Oct. 25. Former Mayor Frank Zullo stepped in, but some voters had cast already cast ballots for Slapin. Those votes had to be discarded. Zullo won the race against Republican Thomas Cullen with 686 votes.
At 1 a.m., a printout of official results was released; due to a problem with that document, the results were reprinted and handed out an hour later. There were some other problems: early reports listed Moccia's total as 7,025, due to a clerical error in the results from district C-2, which listed Moccia as having gained 180 votes, rather than 1,080 votes.
"It was a 3 a.m. discrepancy," said Wells, who noted that the 900 votes don't change the election results.
Protesters seek public health option
By STEVE KOBAK
Hour Staff Writer
The turnout was low, but spirits were high Saturday afternoon at a health-care reform rally on the Stroffolino Bridge, as demonstrators tried to get the word out about the public option.
Passing motorists honked and waved to show support for the 20 demonstrators who held signs on the side of the bridge in an event sponsored by the Web site www.moveon.org.
"You don't make important social progress until you convince the public that it's an important thing to do," said former Norwalk Mayor Bill Collins.
As part of Moveon.org "Real Voices of Change" campaign -- a five-week nationwide series of events to promote health-care reform -- the Norwalk event was expected to draw 50 or more people.
"Sometimes, people will sign up and not show up," said Diane Longo, the co-organizer of the event who is known as Di.
The rally had a few purposes, one being to express displeasure over U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman's, I-Conn., decision to vote with the Republican caucus on the health-care bill.
Mainly, the participants wanted to voice support for the public option, which supporters say would provide affordable insurance for the millions of Americans that are uninsured and help lower health-care costs.
"It may not be the best bill in the world, and it may cost us a little money, but it's the right thing to do," said Gail Janensch, of Rowayton.
Janensch, a self-described senior citizen on Medicare, said she usually refrains from attending staged events like Saturday's demonstration, but she felt this message was important.
"I wanted to do something to try and ensure that all Norwalkers have health insurance," she said.
Councilwoman Laurel Lindstrom was also in attendance. Lindstrom, who works as a nurse, said she wants all of her patients to be adequately covered.
Residents battle plan for contaminated Norwalk site
Posted: 10/26/2009 10:42:51 PM EDT in Advocate
Updated: 10/27/2009 07:15:56 AM EDT in Advocate
Posted: 10/30/2009 in Norwalk Citizen News
NORWALK -- A group of 40 city residents rallied Monday against the proposed rezoning of a contaminated industrial site on Norden Place.
If approved by city boards, the rezoning would allow developer Spinnaker Real Estate Partners to build a 240-unit apartment on land where federal officials have found toxic chemicals in groundwater and soil at levels deemed unsafe by state health standards. The property, formerly owned by Norden Systems Inc., was once used for building radar systems and cleaning equipment, neighbors said.
Five City Council members, including Democratic mayoral candidate Steve Serasis, were among opponents of the project who met outside the NordenPark building Monday in anticipation of an Inlands and Wetlands decision on the project.
District C Councilwoman Laurel Lindstrom said a residential development is not appropriate for the site.
"I'm concerned for current and future residents," Lindstrom said. "Residential construction may never be safe for this site.
According to a 1999 report from the Environmental Protection Agency, five chemicals were known or "reasonably suspected" to contaminate groundwater and soil at the site, including the industrial solvent TCE. The EPA has deemed TCE "highly likely to cause cancer," and the solvent can effect the nervous and immune systems. Past tests have found a similar solvent, trichloroethane, in nearby residential wells as far as Myrtle Street, about a quarter mile from the Norden Place
The EPA report said exposure to the contamination could not be "reasonably expected to be significant" in part because land use restrictions would "prevent future residential use of the area."
The developer has proposed to build the residential development on a 40-acre plot that is currently vacant. It is part of an 80-acre parcel Spinnaker acquired in 2002, which includes a 1960s industrial building. The developer won several awards for its renovation of the building, including a citation of design excellence from the Connecticut chapter of the American Institute of Architects and a Pride in Norwalk Award from the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce.
Doug Zimmerman, the State Department of Environmental Protection supervising environmental analyst for the region, said the owner of the property is responsible for its remediation. What steps need to be taken to remediate the land will depend on whether it is used for residential or other use, he said.
Neighbors, hoisting signs reading "no to the rezone" and "leave the zone alone," said they are concerned about other effects a residential development could have on the area, including on traffic and city services. More than 250 people have signed a petition against the Spinnaker project, David Park, a Strawberry Hill homeowner said.
City councilman Nicholas Kydes said the area should not be rezoned because of down economy. Instead, the space should be preserved to attract companies in better times, he said.
"We want to reserve this park to allow companies to move into Norwalk to bring in jobs and reduce the tax burden on families," Kydes said.
After the Inlands and Wetlands recommendation Monday night, the Zoning Commission will make a final decision on the proposed rezoning, likely within two months, neighbors said.
In 2006, the Zoning Commission denied a similar request to rezone the property proposed by the same developer. In that case, the proposed residential development was larger and encroached on wetlands, Park said.
The principals of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners could not be reached Monday.
Staff writer Magdalene Perez can be reached at email@example.com or 203-964-2240.
protest housing proposal
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Shouting "No to Rezone! Leave the Zone Alone!" residents stood at the entrance to NordenPark on Monday evening near where Spinnaker Real Estate Partners has proposed to build 240 apartments.
The protesters, led by East Norwalk resident Rick Giordano, cited concerns over past environmental pollution of the property, potentially lost jobs, traffic and additional loads upon city schools and infrastructure as reasons for city Zoning commissioners to reject the rezoning request.
Spinnaker Real Estate Partners hopes to build the apartments and four single-family homes on the vacant 38.4-acre parcel, which lies between NordenPark and the Westport border. The plan requires Zoning Commission approval, as the property is currently zoned for restricted industrial use and not multi-family housing.
Giordano said the state Department of Environmental Protection has documented pollution on the property, which was once home to the former Norden Systems, Inc., a division of United Technologies. He said the property has been the source of "chemically poisoned drinking wells" as a far as a quarter mile around. While environmental remediation has been done, final reports by the DEP are pending, according to Giordano.
"We are calling on the mayor of Norwalk and the first selectman of Westport to take action and request water sampling of the wells and vapor monitoring for all residents within a quarter mile of this site. We are launching this petition drive today," Giordano said. "More urgently, we are calling on the Zoning Commission to say 'No to Rezone and Leave the Zone Alone!' "
Two officials from Spinnaker Real Estate Partners could not be reached for comment.
About 40 people attended the protest, including Democratic mayoral candidate Steven A. Serasis and and a half-dozen Common Council members, including Republican Nicholas D. Kydes and Democrat Laurel E. Lindstrom.
Lindstrom said she has concerns about the health and safety of "current and future residents," and the potential traffic resulting from 240 apartments.
"These kinds of large multi-family housing projects that are not part of a mixed-use development are outdated, because they are guaranteed traffic generators that are over-reliant on motor vehicles," Lindstrom said. "That translates into traffic problems for the surrounding neighborhoods."
The development would generate 118 vehicle trips entering/existing during the morning peak hour, 149 during the afternoon peak, and 149 during the Saturday midday hour, according to Spinnnaker's traffic consultant.
Spinnaker Real Estate maintains that the market for industrial-zoned properties has largely dried up in Norwalk, and that the property has far greater potential for housing.
Kydes, however, said allow the rezoning to permit residential use would tax the city's infrastructure and set a bad precedent for long-range city planning. He believes the site has potential for modern high-tech firms.
"We should not change the zone because of economic conditions that would benefit the development. That means every time the economic conditions go up and down, we're going to be changing zones?" Kydes said.
Several speakers, including Strawberry Hill Avenue resident David W. Park, pointed to the number of multi-family housing units being built or on the books citywide. Along the West Avenue corridor, the figure exceeds 3,000 units, according to Park.
"We are opposed to this plan. Over 250 people have signed our petition against this plan. We packed the Zoning Commission public hearing (last Wednesday night) with residents opposed to this plan," Park said.
At the hearing, a consultant hired by Spinnaker gave Zoning commissioners an update on the environmental status of the property. The matter lies within the jurisdiction of the DEP and not the Zoning Commission, according to Elizabeth B. Suchy, the attorney representing Spinnaker Real Estate on the project.
"There is no prohibition with respect to the plan that is proposed nor development of the site as we proposed it," Suchy told The Hour. "The DEP is aware of what is proposed and has been working with United Technology Corporation for many years (on remediation)."
About two-dozen people spoke at the public hearing last week. All but five spoke against the housing plan. Among those in favor of the plan is Edward J. Musante Jr., president of The Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce. He reiterated his comments to The Hour earlier Monday.
"It's something that we really need: Affordable housing," Musante said. "Ten percent of those units will be affordable, and that's 24 units, which is significant.
ELECTION 2009 - Councilman C - Laurel E. Lindstrom
Laurel E. Lindstrom
Positions held (five most recent, include your title).
Councilwoman for District C, incumbent since 2007; Chairwoman of the Council's Public Works Committee; Member of the Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA); Founder and President of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association (ENNA); Representative for Norwalk on the Southwestern Regional Planning Agency (SWRPA) (2004 - 2007)
1) What should be the city's three top priorities?
Traffic management is one top priority. I've long advocated for a city-wide traffic management plan which has recently been funded through a grant. It's essential that the plan include pedestrian safety and traffic-calming measures. Keeping the planned growth at our urban core on track is another priority since this development will add substantially to our tax base and provide additional funds to pay for infrastructure improvements throughout Norwalk. Established single-family residential neighborhoods must be left undisturbed. Average folks, seniors on fixed incomes and young adults need to be able to afford to remain in Norwalk so we maintain our diverse population.
2) In view of the serious economic situation today, do you foresee having to cut back on any city spending, and if so, in which areas would you make cuts?
After careful review of the budget some cuts may be necessary. But it's essential that expected services remain. The Council is entrusted by citizens to spend funds wisely. By finding new revenue sources and increasing revenue from existing sources we can help prevent cuts. We need to move away from the penny-wise pound-foolish way of doing business. Increasing the amount we recycle through a public awareness program that includes working with our schools, and furthering our energy efficiency and alternatives, are just two examples of ways to realize savings and add to our revenue.
3) What do you see as Norwalk's greatest challenge?
Preserving neighborhood character is much more than just infrastructure. Residents and businesses need to be able to remain in Norwalk. Maintaining our diverse population means keeping seniors in their homes by such means as increasing the amount of property tax that can be deferred. And it means getting roaming teens off the street by establishing a teen center and adding after-school programs and activities which will help decrease crime in our city. Norwalk's history is one of manufacturing and industry - and of diversity. It's why most of us have made Norwalk our home - and it's worth fighting for.
4) If you are an incumbent or have previously served, how would you rate your performance during your time in office?
Two years ago I ran on a platform of bringing 'neighborhood' to City Hall because issues are first identified at the neighborhood level before they go to the Council. I kept to my platform promise by regularly visiting neighborhoods, listening to residents' concerns and inviting the public to participate in discussion at committee meetings. As chairwoman of the Public Works Committee I initiated the addition of the green bin for recyclables, succeeded in adding traffic-calming pedestrian-friendly language to policy and worked with the Director of Public Works to post committee backup material on the city website for easy public access.
5) If you could tell voters one thing about yourself or about your plans for Norwalk, what would it be?
For more than a decade I have been passionate about improving the quality of life for people who live in Norwalk. Before my election to the council I had a solid background as a community leader. I'm known for my integrity, as a hard worker and for researching issues before making a decision. If re-elected to the Council I will continue to encourage public participation - and to tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience of the many Norwalk citizens who are active in the community. And I'll continue to be your voice by bringing neighborhood issues to City Hall.
Please rank the following issues in terms of importance (1 most important to 5 least important).
1. Property taxes
2. Urban redevelopment
4. Public transportation
5. Public parking
Neighbors displeased with city's solution
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
The city's plan to reduce flooding around Fitch Pond has worked too well for some Olmstead Place residents.
They say the public works project, which is now largely complete, eliminated the pond and left them with a weed-infested meadow. Among those displeased with the work is Carmen DiElsi, whose property backs the pond.
"They set us up with what they call a meadow with a running brook," DiElsi said. "They filled it in and they planted all weeds. I went from having ducks, now I have all kinds of cats and musk rats. They're still working on it. There's a little pond. It's still water (but) it doesn't move unless it rains."
DiElsi said she is "not trying to start any trouble" with the city. She said Mayor Richard A. Moccia did send officials out to look at the pond as promised.
"I just want people to see what was done here," DiElsi said.
Five years ago, Olmstead Place residents asked the city for relief from flooding. The street lies at the base of Fitch Pond -- also called Olmstead Pond -- which collects runoff from neighborhoods to the north. Many Olmstead Place residents have driveways that slope downward from the street into their garages.
The $350,000 fix dredged the heavily-silted pond, increased its storm-water retention ability, replaced and lowered the pond outlet, fixed pond berms and replaced 800 feet of 30-inch drainage pipe, from the pond to Myrtle Street, with a 36-inch pipe. The Conservation Commission, meanwhile, approved the installation of a wet meadow planted with plants that are native to Connecticut, according to officials.
"The pond had no retention capacity before, because of the way the grate was installed, and it was full of sediment," said Harold F. Alvord, the city's director of public works. "The (new) base outlet is down at the bottom. On the old one, it was up at the top, so the pond had to fill up before the water could start going out."
Olmstead Place residents call the new outlet structure a "concrete bunker." Last week, they gathered at what's left of the pond: A narrow stream that empties into a shallow pond with the large concrete structure at the end.
Dee Arnone, an Olmstead Place resident who suffered from flooding, recalls his children playing hockey on the pond years ago. He said he believes that the clearing of culverts at Fitch Street and the Metro-North Railroad tracks two years ago, and not the pond dredging, eliminated flooding in the neighborhood.
"As long as they maintain those two culverts and keep them clean, we haven't had a drop of water," he said.
Diane Cece, another Olmstead Place resident, said her property hasn't flooded since 2006. Cece, whose property was dug up to replace the drainage pipe, also attributes the lack of flooding to the culvert maintenance. She said neighbors agreed to the "horrible (pond) project" out of fear that nothing would be done otherwise.
"They feared if we stopped the city, and then subsequently flooded, the city would tell us, 'Oh well, too bad, we tried to help by doing the pond, and that is all we are going to do,'" Cece said.
Moccia said the project was completed and no money remains in its budget. Still, city officials will look to see if something can be done to improve the appearance of the pond area, according to Moccia.
"I'd like to take a look and see if there's any other suggestions we could make -- engineering-wise or aesthetics-wise -- to make it look better," Moccia said. "Now it's more of an aesthetics item."
As before, when flooding was occurring, Olmstead Place residents are taking their concerns to the council's Public Works Committee.
"We're working with public works to review what's going on there. We'll have it as a discussion item in November," said Laurel E. Lindstrom, committee chairwoman. "It's more a matter of the appearance. I think it's the aesthetics of it. From the perspective of the property owners that back up on that site, it's an eyesore."
Residents to protest housing site
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Residents opposed to Spinnaker Real Estate Partners' plan for a 240-unit apartment building on the former Norden property to protest near the site early Monday evening.
East Norwalk resident Rick Giordano is organizing the protest, which he anticipates will draw 50 people, including Common Council members from both sides of the political aisle. Giordano maintains that city Zoning commissioners did not listen to residents during a public hearing on the housing plan last Wednesday night.
"The beginning of the meeting started out very hostile, and I feel a lot of people felt intimidated to speak up on an issue that was very important," Giordano said. "Before they vote, we want to bring to the attention of the city this impacts the entire city."
The protest is scheduled for Monday, at 6 p.m., at the entrance to NordenPark.
A Spinnaker representative could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
About two-dozen people spoke at the public hearing at City Hall last Wednesday evening. Most spoke against the housing plan. The commission afterward closed the public hearing. Commissioners have 65 days from the close of the public hearing to act on the development plan.
Jackie Lightfield, Zoning Commission chairwoman, rejected that commissioners didn't listen to the public at the hearing and suggested that some comments were politically driven in advance of the Nov. 3 municipal election.
"As a commission, we always welcome public comment," Lightfield said. "However, the Zoning Commission is not a political campaign forum."
Spinnaker Real Estate Partners, which is based in South Norwalk, hopes to build 240 apartments and four single-family homes on the vacant 38.4-acre parcel, which lies between Norden Park and the Westport border.
The plan requires Zoning Commission approval, as the property is currently zoned for restricted industrial use and not multi-family housing and single-family dwellings. In addition, review and recommendation is required by the Conservation Commission, as the property is home to several wetlands.
Spinnaker representatives say the plan for housing would have minimal impact on the property, in terms of traffic and disturbing the natural environment, as compared to a commercial or industrial use. The plan calls for an 11-acre conservation easement. Wetlands would be enhanced, and 85 percent of the parcel would be left in a natural state, according to the company.
Five people, including Edward J. Musante Jr., president of The Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favor of the plan at the public hearing, according to Lightfield.
District C council members Nicholas D. Kydes and Laurel E. Lindstrom, as well as Fred A. Bondi, at-large councilman from East Norwalk, spoke against the plan.
David W. Park, a Strawberry Hill Avenue resident, said he and others opposed to the housing plan have distributed about 1,000 fliers to residents living in the vicinity of the development site.
"An overwhelming majority of people in the neighborhood oppose this application," Park said.
member calls 'silly season' accusations unfounded
To the Editor:
Ah, me, the "silly season" is upon us, and dreary politically-motivated attacks darken The Hour's pages along with the dreary weather. As a longtime member of the ENNA Board of Directors, I am obligated to respond to Mr. Donaher's unfounded (and very odd) accusations against ENNA's president, Laurel Lindstrom.
The ENNA Board of Directors discussed all the issues raised by Mr. Donaher extensively in sessions open to the public. Laurel scrupulously abides by the board's decisions on all matters having a public impact.
Let's start with the zoning amendment. Both the ENIA and the ENNA were informed of the proposal at the same time. Laurel brought the matter to the ENNA Board and alerted the ENNA membership. The board decided it was inappropriate to take the NIMBY stand advocated by Mr. Donaher, Mr. Park and Mr. Kydes, and so Laurel was bound by that decision. As a city councilwoman, Laurel made her position known at the hearing and in a letter to The Hour. As a practical matter, locating a shelter in East Norwalk is a non-issue.
With respect to the Norden development, Laurel widely notified her constituency of the proposals. We weighed the alternatives to residential development and found them all much worse with regard to traffic, visual and other pollution, and impact on public services.
The board took a strong position against the first of three designs because it was too large. We opposed the second design because it spread condos and houses over the entire site, including the wetlands. We debated the design now being reviewed in our last meeting (with active public participation) and chose not to take a stand. The new design compacts the apartments into a small upland area of the site, leaving the wetlands entirely untouched. The four houses are also on upland and connect with a Westport cul-de-sac. It is highly unlikely that the developer will further reduce the number of units. If Mr. Donaher is accusing the ENNA Board of allowing the developer reasonable property rights, we stand accused.
With respect to widening East Avenue, Laurel supported by the board pressed for consideration of planning alternatives to make the street both pedestrian friendly and able to handle higher traffic volumes. She and the board never opposed doing whatever was necessary to move the improvements ahead. She voted for the final resolution because we had accomplished our goal. Is Mr. Donaher opposed to the project?
As soon as the Fitch School condo design was available, ENNA brought the community and the developer together in what turned out to be a noisy presentation at which all the facts were laid out in front of a large public. ENNA followed up with several community meetings and a petition, for which I did some informative site plans. The board opposed the development, following the strongly expressed will of the community. Laurel is rightly proud of her citizen representation on this matter.
Laurel is one of the most scrupulously ethical persons I have met in government. She works hard to keep East Norwalk residents well-informed via e-mail, Web site, telephone and in person. I have worked with her for many years on the ENNA board, and can say from personal experience that the neighborhood and the city as a whole is very lucky to have a representative as intelligent, responsive and accessible as Laurel Lindstrom.
Residents should take time to learn about candidates
To the Editor:
I'm writing to address the letter from a resident printed in Sunday's Hour that requests explanations from me on my positions on specific Zoning Commission items and on one Council item.
Since all the information he requested has been published in past Hour articles and letters, and a board member is responding in a separate letter to his assertions that involve the ENNA, it's not practical for me to respond to his list of questions in a letter to the editor.
I realize that most of us lead busy lives and the letter writer may have missed reading the pertinent articles. But the best way for any resident to get legitimate questions answered is to contact me directly by email or by phone. If I'm home when you call I will pick up directly and spend as much time as needed to fully discuss your issue.
My contact information is on the city website at http://norwalkct.org and at http://laurellindstrom.com, where you'll also find recently updated archives on the media page.
I'm also accessible at ENNA meetings that have met monthly for the past eight years without fail. Everyone is welcome to attend and join the board at the table to enter our informal discussions on a wide range of issues that affect the quality of life in our neighborhoods.
But I also want to caution those motivated by something other than sincerity who write letters challenging me to answer questions.
Over the past few months I've visited all the streets in the district, knocking on 2500 doors and speaking with residents about their concerns. The writer of the letter in Sunday's Hour was one of those residents.
I remember standing on the sidewalk in front of his house in the hot sun discussing at length the issues that affect East Norwalk. His stance on the Norden multifamily housing plan was that he didn't object to it. Yet in his letter he strongly opposes it. When we spoke he indicated that he supported my efforts to advocate for pedestrian safety and retaining neighborhood character for the East Avenue project. Yet in his letter he slams me for my efforts and supports those who tried to push the project through without consideration for these essential components.
Hopefully most readers looked at the timing of his letter that was published a day prior to the council candidate forums and saw it for what it was.
Again, I strongly encourage residents who have a real interest in learning more about the candidates and how the city government functions to attend meetings and contact your council representatives.
Laurel E. Lindstrom
Councilwomen, District C
Race heats up
for 2 District C council seats
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Development, traffic and speeding are among the issues which District C Common Council candidates are focused upon before the city's municipal elections on Nov. 3.
Four candidates are running for two District C seats on the 15-member council.
District C covers East Norwalk and includes the vacant 38-acre parcel between NordenPark and the Westport border, where 240 apartments have been proposed. The plan is under review by the Zoning Commission.
"The biggest issue now in District C is the development project that is contemplated for the (former) Norden site, which I am in opposition to," said Republican incumbent Nicholas D. Kydes, an Information Technology procurement manager and former Planning commissioner now in his second term. "I believe that we should not change the zoning from restricted industrial to residential (to permit the apartments)."
Kydes said the property retains potential for new businesses, whereas allowing the apartments would burden city services.
Democratic incumbent Laurel E. Lindstrom labels the proposed housing development a traffic generator that doesn't meet smart-growth principles. For her, the main issue in East Norwalk and elsewhere is traffic.
"Yes, there's incidents of crime. There's issues around taxes, but day-in and day-out, it's the problem with traffic and the lack of manageability of the traffic and speeding," said Lindstrom, who wants to remain on the council to see through a recently-approved citywide traffic management plan.
Lindstrom, a registered nurse and president of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association, was first elected to the council in 2001, and currently is chairwoman of its Public Works Committee.
The two have differed on a number of issues, including the proposed widening of East Avenue. Kydes considers a four-lane roadway imperative to improving safety along East Avenue. Lindstrom described the original widening plan as too much concrete and fought to ensure more neighborhood input on the pending project.
The Democrat and Republican also split on city spending.
Lindstrom was among Democrats who voted to raise the expenditures cap on the city's 2009-10 operating budget. She said the city can raise the cap without raising taxes, if it manages its money smarter. Kydes, who voted against the higher cap, said the city should must maintain small government and control costs.
Republican Michael O'Reilly, a regional director for Paradigm Associates and Marvin PTO member, said speeding is the most pressing issue in District C. He wants a grass-roots push to raise awareness.
"(Speeding) is a real grass-roots issue," O'Reilly said. "It's not people from other towns. It's our neighbors. Each of us is doing it. We've seen grass-roots efforts (succeed) in other cities."
O'Reilly said he opposed the plan put forward several years ago for 328 apartments and condominiums on the former Norden site and is now considering the new plan.
"My preference would be two skating rinks and an Olympic swimming pool and a dog park," O'Reilly said. But "we really have to consider the fact that what(ever) goes in could be worse than 240 houses."
Also running in District C is Democrat Kevin M. Poruban, who served on the council from 2001 until 2005. He said property taxes are the biggest problem in East Norwalk. Rather than adopting zero-increase budgets, which he said cut services, the city should look for efficiencies.
"We can reduce costs, maybe looking at re-bidding various contracts, things that are out-sourced, and look and see if we can do (out-sourced services) in house," Poruban said.
Poruban labeled crime as the No. 2 problem. He said the city must look at the root causes of crime rather than only boosting law enforcement. On the former Norden site, the Democrat said he has concerns about the apartment plan, but added, "My opinion and what I can do as a councilman are two different things."
The Zoning Commission ultimately will decide whether to approve the plan. A public hearing is set for 7:30 tonight at City Hall, 125 East Ave.
3. Does Norwalk charge more to park than other municipalities?
Why is this question even uttered. Oh don’t get me wrong, I am loath to pay for parking, just like the rest of you. But just like every driver on the planet, there’s that whole convenience factor that kicks in when I need to go somewhere that I need to drive to. I circle around blocks looking for empty meter spaces, or better yet the free spaces that are tucked away on side streets, and when there are no other options, when it’s raining or snowing or I’m carrying heavy items, there I am in the nearest garage paying someone outrageous parking fees. But the philosophical question that is at the root here is –what is the price of free parking? After all nothing, as we have learned, is free. If the city owns land, should it make it available for parking? But what about strip malls? Don’t they pay for their surface lots? Should the parking that is owned by the city be paid for out of general tax revenue, meaning all of us? Or should it be paid for by the people who use it? You’d have thought that this question has been debated and resolved way back when when the idea that it was okay to shift the burden of paying for it to the user back in 2002. No, the issue comes up because there’s no master parking plan for the entire city. Much like there’s no master traffic plan, because um well, someone would have to pay for those studies, and while we have council committees that should be guiding the process, they haven’t exactly leapt into action. Actually I am doing a disservice to the one person who has called for a master traffic study since 2005, and that would be Laurel Lindstrom. Debate the genesis of the traffic study.
Norwalk panel delays housing plan recommendation
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
The Norwalk Conservation Commission on Tuesday night closed its public hearing on Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC's new plan for housing on the eastern side of the former Norden property.
Commissioners didn't issue a recommendation on the plan, according to D. Seeley Hubbard, commission vice chairman.
"We just closed the public hearing," Hubbard said. "We will probably do something the next time -- the 27th. (The next meeting) is the 27th, and it will be on the agenda."
Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC hopes to build 240 apartments and four single-family homes on the vacant 38.4-acre parcel, which lies between Norden Park and the Westport border.
The plan requires Zoning Commission approval, as the property is currently zoned for restricted industrial use and not multi-family housing and single-family dwellings. In addition, review and recommendation is required by the Conservation Commission, as the property is home to several wetlands.
Zoning commissioners cannot act upon the plan until they have given consideration to action of the Conservation Commission, according to Michael B. Greene, the city's director of planning and zoning.
The Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plan Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 7:30 p.m., in the Common Council chambers of City Hall, 125 East Ave.
Spinnaker officials have presented the plan as significantly smaller than a plan put forward -- and rejected -- several years ago for up to 328 apartments and condominiums on the parcel.
"This plan is really one building located on the western side of the property, so the impact is much less in terms of its area and its impacts on wetlands and watercourses," Kim Morque, Spinnaker Real Estate principal, told The Hour last month.
Despite its smaller footprint, the new plan hasn't won over some East Norwalk residents.
District C Councilman Nicholas D. Kydes said the land should remained zoned for industrial use. He cited the recent recognition of Routefriend, Akademos and Plasma Air International Energy as evidence that industry is thriving in Norwalk. Approving the housing plan would be a mistake, he said.
"It will create a tremendous burden on our sewer system, on the roads and on our schools," Kydes said. "We will fight this (housing plan) to do what's necessary to make sure our voice is heard."
Laurel E. Lindstrom, District C councilwoman and president of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association, said the new housing plan is generating concern among residents.
"I have been hearing from people who have concerns about the growth of Norwalk and number of new housing units going in. At what point is it enough or too much?" Lindstrom said.
Lindstrom said the ENNA is looking at the plan and informing its members of next week's public hearing.
David W. Park, an East Norwalk resident, said he and others are blanketing the neighborhood with fliers about the proposed housing development.
"(The flier) has a bunch of talking points about why a lot of us are opposed to the apartments being built," Park said. "We're trying our best to get a good turnout at that hearing the 21st."
Traffic management plan receives the green light
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Department of Public Works officials hope to see development of a $500,000 citywide traffic management plan get under way next year.
On Tuesday night, the Common Council gave Mayor Richard A. Moccia the green light to execute an agreement with the state Department of Transportation to begin the plan.
Paying for the plan will be $400,000 in federal money and $100,000 in city funds that had been earmarked for traffic calming. The concept now requires DOT approval, according to Harold F. Alvord, the city's director of public works.
"We're going to enter an agreement with the DOT, and then select a consultant," Alvord told The Hour. "We're looking at a year (to finish the plan), because you've got to do everything from traffic counts to studying the entire city road network (and) how that connects up with the surrounding towns."
Alvord said he hopes to see the city hire by next March a consultant to prepare the plan.
The resulting document will be a traffic master plan for major arteries throughout the city.
Laurel E. Lindstrom, chairwoman of the council's Public Works Committee, said she initially had concerns about using city traffic-calming money for a traffic management plan.
"But looking at the backup material, the emphasis is not only on traffic safety, but also on a comprehensive traffic management plan that would include other modes of transportation," Lindstrom said. "So this is a wonderful result here that we actually managed to get this grant funding."
The plan will include traffic counts at selected locations, recommend options to address traffic congestion at various corridors, and "develop a long-term Capital Improvement Program to enhance traffic flow and to include pedestrian and bicycle movement, without forcing vehicular traffic into residential neighborhoods," wrote Michael Yeosock, senior civil engineer in the public works department, in a memorandum outlining the plan.
Alvord said the resulting plan will address Norwalk and tie in with traffic management plans to be developed by neighboring towns.
Kelly L. Straniti, council minority leader and Public Works Committee member, said the plan will "increase workability and safety in the city" and build upon the Safe Routes to Schools program.
Federal funding for the plan was secured with help from the South Western Regional Planning Agency, upon which Councilwoman Anna K. Duleep serves.
"I just want to say how glad I am that we are looking at traffic citywide and in the region," Duleep said. "This is neither the first nor the last grant that (SWPRA) helped us with."
In other business, the council approved a pay scale for election workers hired by the Registrar of Voters Office.
Some residents on private roads at odds with city over repairs,
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Norwalk someday may charge a $2,500 application fee for property owners wishing to turn over their private roads to the city.
The city has 140 private roads, many of which are dead-end streets. While the city rarely gets requests to make such roads public, it does expend time and money reviewing such requests -- in effect, assessing the condition of the street -- when they're received.
"The residents get to a point where they don't like paying for the costs of maintaining and repairing the street. That's typically when you get a request to accept a street," said Harold F. Alvord, the city's director of public works. "But there are no established procedures on how you go about (accepting a private road)."
An existing city ordinance allows for property owners to ask the city to take over private roads. But the ordinance doesn't spell out the procedure in detail, according to Alvord.
"Is the city responsible to go out and survey the properties? I don't think they should be. So somebody's got to provide a current survey of the properties -- we think that should be the residents -- provide drawings of the roads and associated drainage," Alvord said. "We have to review those, and then we have to go out and access the condition of the street. It could involve doing core borings."
Under the proposed procedure, the petitioning property owner/s would submit an application to the city clerk. Planning and zoning staff would review whether the street conforms with regulations.
Public works staff would determine whether original drawings of the road and associated drainage exist. If such drawings do not exist, staff would inform the residents, who could choose to proceed or terminate the process. If they chose to terminate the process, the application fee would be returned.
If drawings exist, public works staff would determine whether the road and drainage was constructed in accordance with city standards. If they were not, staff would give the petitioning residents "a general description of the work that would have to be done to bring (the road) into compliance."
The council's Public Works Committee last Tuesday night tabled action on the proposed procedures. A public hearing on the proposed application fee will be held Nov. 4, according to Alvord.
"The feeling of the committee was we should just table approval of the procedure until after the public hearing," said Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom, committee chairwoman. The procedure "does make sense, because right now it's unclear as to what the owners on a private street are getting themselves into. Here it's very clear from the outset what the costs are. There's no surprises."
At present, property owners along two private roads in Norwalk -- Kristen Lane in the Cranbury area and Woodbine Street in Rowayton -- have expressed interest in turning over their roads to the city, Alvord said.
The private portion of Woodbine Street is home to 10 households that each pay $100 a year for snow-plowing. They recently spent $700 to have potholes paved on the street. Residents want the city to take over the road and provide such services, according to Jennifer Gordon, president of the Woodbine Road Fund. But the road was built by a private developer 30 years ago and doesn't conform to city standards, she said.
"We get penalized for some developer that created a city street 30 years ago, and we're still paying the prices," Gordon said. "We pay the same taxes as everyone else, but we don't get the services of snow plowing and paving. We have addressed this issue over the years but never got anywhere. (City inspectors) come out and say, 'It's too narrow, the snow plow can't turn around.'"
Councilman Douglas E. Hempstead, a public works committee member, said the existing procedure is 25 years old and needs tightening. He said uniform procedures are needed for roads in new developments that meet city standards, as well as for private roads in older developments. The city is not obligated to take over a private road and in many circumstances shouldn't, according to Hempstead.
"There are ones I know that the city would never take (over) when the whole road is 15 feet wide, or some of these you can barely get one car by. And there are some over the years that have been neglected," said Hempstead, who supports an application fee. "If you really want us to come in and inspect it, a couple quick passes won't cost you, but you need to put some serious money on the table for the next step."
Residents of private roads pay property taxes like other Norwalk residents, but don't get city services. Whether they fare better than residents living along public streets is for them to determine, according to Michael J. Stewart, the city's tax assessor. He said the city bases its assessments on the estimated market value of a property. Some home buyers, for instance, might pay more for a property along a private road.
"All other things being equal, I would assume that if you're paying to plow the road, and the city picks up the costs, your expenses, as a property owner, come down," Stewart said. "If you don't think that having the general public using the road as a thoroughfare is a distraction, then you're in a better position."
Norwalk pursues $500,000 traffic plan
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
The city is poised to churn $500,000 of largely federal money into a citywide Traffic Management Plan -- in effect a master plan -- that will address not just roads and cars.
"The major goal is to enhance the overall safety and efficiency of travel by motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and mass transit riders," wrote Michael Yeosock, senior civil engineer in the city's public works department, in a memorandum outlining the concept. "The plan shall identify new or existing roadways required to be constructed or upgraded in design and operational aspects in order to provide increased capacity, safety and walkability."
The Common Council's Public Works Committee on Tuesday night recommended that Mayor Richard A. Moccia execute an agreement with the state Department of Transportation to proceed with the traffic management plan and approve a provision stating that the city cover 20 percent of the costs.
Development of the traffic management plan is pegged at $500,000. Federal funds would cover $400,000. The city would pay $100,000, according to Harold F. Alvord, the city's director of public works.
"We'll be able to come up with some concept plans on how to address some of the traffic and street issues in the city," Alvord said. "There are already corridors in the city that we know are significant problems, that section of East Avenue. Another section is Route 1 between East Avenue and Belden Avenue."
The full council is expected to vote next Tuesday night authorizing the traffic management plan. If the council approves the measure, the city will seek a planning consultant to prepare the traffic management plan, according to Laurel E. Lindstrom, chairwoman of the Public Works Committee.
"(The proposed plan) has a real emphasis on walkability in addition to vehicular traffic. I think it can only help with the future traffic," Lindstrom said. "I'm constantly hearing from parents about their kids walking to schools and not having safe sidewalks and people speeding. If a plan is in place, I'm sure it will be used."
Kelly L. Straniti, council minority leader and also on the public works committee, said the resulting plan will build upon the Safe Routes to Schools program, reduce speeding and move traffic more smoothly.
"We've been looking at alternative methods for reducing speeding. I'm really excited to see what this plan comes up with. I foresee it passed unanimously," Straniti said.
Alvord said the city several years ago targeted $25,000 toward a traffic management plan and $100,000 toward traffic calming. The availability of federal dollars means the resulting plan will be more comprehensive than what was envisioned with the more limited funding. In effect, the resulting document will be a traffic master plan.
"The general intent of his plan is to come up with what are the major corridors in the city, and what do we need to do to those to better facilitate the volume of traffic, to move that traffic more efficiently, so we make it safer, and put drivers in a circumstance where they don't want to go racing through residential neighborhoods," he said.
expanded recycling program
By CHRIS BOSAK
Hour Staff Report
By taking a few moments to separate their garbage more carefully, Norwalk residents can take a proactive role in helping the city's bottom line.
As gulls circled and heavy machinery shifted trash, Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia joined other city and City Carting officials at the transfer station on Cresent Street on Monday afternoon to tout the city's expanded recycling program. Moccia also made a pitch for the new green recycling bins that residents would have to purchase.
"We can recycle more than ever now," Moccia said. "Working with DPW staff we decided to offer another option for recycling paper products. It's a great idea. It will make it a lot simpler for our residents."
The more the city recycles, he added, the more it saves money, which could ultimately reflect positively on residents' tax bills.
Norwalk pays City Carting $75 per ton to take away garbage. The city is paid $17.50 per ton for recycling that it taken away.
Public Works Director Harold Alvord said the city recycled 6,000 tons last year.
"For a city this size, there's no reason we can't double that this year," he said. "You can recycle a lot more than many people realize. It's easy to do and residents can have an impact on revenues."
The green bins, which can be used for curb-side pick-up, will be available at the transfer station for $10 each or $15 for two. A public hearing regarding the bins will take place at 7:30 p.m. today at City Hall room 231. It would then have to be approved by the Common Council.
The green bins would be used for paper products, including newspapers, magazines, junk mail, phone books, paperback books, and cereal boxes. Those products may also be recycled in paper bags. The blue bins would continue to be used for glass, plastic and metal containers.
Alvord stressed that the city recently expanded its recycling program to include plastics Nos. 1 through 7, which includes yogurt containers, milk cartons and milk jugs. A full list of what is recyclable in the city may be found at www.norwalkct.org
Alvord and Moccia said the city would love to give the bins away to residents, but there is not money in the budget to do so.
With 23,000 properties in the city utilizing curb-side garbage and recycling pick-up, giving away the green bins would cost the city more than $200,000.
Common Council member Laurel Lindstrom, the chair of the Public Works Committee, said: "Anything to encourage people to recycle more is good for the environment and bring in money for the city. It serves a dual purpose."
Laurel Lindstrom should be applauded for her work
To the Editor:
Praise must go to Department of Public Works Chairperson, Laurel Lindstrom, who had the foresight a little over a month ago to speak with Department of Public Works Director, Hal Alvord, in regards to her re-cycling initiative in response to City re-cycling needs, in a changing environment.
As a Democrat she cares about recycling, and came up with a plan to include green recycle bins in order to effectively separate paper from other recyclable items. She realized, that we as a city could increase revenue from such an initiative, and in the future track comparative ratios, specifically, the increased amount of recycling items in comparison to the decreased amount of garbage collected.
Realizing that this was a great idea, Mr. Alvord has already ordered 1200 green bins in hopes of getting this program in place. It truly is great to see the DPW Chair work effectively, in a bipartisan manner, with the DPW Director to make Norwalk greener. Thank you both for your efforts in this endeavor.
To the Editor:
To start off I want to correct some assertions put forward in a letter printed in the Hour on September 19 with the heading ‘Why did blight prevention ordinance resurface a year later?’ that mentioned my name, and also the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association.
The ENNA did not take a position on last year’s proposed anti-blight ordinance as the letter writer insinuated. And the health citation mentioned in the letter was driven by an anonymous complaint of high grass in my yard that was found to be decorative fern – so no action was required. The letter, however, when it took this negative direction shows how ‘blight’ can be abused.
Fortunately our city department heads who handle code violations have their feet firmly planted on the ground. They’re able to identify the handful of properties at any given time that have serious unresolved code violations that threaten the public’s health and safety. These are the property owners who are repeat violators that should be the focus of any enhanced regulations.
Last year the pursuit for an ordinance was dropped when staff made it clear that the problem with resolving the serious violations was not the lack of an ordinance but inadequacies in the court system and state statutes.
The recent discussions indicate that an ordinance may be beneficial, particularly if it’s done in conjunction with an amendment to the state statutes as one department head indicated. Learning from other communities as to what has worked for them is also valuable.
So far the discussions have stayed balanced including warnings against misuse of the ordinance – which can occur even now without an ordinance. To be avoided are code violation citations issued that are based on politically or personally motivated anonymous complaints, the creation of insurmountable hardships for residents who are already in financial straits or citations issued for eco-friendly approaches to landscaping.
It is commendable that the great majority of citizens show sensitivity to their neighbors while trying to improve the quality of their neighborhoods.
Laurel E. Lindstrom
Councilwoman, District C
Panel to examine housing proposed for East Norwalk
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
The Norwalk Conservation Commission will hold a public hearing tonight on Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC's new plan for housing on the eastern side of the former Norden property in East Norwalk.
Common Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom, also president of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association, is among those following the new proposal.
"We're really just trying to learn more about what it is they're proposing there and hearing what some of the residents have to say," Lindstrom said. "The plan that they've come back with was intended to have less of an impact on the wetlands (than an earlier plan), because it is at one location where there aren't large wetlands."
Lindstrom, however, said numerous issues must be considered, including past contamination of the site.
The public hearing on Spinnaker Real Estate's plan for a multi-family residential building and detached single-family homes is scheduled for 7 tonight in Room A300 of City Hall, 125 East Ave.
The Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association as well as the East Norwalk Improvement Association have been monitoring the new plan following concerns over an earlier plan for the site.
Two years ago, the city's Zoning Commission rejected Spinnaker Real Estate's plan for townhouses on the vacant 38.4-acre parcel, which lies between NordenPark and the Westport border. The new plan calls for 240 units in a single apartment building and four single-family homes.
"This plan is really one building located on the western side of the property, so the impact is much less in terms of its area and its impacts on wetlands and watercourses," said Kim Morque, Spinnaker Real Estate principal. "There are two flagged wetlands areas that we are displacing, and our proposal is essentially to create a wet meadow area about three times as large as (the wetlands) we're displacing."
In addition to Zoning Commission approval, the plan would require a permit from the city's Conservation Commission to advance. The permit is required because of direct and indirect wetlands impacts. The earlier plan for townhouses and the current proposal for a single building and several homes handle the impacts differently.
"The big difference is the way they're treating storm water. It appears that they're providing water quality and water quantity improvements to storm water runoff," said Alexis Cherichetti, senior environmental officer and staff person to the commission. "It includes ... rain gardens, bio-retention swales and dry-pond basins."
Council set to vote on plan for widening East Avenue
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
A resolution aimed at advancing replacement of the Metro-North Railroad bridge over East Avenue and widening the roadway between the bridge and Interstate 95 is headed back to the Common Council.
This time, the resolution could pass muster with the 15-member legislative body.
On Tuesday night, the council's Public Works Committee voted 4-0 to advance the resolution. Voting 'Yes' were Michael K. Geake, Douglas E. Hempstead, Carvin J. Hilliard and Laurel E. Lindstrom.
Lindstrom, committee chairwoman and a District C resident, opposed the resolution as it was originally written over concerns that it would lead to too much pavement and destruction of the neighborhood character.
On Wednesday, she said she supports the resolution now that changes have been written into it.
"If we continue to have public input and continue to review the plan as it moves forward, if the public works staff makes a concerted effort to have the grass verge between the sidewalks and the roadway to enhance pedestrian safety and to make sure the character of the neighbor remains intact ... I'll be satisfied that I did the right thing in supporting the resolution," Lindstrom said. "I and a number of people who were seen as opposing the project are not. We're just trying to make the project better."
The state Department of Transportation is handling the bridge replacement. The city and a consultant engineer are planning the road widening. State and federal funds are covering the construction costs.
The resolution states that the city "fully supports the proposed projects," based upon the following: The city conducted public informational meetings, changed the conceptual approach to reconstructing East Avenue in response to residents' comments, and that city staff "will continue to consider the comments and concerns of residents and will work to incorporate into the roadway project grass snow shelves, plantings, pedestrian amenities, underground utilities and other considerations to and/or improve the character of the neighborhood."
Hempstead, who put forward several of the language revisions, expressed confidence Wednesday that the full council will approve the measure next Tuesday night.
"Hopefully, it will pass and we will move forward with plans to improve East Avenue," Hempstead said. The resolution "is allowing the plans to move forward, but also leaving an open door for further improvements. I feel at this stage in the game very confident it will pass."
Mayor Richard A. Moccia gave a similar comment.
"I would hope that we will move (the resolution) forward to clear the council, so we can begin working on this project," Moccia said. "I don't see any reason not to."
Director of Public Works Harold F. Alvord said the resolution, if approved, will commit funds to the projects, advance design work and permit ConnDOT to negotiate with affected property owners. ConnDOT plans to finish design work by September 2010 and put the bridge replacement project out to bid in early 2011. In theory, construction could start later that year, according to Alvord.
In a partisan vote last month, the council sent the resolution, as worded then, back to committee. All eight Democrats voted to return the resolution to committee. They considered the road-widening, as proposed then, intrusive on the neighborhood. All seven Republicans voted against postponing action on the resolution, which they consider vital to moving traffic and improving safety.
Elections to determine key chairmanships
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
The city's municipal elections in November will determine which political party controls the Common Council and also which council members retain or gain chairmanships of important council committees.
Committee chairmanship positions are not insignificant.
As acting and later full chairwoman of the Public Works Committee, Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom played a significant role in the debate over how East Avenue should be widened.
As chairwoman of the Planning Committee, Councilwoman Phyllis Y. Bolden oversaw the review of the master development agreement governing the West Avenue Redevelopment project known as Waypointe.
The party that wins the most council seats typically is given all committee chairmanships. Democrats now hold a slim majority of eight council seats. Republicans hold seven seats. After the November election, council members of the majority party will meet in caucus to chart out chairmanship positions.
Mayor Richard A. Moccia, a Republican, won't predict who will land which committee chairmanships. He said simply that both sides of the aisle look for experience, which often means years on the council. Who becomes the chairman or chairwoman of individual committees does affect city business, according to Moccia.
"In the past, we've had some people on the council who have not moved their committees along the way I think they could have gone along," Moccia said. "There comes a point where you have the participation, you have the dialogue, but somewhere along the line you have to push forward, make a decision for the full council to vote."
The Republican mayor cited Bolden -- a District B Democrat who is not seeking reelection -- as an example of a "common sense approach" to committee chairmanship. Moccia has made advancing Waypointe a priority.
Some Democrats, including mayoral candidate Steven A. Serasis, have charged the Moccia administration with advancing items without adequate input from the public and sufficient discussion by the council.
Lindstrom, a District C Democrat, chaired the last three meetings of the Public Works Committee, first as acting chairwoman and recently as the newly seated chairwoman.
Under her, the committee discussed at length a resolution aimed at advancing the replacement of the Metro-North Railroad bridge over East Avenue and the widening East Avenue itself. Lindstrom said the original resolution, as worded, would have resulted in too much asphalt and harmed the character of the neighborhood. She believes the extended discussion will result in a better project for East Norwalk.
She hopes to keep her chairmanship position of the Public Works Committee.
"It feels like a good fit because of the neighborhood issues," said Lindstrom, who is also president of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association. "Public works is at the core of many of the neighborhood issues."
"But again, it's going to be up to the caucus, the way the election goes," Lindstrom added.
Following the city's 2007 municipal elections, District D Republican Douglas E. Hempstead was made chairman of the Land Use & Building Management Committee. At-Large Republican Richard A. McQuaid was named chairman of the Personnel Committee. Both have served on the council for many years.
Democrats supporting the action labeled it bi-partisanship. Other Democrats described the action as a break with democratic tradition and the result of back-room brokering.
McQuaid doubts he'll retain his chairmanship of the Personnel Committee, if Democrats hold their majority on the council. If Republicans win eight or more seats, however, he'd like to chair another committee.
"If the Republicans win, I would love to go with Recreation and Parks, because that's been my primary thing," said McQuaid, referring to his years on the parks committee and involvement in recreational activities. "But I would do what the team wants me to do. If they want me to stay with Personnel, I would stay with Personnel."
District B Democrat Carvin J. Hilliard hopes to stay chairman of the council's Finance and Claims Committee.
"I know the players involved very well. I have a good relationship with (the city's finance director)," Hilliard said. "I have expertise in the area, as far as the city financing goes, and I knows the ins and outs of it."
Working Families Party Endorsed
* Steven A. Serasis, mayor
* Thomas Agosto, council at-large
* Anna K. Duleep, council at-large
* Michael K. Geake, council at-large
* Erik T. Anderson, council District A
* David Jaeger, council District A
* Travis Simms, council District B
* Carvin J. Hilliard, council District B
* Laurel E. Lindstrom, council District C
* Kevin M. Poruban, council District C
* Marilyn C. Robinson, council District D
* Chris Donahue, council District D
* Christopher F. Potts, council District E
* Heidi C. Keyes, Board of Education
* Shirley Mosby, Board of Education
* Rosa Murray, Board of Education
Today, the Working Families Party announced endorsements for Norwalk’s upcoming municipal races, including Mayor, Council and Board of Education.
The quickly growing minor party is cross-endorsing Democratic candidate Steve Serasis for Mayor. WFP is also cross-endorsing Thomas Agosto, Mike Geake and Anna Duleep for Common Council At Large, Eric Anderson and David Jaeger for Council District A, Travis Simms and Carvin Hilliard for Council District B, Laurel Lindstrom and Kevin Poruban for Council District C, Marilyn Robinson and Chris Donahue for Council District D, Chris Potts for Council District E, and Heidi Keyes, Shirley Moseby and Rosa Murray for Board of Education.
Major party candidates who have received the endorsement of the Working Families Party will appear twice on the ballot: once on their party’s line and once on the Working Families Party line. Votes cast on the Working Families Party line count just the same for the candidate. But Working Families leaders say, voting on the Working Families Party line also makes a statement about issues.
“I’m glad Working Families is supporting such a strong slate of candidates in Norwalk this year,” said Daisy Franklin, a Norwalk resident and member of the Working Families Party State Committee. “When you cast your vote on the Working Families line, it counts as a vote for the candidate you support, and it also sends all politicians a powerful message about the need for good jobs, fair taxes, affordable housing and excellent schools. ”
Steve Serasis, the Democratic and Working Families Party candidate for Mayor, is currently serving a term on the Norwalk Common Council. He was elected in 2007 with the cross-endorsement of the Working Families Party.
“I’m running for Mayor of Norwalk because I believe in community first, and I want to see our municipal Government make the needs of the people who live here first priority,” said Steve Serasis “It’s time to put affordable housing, good jobs and quality education front and center, and I look forward to working with the Working Families Party on those shared goals.”
Mike Geake is a software engineer currently serving on the Norwalk City Council. He was also elected in 2007 with the cross-endorsement of the Working Families Party.
“I’m running for Councilman because I think everyone in Norwalk deserves a decent living wage job and every child deserves a high quality public school,” said Mike Geake. “I’m proud to accept the endorsement of the Working Families Party because those values are exactly what Working Families stands for.”
Working Families is a fast-growing political party across the state. In Norwalk’s 2007 municipal elections, Democrats Mike Geake and Steve Serasis both won their seats with the votes on the Working Families Party line as their margin of victory. In 2008, nearly 2000 voters in Norwalk cast their votes for Jim Himes on the Working Families Party line, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Left-turn ban on Hendricks Avenue concerns area residents
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Don't plan on making a left turn from northbound East Avenue onto Hendricks Avenue anymore.
The city recently posted signs prohibiting such turns at the intersection with East Avenue, which lies immediately north of Exit 16 on Interstate 95.
The left-hand turn ban isn't sitting well with Judith Platt, who lives on nearby Yankee Doodle Court. She and her neighbors fear the change will send more traffic through her neighborhood. They had no clue the city planned to put up the no left turn signs at Hendricks Avenue.
"We came home and here's this sign at the top of the hill. To me, it's going to be the exact same situation. Instead of having a left turn into Hendricks, you're going to have a left turn into Sherry Street, which is a block further down the road," Platt said. "My concern really is the amount of traffic it's going to create coming through the neighborhood."
Richard Linnartz, principal engineer at the city's Department of Public Works, said the Norwalk Traffic Authority and the state Department of Transportation approved the left-turn prohibition, which is aimed at allowing motorists driving southbound on East Avenue to get onto southbound Interstate 95 easier.
"The traffic backs up constantly on East Avenue, because enough cars can't get onto I-95, because you've got cars turning right onto I-95, you've got cars turning left onto I-95." said Linnartz, referring to motorists traveling south and northbound on East Avenue. "This will give more green time to (southbound) cars turning right."
Harold F. Alvord, the city's director of public works, said motorists traveling north on East Avenue used the left-turn signal at the freeway entrance as a green light to turn left onto Hendricks Avenue.
"Another conflict was people coming off the interstate southbound, then turning right on East Avenue and crossing over two lanes to make a left turn onto Hendricks," Alvord said. "So we're eliminating that (also)."
In addition to the new signs prohibiting left turns onto Hendricks Avenue, a painted island is being placed on East Avenue. The traffic signal at the freeway entrance will be adjusted to allow more vehicles to get onto the entrance ramp, according to public works officials.
Platt, meanwhile, notes that it's not only residents who will be impacted by the left-turn ban. Saint Ann Club is located at 16 Hendrick's Ave. A Muslim congregation also meets in the neighborhood. That translates to residential and commercial traffic.
"All these cars and those who live here will be turning left into Sherry Street," Platt said. "The East Avenue backup will be as bad ... if not worse that it is now."
District C Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom said she received telephone calls regarding the change. She said having cars turn left into Sherry Street could be more dangerous than was turning left onto Hendrick's Avenue. While the state and the city's Traffic Authority have the say over such matters, the decision should have been brought to the attention of the council, according to Lindstrom.
Council OKs plan
for widening East Avenue
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Months of debate over how to widen East Avenue ended Tuesday night, as the Common Council approved in short order a resolution advancing the widening and also the replacement of the Metro-North Railroad bridge over the busy roadway.
Approval of the resolution came without discussion during the roughly 10-minute council meeting at City Hall.
"It means that I call DOT first thing in the morning and say, 'Get going guys,' " Director of Public Works Harold F. Alvord told The Hour after the council meeting.
The state Department of Transportation is handling the bridge replacement. The city and a consultant engineer are planning the road widening. State and federal funds are covering the construction costs -- roughly $15.5 million -- for both projects.
The resolution lends the city's support to both projects and states that city staff will consider residents' comments and concerns, and work to incorporate grass snow shelves, plantings, pedestrian amenities and underground utilities into the widening of East Avenue, between the railroad bridge and Interstate 95.
Councilman Douglas E. Hempstead last month put forward several language revisions aimed at making the road-widening project more than simply asphalt.
District C Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom, who opposed the road widening and resolution as originally proposed, lent her support to the resolution in a written statement.
"Keeping the small-town feel of Norwalk while accommodating the realities of the city we've become is at the heart of residents' concerns," said Lindstrom, who is also president of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association. "And the amendment to add further public information sessions will allow opportunities for additional comment."
The amendment, added by Lindstrom, states that city staff "will conduct further public information sessions during the development of the roadway improvement project."
District C Councilman Nicholas D. Kydes, who fully supported both projects from the start, thanked the East Norwalk Business Association, its President Winthrop Baum, and "all the people of East Norwalk and Norwalk in general that have signed my petition to move this forward."
"I'm glad we got beyond the politicization of this project and are moving it forward," Kydes said. "Now all of Norwalk will benefit from this definitely needed improvement."
Mayor Richard A. Moccia said afterward that he is "very pleased" that the resolution passed, and that "the council did what they had to do."
"I felt confident since (the resolution) came out of committee 4-0 with the slight amendment," Moccia said. "And that makes sense. I have no problem with (the amendment). The DOT can keep everybody apprised."
In other business, Democrat Christopher F. Potts was sworn in as a councilman. Potts was chosen by the Democratic Town Committee to finish the term of Councilman William M. Krummel, who resigned earlier this summer.
Norwalk Common Council Dems elect Hilliard as majority leader
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
District B Democrat Carvin J. Hilliard, who was first elected to the council in November 2001, was returned to the position of council majority leader Tuesday night.
In caucus the night before, council Democrats voted unanimously to elect Hilliard as their leader, filling the vacancy created by District E Councilman William M. Krummel's resignation Tuesday.
Council President Phyllis Y. Bolden announced that Hilliard had been elected as council majority leader.
Beforehand, several council members and Mayor Richard A. Moccia spoke to The Hour about the choice.
"I'm more than thrilled Carvin Hilliard is the choice. (Councilman) Steve Serasis nominated him," said At-Large Councilwoman Amanda M. Brown. "He was our choice and we unanimously voted him in."
As majority leader, Hilliard will lead the Democratic caucus and work with Kelly L. Straniti, leader of the council's seven Republicans.
Hilliard, majority leader from 2005 to 2007, will hold the position until the November election, after which Democrats and Republicans will elect their leaders for 2010.
Moccia labeled Hilliard's election as majority leader as Democrats' business, while acknowledging his years on the council.
"Carvin has served a lot of years on the council," Moccia said. "He's well-experienced and he's a reasonable voice."
Hilliard is past president of the Norwalk chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In other business, Bolden announced that Democrats intended to shift several committee chairmanships, as a result of Fred A. Bondi recently having changed his political affiliation from Democrat to Republican. The majority party holds committee chairmanships.
In a vote, with Republicans abstaining, council members appointed Serasis, a District A Democrat, to chair the council's Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee a position Bondi held for years.
Several council members praised Bondi for his service.
"He's done a lot for the city," said District C Councilman Nicholas D. Kydes, a Republican. "He's done a lot for the youth ... football, lacrosse, basketball."
Council members elected District C Democrat Laurel E. Lindstrom to chair the council's Public Works Committee a position until recently held by Krummel.
Krummel last week submitted his letter of resignation, effective July 28. He cited a desire to give one of the two District E Democrats, who were endorsed last Wednesday, experience on the council. District E Democrats have yet to fill the vacancy created by Krummel's resignation.
On Tuesday night, Moccia and council Democrats and Republicans praised Krummel's service and thoroughness. Over the years, Krummel established a reputation for correcting errors in council and other meeting minutes.
"Bill is probably our best editor, and we should probably immortalize that in a special plaque," said District E Councilman Andrew T. Conroy, a Republican.
Parties vie for
control of Norwalk council
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Last Wednesday night, Norwalk Republicans nominated largely veteran candidates, whereas Democrats turned to new faces as their best hopes of capturing control of the Common Council in this fall's municipal elections.
Both parties are vying for control of the 15-member legislative body. Democrats now hold a one-seat majority.
Republicans nominated seven incumbents, two former council members and four newcomers.
For Republicans, running Richard A. Mcquaid, who now represents District A, Douglas E. Hempstead, who represents District D, Fred A. Bondi and former council members John E. Tobin and Joanne T. Romano for the five at-large council seats makes sense, according to Art Scialabba, Republican Town Committee chairman.
"If you look at the at-large candidates, experience matters. That's what we're bringing to the plate with this slate of individuals who are running at-large: People who have known Norwalk for many years, who have served Norwalk for many years," Scialabba said. "They're going to be people that the residents can trust who can do the right thing for the city. We've got all current and former councilmen running at-large."
Scialabba said Republicans' other candidates are well-known and involved in their respective districts. They are Diana Paladino and Richard J. Bonenfant in District A; Nicholas D. Kydes and Michael O'Reilly in District C; Kelly L. Straniti and Clyde Mount in District D; and Andrew T. Conroy and Victor Cavallo in District E.
Republicans have yet to nominate their candidates for two District B seats. The district, which covers South Norwalk, historically has been tough for Republicans to win. Scialabba, nevertheless, expressed confidence that two candidates will be found. One may not be a Republican, he indicated.
"They may be a mix of Republicans and unaffiliated voters. That's a possibility," Scialabba said.
Democrats on Wednesday night endorsed four incumbents, one former councilman and 10 newcomers.
The Democratic slate represents "a concerted effort to recruit new people and young people," according to Galen Wells, District E Democrats chairwoman and former chairwoman of the Norwalk Democratic Town Committee.
"We feel that is the way we keep the party vital and the government vital. We've made a concerted effort to attract young people," Wells said. "Ari (Disraelly) is a young guy, and he's never run for office. Nora King and Chris Potts in District E are new. They bring a lot of fresh ideas."
For the five at-large seats, Democrats are putting up incumbents Amanda M. Brown and Michael K. Geake; and newcomers Disraelly, Vinny F. Mangiacopra and Kate Tepper.
For District A, Democrats endorsed newcomers David Jaeger and Erik T. Anderson. For District B, they're backing incumbent Carvin J. Hilliard and newcomer Travis Simms, the boxing champion from South Norwalk.
Incumbent Laurel E. Lindstrom and former councilman Kevin M. Poruben were endorsed for District C. Marilyn C. Robinson, former city clerk and Historical Commission chairwoman, and newcomer Chris Donahue were endorsed for District D. Potts and King are two new candidates from District E.
Two other Democrats, eight-year councilman William M. Krummel and Anna K. Duleep, whom Democrats appointed to fill a vacancy earlier this year, were not nominated Wednesday night.
Krummel, also council majority leader, had sought his party's backing to run for mayor. He received neither that nor an endorsement for re-election in District E. On Friday, he submitted his resignation from the council, effective July 28. Krummel said he wants to give King or Potts exposure to the council. Democrats are expected to choose one of the two endorsed candidates to finish Krummel's term.
Duleep said she withdrew her name for consideration after "considering the needs of my family and the community."
"It continues to be a great honor and privilege to serve as Norwalk's first Indian-American female Common Council member. I entered politics for the opportunity to advocate for fundamental Democratic principles," Duleep said. "Primary amongst these values is promoting greater public participation in government."
GOP, Dems hold
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Control of the Norwalk Common Council lies within grasp of either major political party this November.
Republicans and Democrats were well aware of the fact at their respective nomination conventions Wednesday night.
"It is our intent to put forth the candidates that will not only hold onto a (Democratic) majority, but will improve our majority," said Walter O. Briggs, Norwalk Democratic Town Committee vice chairman, told The Hour. "There are substantially more Democratic registered voters in this city than there are Republicans, so a lot is going to depend on the ability to turn out voters (in November)."
On Wednesday night, Democrats endorsed Amanda M. Brown, Michael K. Geake, Ari Disraelly, Vinny F. Mangiacopra and Kate Tepper for five at-large council seats up for grabs.
Erik T. Anderson and David Jaeger were endorsed for District A council seats; Carvin J. Hilliard and Travis Simms for District B; Kevin C. Poruban and Laurel Lindstrom for District C; Marilyn C. Robinson and Chris Donahue for District D; and Christopher Potts and Nora King for District E.
The Norwalk Republican Town Committee nominated Richard A. McQuaid, Douglas E. Hempstead, John Tobin, Joanne Romano and Fred A. Bondi for the five at-large council seats.
Republicans nominated Diana Paladino and Richard Bonenfant for District A seats; Nicholas D. Kydes and Michael O'Reilly for District C seats; Kelly L. Straniti and Clyde Mount for District D seats; and Andrew T. Conroy and Victor Cavallo for District E seats.
The Republicans suspended nominations for two District B seats until July 28.
Republicans currently hold seven council seats, after Bondi earlier this year switched his affiliation from Democrat to Republican.
Art Scialabba, Republican Town Committee chairman, predicted that Republicans will hold the majority after the November election.
"I feel that we'll probably pick up two to three at-large seats, because the feedback from the public is that this administration is doing the right things," Scialabba told The Hour. "We have seven now. We need eight. If we can get 10 or 11 (seats), that would be great for Norwalk."
about Norden Place plan
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Hands went up at the East Norwalk Library on Tuesday night, as residents asked representatives of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC about a new housing plan for 8 Norden Place.
"Have you expanded that traffic study since (the earlier plan)?" asked Dennis Santella, who had traffic concerns about Spinnaker Real Estate's earlier plan for townhouses and condominiums on the site. "The (traffic study) results, can you share that with us?"
Spinnaker Real Estate officials said the traffic study, which is available in the Norwalk Department of Planning and Zoning, has been expanded to, for example, Beacon Street to the north and Exit 17 in Westport to the east.
The community forum, arranged by the East Norwalk Improvement Association, drew about three dozen people to the Eunice Van Zilen Hall in the library basement.
Spinnaker Real Estate representatives didn't deny that the housing development, if built, will add traffic. But traffic would be greater, if the site were used for other uses, according to company Principal Kim Morque.
"Residential is the least impactful, in terms of environmental impacts and traffic, of any land uses," Morque said.
The proposed development, tentatively called "Norden Place," calls for 240 apartments in a single building and four single-family homes on the 38.4-acre parcel, which lies between Norden Place and the Westport border.
Between the apartment building and homes would be an 11-acre conservation easement, said Clayton H. Fowler, another Spinnaker Real Estate principal.
For East Norwalk resident Dick McGonigal, construction noise is a concern.
"How much noise are we going to have, blasting, pilings jammed in, all that good stuff?" McGonigal asked.
Fowler said the apartment building would be constructed during a 12 to 14-month period without serious blasting.
According to Spinnaker Real Estate, the apartments would be one, two and three bedroom units with rents, tentatively, in the $1,500 to $2,000 range. Apartments typically attract young couples and retirees, he said.
"Fewer than 10 percent of the families would have kids," Fowler said.
Jim Anderson, an East Norwalk resident and landlord, rejected the assertion that apartments don't attract families with children.
"You're going to have more traffic. You're going to have more kids," Anderson said.
The new housing plan is currently under review by the city's Zoning Commission.
In June 2006, Zoning commissioners rejected by one vote Spinnaker Real Estate's plan to build up to 328 apartments and condominiums on the parcel.
The Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association held a similar forum on the new housing plan last month.
The ENNA board is still reviewing the plan and responding to residents' concerns, according to Laurel E. Lindstrom, president of the organization.
East Norwalkers: I-95 exit is the real traffic bottleneck
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
As residents, motorists and business owners spar over the widening of East Avenue, some elected officials say the real traffic bottleneck lies not at the Metro-North Railroad bridge underpass, but to the north at Interstate 95.
"The problem is not four lanes. The problem is not even the (Metro-North) bridge," said Common Councilman William M. Krummel. "The traffic problem there is Interstate 95. It's being stuck at Exit 16."
Krummel is chairman of the council's Public Works Committee, which is considering a resolution aimed at expediting the replacement of the Metro-North bridge and underpass, a state Department of Transportation project, and widening East Avenue, a city project that is to be funded with state and federal funds.
While most agree that the railroad bridge needs to be replaced and the underpass made from two to four lanes, some say East Avenue does not need to be widened to the full width as proposed by the city and DOT.
Krummel said he walked along East Avenue Monday to see for himself how traffic flows. He noted that the roadway, between the railroad underpass and Exit 16, is already four lanes in many locations. For traffic to move, the four lanes must be aligned and Exit 16 needs to be rebuilt, according to Krummel.
District C Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom has taken a similar position. She attributes traffic congestion along East Avenue primarily to Interstate 95 and Exit 16.
DOT officials could not immediately provide details of the Exit 16 interchange overhaul Tuesday.
Harold F. Alvord, Norwalk's director of public works, said the interchange overhaul is not part of the railroad bridge project. The DOT rail division is handling the Metro-North bridge replacement, whereas the DOT highway division is handling the Exit 16 overhaul. Details of the latter remain up in the air, according to Alvord.
"The interchange project has been kicking around almost as long as the bridge project has, because there's been a variety of concepts," Alvord said. "There have been a number of concepts on the interchange project, and it changes as a result of people's concerns and complaints."
The city had planned to widen East Avenue only after the state had replaced the underpass and rebuilt Exit 16 -- thus avoiding having sections of a newly widened road torn up by the state. Some time ago, however, city officials decided they could longer ready to wait for the state to rebuild Exit 16.
Talk of not widening East Avenue, or holding off until the state redoes Exit 16, has Winthrop Baum, president of the East Norwalk Business Association, worried that the state will give up on waiting for the city. As a result, the DOT will replace the railroad bridge with another two-lane underpass, and the city will have to pick up the tab for whatever is done to East Avenue, according to Baum.
"If we lose this opportunity to repair and replace the bridge on the state's dime, then we have lost an opportunity that will hurt us for years to come," Baum said. "The people who would stand in the way of something happening and would rather do nothing are truly speaking to the detriment of East Norwalk, in particular, and Norwalk in general. You merely have to drive down East Avenue during any active time of the day, and you'll see for yourself how absolutely frustrating it can be to try to negotiate that one third of a mile."
of staff is expected due diligence for council members
To the Editor:
Recently, there have been public statements made that need to be refuted regarding an e-mail that I sent to the director of Public Works in which I asked to be present during a meeting he planned to arrange with the Connecticut Department of Transportation for the purpose of discussing the possible removal of a section of East Avenue from the East Avenue reconstruction project.
And in a voice mail I left him before the e-mail I suggested that two other committee members also be invited to attend the meeting -- the chairman and a member from the other political party to provide representation from both sides.
This simple e-mail request to be present during the meeting went unanswered as did the voice mail. Instead, a day later it resulted in an opinion letter written by the corporation counsel at the direction of the mayor laying out the "duties and responsibilities of members and committees of the Common Council."
This letter was essentially a "gag rule" since it would limit the council's ability to ask questions. But it has been distorted by others who say that I attempted to enter into negotiations with ConnDOT, circumvented Public Works and excluded other committee members.
My effort at due diligence on behalf of the citizens of Norwalk has been interpreted negatively and the opinion letter is being used by political opponents as an open invitation to hurl unrelated potshots my way.
The only mistake I made was in believing that the meeting with ConnDOT could take place before last Tuesday's council meeting rather than after it. Certainly the information that was to be gained at the ConnDOT meeting would have been useful to have at the Common Council meeting when the East Avenue item was up for a vote.
At that council meeting on Tuesday, there were a dozen members of the public who spoke to agenda items during the public participation portion -- plus three letters that were read into the record.
All 15 spoke to the East Avenue reconstruction and Metro-North Railroad bridge replacement project. All 15 stood up to oppose the widening of East Avenue north of the railroad bridge, voice their concerns for pedestrian safety if this widening occurred as proposed and/or to point out serious flaws in the decade-long virtually invisible planning process that has left us with more questions than answers.
As a District C Council member representing the residents where this project is to be constructed, I have the same concerns and therefore put forward a motion to send the item back to the Public Works Committee for further review. The motion was approved.
Yet it has become an issue that there was a council member who voted to advance the item in committee and then voted to send it back on the council floor. A change in vote is a routine occurrence so it shows the level of pressure and intimidation that is being used to fast-track this item through the council.
Another item was unanimously sent back to committee earlier in Tuesday's agenda without the same criticisms. There was also an instance not too long ago when a proposal for a city transfer station on Meadow Street advanced through committee and then was voted down unanimously on the floor of the council because of residents' concerns that were voiced at the podium.
There is no substitute for listening to residents' legitimate concerns and doing the hard council committee work of asking questions. Asking questions of government staff -- whether city or state -- is standard and expected due diligence for council members as we serve the citizens of Norwalk.
Serving in this capacity and being a voice for my constituents is what I was elected to do and will continue to do even if there are those who would paint my fact-gathering effort through appropriate channels as a fault.
Laurel E. Lindstrom
Councilwoman, District C
Public forum to spotlight Norden Place housing plan
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
The East Norwalk Improvement Association will sponsor a community forum Tuesday night on Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC's plan for 240 apartments and four single-family homes at 8 Norden Place.
Spinnaker representatives will present the plan to the public, and be available to respond to comments and answer questions, according to David W. Park, ENIA board member and secretary.
"We thought it would be a good idea to host a community forum on the 240 apartments proposed for 8 Norden Place, if (Spinnaker Real Estate) agreed to do it," Park said. "We just felt that, as an organization, it was our responsibility to make sure that East Norwalk residents knew about this."
The community forum on the new housing plan is set Tuesday, July 21, at 7:30 p.m., in the East Norwalk Improvement Association's Van Zilen Hall Community Room at 51 Van Zant St.
Park said it is against ENIA bylaws to involve itself in legislation or politics. As such, the forum is to "present the information to the community, and the community can decide for themselves whether they want to be for it or against" the housing plan, according to Park.
In May, Spinnaker Real Estate Partners put forward a new plan for multi-family housing for the property. The plan calls for 240 multi-family units in a single building and four single-family homes on the vacant 38.4-acre parcel, which lies east of Norden Park and west of the Hiawatha residential development in Westport, according to the application submitted to the city.
At Tuesday night's forum, Spinnaker Real Estate representatives will give a presentation similar to that given to the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association last month, according to Kim Morque, principal with the South Norwalk-based development company. That means a brief presentation, a dialogue, display boards of the proposed development and an opportunity for questions and answers.
Spinnaker officials have noted that the new plan would take up less area than did the earlier development proposal. Whereas the earlier proposal called for townhouses, the new plan calls for a single large apartment building and four homes.
"This one is essentially an apartment project in one larger building and then, of course, there are four small buildings on the east portion of the site," Morque said. "It's just much less impact on the site in terms of site coverage. We just believe it's much less impactful, and the residential (use) is appropriate, because it has the least traffic and neighborhood impacts."
At the presentation to the ENNA on June 10, architect Bruce Beinfield said buildings take up 4.3 percent of the total site area in the new plan, and the rest of the site is kept "in as natural a state as possible."
The presentation didn't allay all concerns.
Laurel E. Lindstrom, District C councilwoman and ENNA president, noted the earlier townhouse plan was marginally larger in terms of housing units -- "33 more units than what you're proposing now." She said the ENNA also would be focusing on the traffic issues.
Norwalk Common Council postpones action on East Ave. resolution
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
In a partisan vote Tuesday night, the Common Council returned to its Public Works Committee a resolution aimed at advancing the widening of East Avenue and replacement of the Metro-North Railroad bridge over the roadway.
All seven Republicans voted against postponing action on the resolution, which they consider vital to moving traffic and improving safety. All eight Democrats voted to send the resolution back to committee. They consider the road-widening, as proposed, intrusive on the neighborhood.
"It is the unanimous consensus of the Democrats that there be a public hearing to address the concerns that were raised, and that we look to discussions with the DOT that would result in our having two separate resolutions -- one resolution for the bridge and one resolution for the road modification," council Majority Leader William M. Krummel said Wednesday.
The state transportation department is working with the city's Department of Public Works to replace the bridge and widen East Avenue to four lanes, from the underpass to Interstate 95.
Mayor Richard A. Moccia, a Republican, was disappointed with the decision to postpone action on the resolution. He laid responsibility on District C Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom. She has argued against the four-lane width as proposed by the city's public works department and the DOT.
"One person seems to decide that she's going to change the DOT and East Avenue plan, and that's what her intent is," Moccia said. "I think the DOT and (city) have a reasonable plan worked out. There's a lot of residents who've contacted myself and have contacted Councilman (Nicholas) Kydes that are in support, and say that the traffic there now is more dangerous than (the road widening critics) are worried about."
Lindstrom, also president of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association, moved to send the resolution back to the Public Works Committee upon which she sits. She said that while the DOT has held public information meetings about the project, the committee hasn't held a public hearing.
"What was done earlier this year was an informational meeting. This (public hearing) would be under the council committee and would bring out more people," Lindstrom said. "The issue here is that the process has not been as good as it should have been all along. As far as the road reconstruction goes, there's a lot of engineers involved but not a lot of urban planning."
Lindstrom has asked, among other things, that a three-lane roadway with landscaped median and turn lanes be considered rather than four lanes, shoulders and sidewalks totaling 58 feet in width.
Public works engineers say the widening would add only four feet to the width of East Avenue.
Councilman Douglas E. Hempstead, a Republican who recommended adding a grass strip between curbs and sidewalks, boosting tree planting and moving utilities underground on East Avenue, found it ironic that some Public Works Committee members who last week advanced the resolution to the full council, voted Tuesday night to send the matter back to committee.
"There have been several instances of work being approved by a committee and then it gets to the council floor, votes change and then it gets sent back to committee," Hempstead said.
Kydes, a Republican from District C, said Wednesday that sending the resolution back to committee jeopardizes $4 million in state and federal funding for the road widening, and could force the DOT to go with a two-lane rather than four-lane underpass as part of the bridge replacement.
"By bringing it back (to committee) and trying to separate the projects, we are putting ourselves in jeopardy of losing that other $4 million," Kydes said. "If Norwalk can't get its act together by putting four lanes north of the bridge, (DOT officials) may say, 'We can't wait any longer for Norwalk,' and say, 'We will redo the bridge the with two lanes.'"
Kydes said Lindstrom's position as ENNA president and her effort to remove the section of East Avenue between Raymond Terrace and Myrtle Street from the widening project constitute a conflict of interest. Lindstrom lives on Raymond Terrace.
"She doesn't care about East Norwalk. She doesn't care about Norwalk in general," Kydes said. "All she cares about is her own little section between Raymond Terrace and Myrtle Street."
The District C councilwoman rejected that assertion.
"That's the whole point of having a representative that lives in the area," Lindstrom said. "I'm in touch with what's going on with these residents because I do live in the area."
In a related matter, council members debated Tuesday night a legal opinion from Corporation Counsel Robert F. Maslan Jr. regarding Lindstrom's correspondence with the DOT. He concluded that Lindstrom had no authority to request a meeting with DOT prior to council action on the resolution. Lindstrom and other council Democrats labeled the letter a "gag order."
'Gag order' has
Norwalk Dems fuming
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Correspondence between District C Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom and the city's public works director and state Department of Transportation over the proposed widening of East Avenue and Metro-North Railroad bridge replacement has landed her and other council members a letter from the city's law department.
"Discussions with ConnDOT should be conducted by the Department of Public Works and any other city department that may have an interest in the projects," wrote Corporation Counsel Robert F. Maslan Jr. "Neither the committee vote to move to the Common Council the Resolution and additional items, nor a Common Council action approving these matters, would authorize any individual members of the Common Council to act as City representatives in discussions with ConnDOT."
On Tuesday night, council members debated a resolution expressing support for both projects -- and Lindstrom's contact with the DOT. A heated exchange occurred between Republican Mayor Richard A. Moccia, who requested the legal opinion, and council Democrats who labeled the opinion "an attempt to intimidate" the council.
"We want corporation counsel to retract this letter," said council President Phyllis Y. Bolden.
Said Moccia: "It's a lawyer's opinion, based on my request, based on correspondence with a department head, and I needed a clarification on it."
As The Hour prepared to go to print, no action had been taken on the retraction request nor on the resolution addressing the bridge replacement and road-widening projects.
Maslan told The Hour earlier that Lindstrom's effort to "force a meeting" with the DOT before council action on the resolution and a request by Mayor Richard A. Moccia prompted his legal opinion.
Lindstrom labeled the legal opinion a "gag order."
"We're simply asking questions and doing due diligence for our constituents, and that means we need to continue to make calls, and that doesn't matter whether it's city department staff or state department staff," Lindstrom said. "The issue here is the transparency, and what this legal opinion does is attempt to prevent us from gaining access to information."
Lindstrom, also president of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association, supports replacing the Metro-North Railroad bridge over East Avenue, but wants the city and DOT to revisit their plan to widen East Avenue to four lanes between the bridge and Interstate 95.
She sought to arrange a meeting with the DOT prior to Tuesday's council meeting.
"We need everyone at the same table so there's no confusion. The questions were partially answered," said Lindstrom of her correspondence with the DOT. "I ended up with more questions than answers."
In early June, Lindstrom sent questions about the two projects to the DOT via the office of state Sen. Bob Duff, D-25.
Lindstrom asked, among other things, whether the resolution was "required at this time." In response, the DOT wrote that a "resolution from the City Council is required at this time so that we can request Design Approval and Categorical Exclusion concurrence for the design as currently proposed."
Councilman Nicholas D. Kydes labeled Maslan's opinion "right on the money." The District C Republican said such communications jeopardize the relationships between city departments and state agencies.
"There are certain council people who I believe have been overstepping their boundaries and interfering with the areas of departments and in this case, the DOT," said Kydes, who strongly supports both projects. "We as council persons cannot interfere, nor should we interfere, with the business of the city. By interfering, we may jeopardize the relationships that the various departments and agencies have."
Kydes maintains that Lindstrom has a conflict of interest by acting as a council person and as president of the ENNA.
"In my opinion, it is a conflict of interest for her to argue against improvements," Kydes said. "She's not representing East Norwalk. She's representing her own interests."
Bridge plan heads to full Norwalk Common Council
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
The Common Council's Public Works Committee late Tuesday night forwarded a resolution backing the replacement of the Metro-North Railroad bridge over East Avenue and the widening the roadway up to Interstate 95.
On a 4-0 vote, with one abstention, the committee sent forward the resolution, which is aimed at demonstrating to the state Department of Transportation the city's support for both projects. The full council is expected to take up the resolution next Tuesday night.
At the same time, committee members attached a number of directives, aimed at mitigating the impact of the road widening.
"It's now a three-part action by the council," said Harold F. Alvord, the city's director of public works. "The first part is approving the resolution as written."
Under the directives, the city would pursue negotiations with East Avenue property owners creating a grass strip between curbs and sidewalks, encourage the planting of trees on private property, and discuss with utility companies and the 3rd Taxing District the possibility of moving utilities underground and adding decorative lighting.
"I think we just need to get beyond the emotions and start dealing with the practicality," committee member Douglas E. Hempstead said Wednesday. "It's a good project. The work needs to be done. But we have to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible."
In a separate action, District C Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom, acting chairwoman of the committee Tuesday night, asked Alvord to discuss with DOT officials the possibility of removing from the roadway widening project the section of East Avenue between Myrtle Street and Raymond Terrace -- without jeopardizing state and federal funding for the project.
"It's an area that is very much part of the neighborhood," Lindstrom said. "It's very much like a residential neighborhood. That's an area where you want the traffic slowing down and pedestrians feeling safe."
Lindstrom abstained from the vote on the resolution, which she wanted split into two parts. Lindstrom wants the bridge replacement project to advance, and the city and DOT to revisit the road widening.
At the committee meeting, which wrapped up around 11 p.m. Wednesday, more than a half-dozen residents lent their support to the bridge replacement but not the roadway widening.
Public works officials say splitting the projects would jeopardize funding. The state and federal government are paying for the construction costs for both projects. The city is picking up the design costs, Alvord said.
District C Councilman Nicholas D. Kydes urged the committee to advance both projects as planned. He considers them imperative to improving safety along East Avenue. Kydes lent his support to moving the utilities underground and replacing existing telephone poles with decorative lighting.
Kydes said Wednesday that disagreement over the road widening isn't over.
"Now the battle moves to the council, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure we have the votes to pass this for the betterment of all of Norwalk," Kydes said.
residents: Yes to bridge overhaul
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Residents told the Common Council's Public Works Committee Tuesday night to back the replacement of the Metro-North Railroad bridge over East Avenue, but not to widen the roadway going north to Interstate 95.
"It is very important to distinguish between the widening of the road and the widening of the bridge (underpass). ... I'm 100 percent in favor of the bridge (project)," said Gordon Tully, Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association board member. But "I think that the remaining part of the widening is highly conjectural, whether this is going to have an important impact on the traffic. The traffic backs up because of the turning left, the turning right."
Tully was among more than a half-dozen residents who told committee members to split a resolution addressing the bridge replacement, a state Department of Transportation project, and the road widening, a city project.
"Our zoning on East Avenue is called neighborhood zoning, and turning (East Avenue) into Connecticut Avenue is not going with our zoning regulations," said Anthony Rossi, who has circulated a petition against the road widening. "I'm just shocked that we would want to ruin the integrity of our neighborhood."
David Brown, another East Norwalk resident, said the city and state were going the "wrong way" on the road widening.
"Widening East Avenue is going to bring more traffic ... it invites the large semi trailers," Brown said. "There's really no benefit to East Norwalk here."
As The Hour prepared to go to print, committee members questioned Department of Public Works officials about both projects but hadn't voted on the resolution, which ultimately would go to the state DOT.
"At this stage in the game, there's probably some very minor tweaking to do," said Councilman Douglas E. Hempstead, accessing the design.
Earlier, District C Common Councilman Nicholas D. Kydes, East Norwalk Business Association President Winthrop Baum and East Norwalk resident David W. Park urged the committee to back both projects as planned.
Kydes threw down a petition which he said contained 105 signatures supporting the road widening.
"The current (traffic) conditions, for the past 20 years that we are still living under, are no longer bearable. We have got to move forward," Kydes said. "I need this project to go for safety reasons of East Norwalk."
Baum said East Avenue, as a primary artery from the waterfront, must be widened to accommodate traffic in case a hurricane or other disaster mandates evacuation.
District C Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom, acting chairwoman of the committee Tuesday night and a proponent of separating the two projects, said the committee, based upon residents' comments, "is definitely going to want to discuss whether this (resolution) is something we're comfortable moving forward on." She said widening East Avenue will increase traffic and speeding.
Harold F. Alvord, the city's director public works, and Richard Linnartz, principal engineer in the public works department explained the relationship between the two projects. They rejected that the road widening will boost traffic and speeding along East Avenue.
Daily traffic volume on East Avenue in the project area amounted to 16,000 vehicles in 1996 and now stands at 21,000 vehicles, according to Alvord.
Linnartz said it is not true that the project will create a "Connecticut Avenue" out of East Avenue.
"We have four lanes today, we'll have four lanes tomorrow. The difference is four feet," said Linnartz, before turning to funding for the projects. "When you're dealing with state and federal money, you do it their way or no way."
"I think the state and the city, in my opinion, have done a very good job in minimizing impacts," he added.
Council to talk
about East Avenue widening and rebuilding rail bridge
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Members of the Common Council's Public Works Committee will revisit Tuesday night a resolution aimed at demonstrating the city's support for rebuilding the Metro-North Railroad Bridge over East Avenue and widening the roadway itself northward to Interstate 95.
The resolution, if approved by the full council, would go to the state Department of Transportation, which is responsible for the bridge replacement. The city is handling the road widening. The two projects are to be done in conjunction with one another.
While most say the bridge underpass is a bottleneck that needs to be widened and made more safe, disagreement exists over how much to widen East Avenue to the north. The proposed design calls for creating four clearly-defined travel lanes.
District C Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom, who will chair the Public Works Committee meeting Tuesday night, said she would like the resolution split into two parts with two separate votes: One addressing replacement of the railroad bridge and the other addressing the widening of East Avenue. Lindstrom said the road widening, as now proposed, would create 58 feet of concrete, including travel lanes, road shoulders and sidewalks.
"The plan to widen is going to increase speeding. It's going to be more difficult to cross the road," Lindstrom said. "They're trying to jam Connecticut Avenue into what is a very tight section of Norwalk."
Lindstrom said a resolution supporting the bridge replacement should advance, while engineers explore alternatives for the road widening. Those alternatives might include making some cross streets one-way, building a landscaped center median or having three travel lanes, said Lindstrom, who is also is president of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association.
According to Lindstrom, traffic signal synchronization, which is planned for East Avenue, could relieve some of the congestion problems.
At the June meeting of the Public Works Committee, several residents told committee members that widening East Avenue would increase speeding along the roadway.
The resolution, as now written, is not merely a gesture of good will from the city and promise to work with the state transportation department. It's required to get both projects started, according to Harold F. Alvord, the city's director of public works.
"The resolution is required by the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CDOT) to fully commit the federal/state funds to the project. The resolution must be in the body of the Council agenda (it cannot be attached) and must be verbatim as the Mayor will execute it," wrote Alvord in a memorandum to the committee. "This resolution is also required for the DOT project manager to garner approval to begin property activities and begin design."
Alvord told The Hour last week that the state will not replace the bridge and widen the underpass to four lanes, unless the city also widens East Avenue to four lanes as in the proposed design.
Lindstrom has launched a petition against the road widening as now proposed. It reads "WE, the undersigned, strongly object to the current proposal to widen East Ave. to a 58 ft. wide highway (11 ft. lanes x 4,2 ft. shoulders x 2 and 5 ft. sidewalks x 2 of continuous paved area) from St. John St./Raymond Terrace south to Winfield St."
Other East Norwalk residents are fully behind the road widening as planned.
District C Councilman Nicholas D. Kydes has launched a petition reading "We the undersigned, are in favor of the proposed design and plan by the State of Connecticut, Department of Transportation, for the re-construction of East Avenue, from on/or near the intersection of Winfield Street and East Avenue north to under and including the railroad bridge, next to the East Norwalk Rail Road Station, and up to at/or near Exit 16 of I95 (The Plan)."
"If your not going to have the four-lane width to Interstate 95, you're going to have the same traffic issues you have now," Kydes told The Hour.
David W. Park, a resident, said the bridge replacement and road widening are needed to accommodate traffic to and from Veterans Memorial Park, especially on holidays.
"This is a no-brainer. There's a lot of traffic coming off I-95 and it's bottlenecked in that area between Fitch Street and Fort Point Street," Park said.
A. DiCesare Associates, P.C., the city's consultant for the road-widening project, has altered its design since a 2007 informational meeting on the project. The proposed new sidewalks have been narrowed to reduce impacting private property.
The DOT anticipates putting the bridge replacement project out to bid in late 2010. The project is expected to take four construction seasons to complete.
To the Editor:
At pARTy in the Park in the ‘Tunnel of Film’ that was set up under the I-95 bridge the Norwalk Film Advisory Commission, an off-shoot of the Advisory Commission on the Arts and Culture, made its debut.
It was my pleasure to spend the afternoon with other members of the newly formed film commission as we greeted pARTy-goers to introduce them to our mission, show clips of local films and to ask for support for the continuation of the state’s film tax credit program.
No big name movie stars, just a lot of energetic and dedicated film industry people and those of us who want to see the local industry grow. The appeal of establishing film in Norwalk goes way beyond the creation of the film itself and what movie-goers see on the screen.
Filming creates jobs on the set and provides an economic boost to associated service industries. As the industry grows construction of post-production infrastructure creates more jobs for locals as do studios and sound stages once established in the area. An expanded permanent film training program at Norwalk Community College would help ensure local jobs.
The state’s tax credit program is under review right now in Hartford. Many legislators recognize that during this incubation period for film in Connecticut it’s too soon to drastically alter the incentives that are still needed to permanently establish the industry. To learn more and to add your support for the continuation of the tax credit program go to www.productionct.com.
In 2010 Norwalk will premiere its first annual film festival at venues throughout the greater Norwalk area. To contact the Norwalk Film Advisory Commission email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laurel E. Lindstrom,
Member of Norwalk Common Council and
Norwalk Film Advisory Commission member
June 20, 2009
To the Editor:
I want to thank all of you who came out Wednesday night to speak, and to those who sent written comments, on the Homeless Shelter proposal that’s before the Zoning Commission.
As Common Councilwoman for District C East Norwalk I was invited by the commission to speak before the general public that were in attendance spoke. At the podium I asked the commission to further restrict the amendment so that less property would be affected, including locations in East Norwalk, by the applicant’s request to move the shelter located in South Norwalk a half-block from its current location. I also asked that the application be denied if the public provided reasons why the move should not take place. I said I would be very interested in hearing what the public had to say. Shelters provide a needed service but there are also changes in operations and security measures that can be made to create a better neighbor for the surrounding neighborhood and the clients who reside at the facility. I emphasized the importance of making use of this application to shine a light on the problems so that discussion would take place regarding improvements to how the shelter operates.
Long after all the other officials who spoke at the podium and then went home I stayed to hear everyone who came to speak. Until well past midnight speaker after speaker from East Norwalk, South Norwalk and elsewhere, talked about the negative neighborhood impacts – potential and actual – from shelters. The commissioners then asked the shelter’s director to provide specific information regarding operations to help them in their decision.
At the podium I expressed sincere respect for the zoning commissioners for their astute questions and the time they are taking to consider all aspects of this application. Even at a preliminary committee meeting that I attended a week before the public hearing the commissioners were intent on restricting the applicant’s request so that properties in East Norwalk would not be impacted.
The weekend prior to the hearing I sent an email bulletin, that was also distributed in the neighborhood as a flyer, and had a letter published in the Hour alerting the public to the hearing, explaining the application and providing the email address of the Planning and Zoning Director so that written comments could be sent. As a result I received several dozen calls and emails from residents who had sent written comments or who planned to be at the hearing.
Through the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association I’ve been sending bulletins for almost a decade, alerting the area residents to issues as they arise. If you would like to receive bulletins please email me at email@example.com.
Laurel E. Lindstrom
Housing Authority explores Rebuilding Wash. Village
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
Washington Village could be torn down and rebuilt as a mixed-income housing development under a U.S. Department of Housing Development program known as HOPE VI.
But first, the Norwalk Housing Authority, which operates Washington Village, would have to demonstrate to HUD that it has a place to relocate residents during rebuilding.
"We were exploring the possibility of doing a Hope VI project. That's where you have the revitalization of obsolete public housing," Law said. "One of the requirements is that in order to submit an application, you must have some relocation options. The two parcels on Day Street could be possible relocation options for some of the families that live in Washington Village."
Law told The Hour on Thursday that the Housing Authority and Norwalk Redevelopment Agency hired a consultant which prepared a report outlining the options. The report "talks about the number of units that could be built on (the Day Street) parcels, if those were the parcels to be made available," he said.
On June 9, the Common Council tabled action on the Redevelopment Agency's to help clear a state restriction prohibiting residential housing on the city-owned parcels at 13 Day St. and 20 Day St. Several council members asked if a plan had been put forward for housing on the parcels.
Timothy T. Sheehan, Redevelopment Agency executive director, stressed Thursday that "the site is committed to no developer at this point."
The HOPE VI program is based on recommendations by the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing. The commission was charged with proposing a national action plan to eradicate severely distressed public housing. It recommended revitalization in three general areas: Physical improvements, management improvements, and social and community services to address resident needs, according HUD.
Washington Village, located at Raymond and Day streets, is a 136-unit public housing complex that was built in the early 1940s and is operated by the Housing Authority.
"I think it may be obsolete from the standpoint of unit size and functionality," Law said. "You've got extremely small bathrooms; you've got extremely small kitchens."
If the Housing Authority were to build a HOPE VI development at Washington Village, rents for the resulting new public housing units would remain the same. In addition, there would be affordable units with somewhat higher rents and also some market-priced units, according to Law.
The city currently leases the Day Street parcels to L&L Evergreen. Housing is not allowed on the parcels, since the state helped the city acquire them. With that assistance came a restriction that the land be utilized for light industrial use only, according to Sheehan.
Among the questions raised at the June 9 council meeting was whether the Housing Authority, developer or other entity had designs for the land.
"I was very clear with the council that we had had discussions with the Housing Authority about possibly using the Day Street sites," Sheehan said Thursday. But "as we've had that conversation with the Housing Authority, we've (also) had that conversation with other developers who've had interest in the site."
"Ultimately, what we've heard back from the community, is that that site needs to be reserved for affordable housing," Sheehan said.
The city's revised Master Plan of Conservation and Development calls for the city to "consider mixed-income housing" on the Day Street parcels.
On Thursday night, members of the Land Use and Building Management Committee discussed the land.
Committee member Nicholas D. Kydes said it appears as if the Redevelopment Agency is "not giving us the whole story." He wants the two parcels to be reserved for light industry.
Laurel E. Lindstrom, also on the committee, said "there were definitely more questions than answers when (the agency request) came up at the council (June 9)."
Ganga Duleep, the Norwalk resident who spearheaded the butterfly garden at Ryan Park, favors using the land to employ people, saying the parcels should be used for "anything that the local people can work at."
To the Editor:
Hour - 6-13-09
I’ve been hearing from East Norwalk residents over the past few days who are concerned that there is a plan to build a homeless shelter in East Norwalk. The following information should help clarify things a bit.
Current zoning regulations do not allow emergency homeless shelters (transient residence facilities) to be built anywhere in Norwalk.
The shelter in South Norwalk located on Merritt Place is a grandfathered use but Norwalk Emergency Shelter, Inc. wants to move its facility to 2 Merritt Place a half block from its current location.
This applicant has proposed an amendment to the building zone regulations to allow a shelter to be built in Industrial Zone No. 1 where the site is located. A special permit would also be required. A further requirement states “provided that the site is located within one quarter mile of a train station”. The applicant can’t ask for a change in the zoning regulations just for his own property because that would be ‘spot’ zoning and spot zoning is illegal.
What this means is that other Industrial Zone No. 1 properties in South Norwalk and also in East Norwalk on and around Van Zant Street and Fort Point Street could be affected in the future by this permanent amendment to the zone regulations.
The Zoning Commission will vote on this application. It can decide to add more restrictive language to further limit the number of properties affected, approve it as is – or deny the application.
Before making any decision the Commission will listen to public input at the public hearing that’s scheduled for Wednesday at 7:30 PM at City Hall in the 3rd Floor Council Chambers.
If you want to be heard but can’t attend the public hearing you can submit written comments by hand-delivering your letter to the Planning and Zoning office at City Hall, or by emailing the Director of P&Z Mike Greene at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get comments in ASAP – by 5 PM on Wednesday at the latest.
Councilwomen, District C
unveiled to East Norwalkers
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
A 240-unit apartment building, four single-family homes and an 11-acre conservation easement is proposed for the 38 acres between Norden Park and the Westport border.
On Wednesday night, Spinnaker Real East Partners LLC and its architect outlined to the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association and a dozen residents at City Hall "Norden Place," the company's new plan for the eastern half of the Norden site.
"A building could take up 50 percent of the site area (under zoning regulations)," said Bruce Beinfield of Beinfield Architecture PC. "What we're proposing takes up 4.3 percent of the total site area. So that's really keeping as much of the land in as natural a state as possible."
Two years ago, Norwalk Zoning commissioners rejected Spinnaker's plan for up to 328 townhouses on the site. Based upon residents' questions following Wednesday night's presentation, traffic remains a concern.
Laurel E. Lindstrom, ENNA president and a District C Common Councilwoman, noted the earlier plan was reduced to 273 units - "33 more units than what you're proposing now."
"For the neighborhood, our concern goes beyond the appearance of the building," Lindstrom said. "We're also going to be focusing on the traffic issues ... That is what the residents around there have concerns about."
Kim Morque, Spinnaker principal, described area traffic as "awful," but added that residential development generates less traffic than do employers and industrial uses.
"The reality of this, and one of the reasons we chose residential for this site, is it's the least impactful from a traffic-generation standpoint," Morque said.
The development would have 325 parking spaces, according to Spinnaker officials.
Clayton H. Fowler, another Spinnaker principal, said occupancy of Norden Place would be two years from now. Asked why the company chose apartments rather than townhouses, he said there remains a market for apartments.
"Plus, we have to be cognizant of where this is: It's on I-95," Fowler said.
Others asked about access to Westport. On that, the single-family homes would exit onto Hiawatha Lane and into Westport. Norden Place would be served by bus transportation, according to Spinnaker.
"What's your projection for the number of residents?" asked Norwalk resident Greg Knowles, referring to the 240-unit apartment building.
Morque said the majority of apartments would be one or two-bedroom units with, on average, 1.5 to two people per units. That would translate to about 420 residents.
The Zoning Commissions' Plan Review Committee will begin reviewing the plan tonight.
"We hope to be working with you and not against you to solve the problems," said Fowler, leaving the ENNA meeting.
Neighborhood group to hear details on housing plan
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
The Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association will host Spinnaker Real Estate Partners LLC and the Norwalk Land Trust at its monthly meeting at City Hall on Wednesday night.
Spinnaker Real Estate recently submitted a plan for 240 multi-family units on its vacant 38.4-acre parcel, which lies east of Norden Park and west of the Hiawatha. City zoning commissioners two years ago narrowly rejected the company's plan to build up to 328 apartments and condominiums on the land.
The neighborhood association, which opposed the earlier plan, hasn't formed an opinion of the new proposal, according to Laurel E. Lindstrom, association president and District C Common Councilwoman.
The new plan was only recently submitted to the city for review.
"It definitely looks like they're not going to be impacting as much of the wetlands on the site. But again, it's a large number of units," Lindstrom said. On Wednesday night "we're looking to get some details. The public is definitely welcome to attend and listen, and there will be an opportunity for them to ask questions."
"I don't want it to be antagonistic. People can state their concerns, but at the moment what we're trying to do is gather some information," Lindstrom said.
The ENNA meeting is set for Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in Room 333 of City Hall, 125 East Ave.
Last month, Spinnaker Real Estate submitted to the city's Department of Planning and Zoning a plan showing 240 multi-family units in a single building and four single-family homes on property.
The development would include 30 studio, 108 one-bedroom, 90 two-bedroom and 12 three-bedroom apartments in one building on the northwest section of the property, four single-family dwellings on the eastern section, and 411 parking spaces. Twenty-five of the multi-family units would be priced to comply with the city's workforce housing regulation, according to the application.
Clayton H. Fowler, Spinnaker Real Estate principal, said company representatives will speak about the new concept and site plan at the ENNA meeting Wednesday night.
"There seems to be some cognizance that it's a changed plan, for the better, and that's a good start," Fowler said. Two years ago "we heard some of the concerns about using all of the site, so this plan is compacted to a relatively small area with a very large swathe of the site preserved in perpetuity."
The ENNA meeting will begin with a presentation by Norwalk Land Trust Vice President John Moeling. The presentation will focus on open space opportunities. Starting at 8 p.m., Spinnaker Real Estate Partners representatives will present their plan and answer questions, Lindstrom said.
Some have come out against the new housing plan. David W. Park said he has invited people to his Strawberry Hill Avenue home Saturday afternoon to discuss how to stop the new plan.
"The bottom line for us is 240 condos is 240 condos. It doesn't really matter what it looks like and whatever other amenities they may be proposing," Park said. "It's too many housing units for that property."
To the Editor
The April 23 ‘Safe Routes to School’ article describes a program that’s well worth pursuing by the families of the Roton School section of Norwalk who attended the information workshop.
It was a decade ago when I first became passionate about this program’s potential as a community-centered traffic calming approach that brings together schools, parents, children and neighborhoods.
The City was fortunate enough to secure funding for our East Norwalk neighborhood through Safe Routes to School in 2006. Funds of $368,000, plus an additional $80,000 in City funds, were allocated for safety enhancements on Strawberry Hill Avenue where several schools are located. The Department of Public Works in-house design is in its final stages prior to construction.
Unfortunately, because of staffing constraints, Public Works has placed this project on its ‘low priority’ list which means that it’s indefinitely stuck in a holding pattern, diminishing the value of what can be done with the secured funds as construction costs rise over time.
I urge anyone who feels as strongly as I do that the Strawberry Hill Ave. Safe Routes to School fully-funded project get completed as soon as possible contact your elected officials – particularly the Mayor.
And, for the Roton folks, I wish you the best of luck in your application for funds through the Safe Routes to School program.
Councilwoman, District C
debates East Avenue widening
Hour Staff Writer
The Common Council approved Tuesday night a $54,360 contract with A. DiCesare Associates to survey and map the upcoming widening of East Avenue.
The council approved the contract after debate over whether the survey work will result in a four-lane roadway, which District C Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom believes many East Norwalk residents don't want.
"If we are going to be making changes to (East Avenue), we would want to make sure it's in keeping with the neighborhood," she said. "I would like to put forward that we send this back to committee and at least allow some time for public works to consider what residents have said."
Lindstrom said residents' comments from a joint Department of Public Works/Connecticut Department of Transportation informational meeting on the project last month haven't been reviewed and considered.
Her motion to return the contract to committee, however, failed. Later, the council approved the contract on a 13-1 vote, with Lindstrom casting the only 'No' vote.
At issue is the final look of East Avenue, which the city plans to widen in conjunction with the state's replacement of the Metro-North Railroad bridge over East Avenue. The project is still several years off.
Several council members said the proposed contract - actually an amendment to the city's existing contract with A. DiCesare - involves survey rather than design work.
"This is a badly needed improvement in that area, but we are not even ready to design it yet," said District C Councilman Nicholas D. Kydes. "This is only to come up with a plan ... to survey (East Avenue) and map."
Fred A. Bondi, at-large councilman from East Norwalk, said a four-lane roadway beneath the bridge cannot feed into the existing two lanes along East Avenue.
"I feel that we need a plan like this, because here we are making the bridge four lanes," Bondi said.
Harold F. Alvord, director of public works, said the project dates back to 1994. Since then, many changes have been made to it, according to Alvord.
"The (road) width has been brought down," Alvord said. "They've brought it back to the point where if you narrow it any more you can't get the four lanes."
In other business, council members approved churning $14.3 million into city roads, municipal buildings and other capital projects during the fiscal year starting July 1.
The council approved the 2009-10 capital budget following brief comments by Mayor Richard A. Moccia.
"I would like to thank all ... for a reasonable and responsible capital budget," Moccia said.
The new capital budget totals $14,324,000. Of that, nearly $11.6 million would be paid with bonds. Fees charged by the
Department of Public Works, Parking Authority and Water Pollution Control Authority make up the balance.
Alvord, speaking to The Hour before the budget adoption vote, said road paving is the No. 1 priority.
"This would be the second year where they have invested $4 million in the paving program," Alvord said. "Assuming this get's passed tonight and (adding) the $1.9 million in (federal) stimulus funds, we're going to get a lot of roads fixed."
Draft feasibility study: Cost savings of Norwalk-run power 'small'
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
City-owned and operated municipal power would save money, but the "opportunities for such savings are relatively small" and the challenges would be many, according to a draft feasibility study.
"One of the biggest things that stood out for me is that (Connecticut Light & Power Co.) said they're not for sale, so we'd have to take their property by eminent domain. I don't agree with that and then there's the expense," said Councilwoman Kelly L. Straniti, chairwoman of the council's Public Power Authority Committee. But "I didn't get through all of (the study), so I don't know if there's anything that talks about possible alternatives. If a public power authority is not going to work, is there another way to approach it?"
Tonight, representatives of UHY Advisors Inc., the New Haven firm hired by the city to study the feasibility of public power, are scheduled to present their draft study to the committee. The $50,000 study is intended to establish the costs and benefits of the city pursuing public power.
Among UHY Advisors' key conclusions: Over time, wholesale power prices paid by municipal utilities and CL&P likely will converge; city ownership would lower distribution costs but not significantly; and separating the existing distribution system "so that the new municipal utility would be 'islanded' from CL&P are potentially enormous."
As CL&P is "opposed to a voluntary transaction," eminent domain would be necessary, and "substantial legal costs and delays are possible without any assurance of a favorable outcome to the city," according to the executive summary of the 164-page draft study.
Former Mayor Bill Collins, a proponent of municipal power, expressed disappointment with the scope of the feasibility study. He said it focused on power distribution and gave only cursory treatment to power generation. At any rate, the findings and the recession don't bode well, according to Collins.
"The report is kind of frustrating ... The mandate was narrowly construed," Collins said. "I think we have to put this thing in the safety deposit box and wait for better times. (But) I think it would be healthy, if the committee continues in existence."
Launched as an offshoot of the council's Public Works Committee in 2006, the committee was charged with examining the feasibility of purchasing bulk power for residents, businesses and publicly owned facilities; controlling or acquiring the distribution network; generating power, including possibly acquiring the Manresa Island Power Plant; linking with the Long Island Power Authority on cross-Sound electricity distribution; and linking with 2nd and 3rd Taxing districts.
Last year, the council voted to formally establish the committee and gave its members until Oct. 31 to exist. UHY Advisors took more time than anticipated to complete the draft study, and the life of the committee was extended by council vote.
Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom, who was reappointed to the committee, said she looks forward to hearing the consultants present their findings tonight.
"The way it's presented right now, it doesn't look optimistic, as to whether to pursue it," Lindstrom said. But "there may still be opportunities there to move ahead on a smaller scale, and that's really what I'd be interested in finding out. The main thing here is that we want to make sure that we're saving the city and taxpayers money -- not the other way around."
The 2nd and 3rd Taxing districts operate two public power utilities, South Norwalk Electric and Water, and the Third Taxing District Electric Co., respectively.
Norwalk leaders urge property owners to clear sidewalks
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
The city repeatedly has asked property owners to clear their sidewalks following snowfalls, but many aren't heeding the call, according to some neighborhood leaders.
On Monday afternoon, as goose down feather-sized snowflakes began to fall across the city, many sidewalks along Main Avenue, Wall Street, in South Norwalk and elsewhere hadn't been cleared of the weekend snowfall.
According to Jim Del Greco, president of the Golden Hill Association, the reasons behind the uncleared sidewalks vary but the solution is the same: Enforcement.
"We have a lot of rental properties, absentee landlords -- that's also an issue, where the landlords haven't arranged for their properties to be shoveled," Del Greco said. "The law is on the books that basically says, as a homeowner, you're responsible for the safety of your sidewalk. It's always the question of enforcement and how overburdened is the city, the people who write the tickets."
"You've got to get somebody out there and give them tickets for the people who don't' shovel. Then they have to pay the fine, or you bring them to court," Del Greco said.
Under city codes, property owners are responsible for keeping all sidewalks along their property clear of snow and ice. The city clears only those sidewalks that are not abutted by private property. Within six hours of daybreak following a snowfall, property owners must clear their sidewalks. In the case of ice, they must put down sand or a similar material to make the sidewalk safe and convenient for pedestrians.
"I think overall the word got out," said Mayor Richard A. Moccia. "It's not perfect, but it's better than it has been."
Moccia urged those who observe uncleaned sidewalks following snowfalls to call the city's Customer Service Center at (203) 854-3200.
Following a snowstorm last month, Moccia and Harold F. Alvord, the city's director of public works, issued a press statement reminding property owners to clear snow and ice from their sidewalks. Such reminders are primarily for business owners, according to Moccia.
Jackie Lightfield, Norwalk Zoning Commission chairwoman, said many sidewalks, especially businesses along Main Avenue, remained uncleared Monday morning. Under city ordinance, she continued, property owners can be fined $25-a-day for not clearing their sidewalks. Still, the violations continue, according to Lightfield.
Lightfield doesn't fault the Public Works Department, which she said "doesn't have a large staff." Rather, she said the department needs help. To boost enforcement, Lightfield would like the Common Council to authorize the department to outsource the issuance of citations. The daily fine could be boosted, for instance, from $25 to $50 with part of the revenue going to the firm issuing the citations, she said.
"The city would give up some of the revenues it collects," Lightfield said. And "the city could be creative and. If you don't pay your fines, then a tax lien can be placed on your property."
Del Greco likens the problem of unshoveled sidewalks to enforcing zoning regulations that prohibit illegal apartments and illegally parked vehicles -- also issues in the Golden Hill neighborhood. The city has stepped up such enforcement, but the cases sometimes take months or years to be resolved in court.
Leaders of two other neighborhood associations gave varying accounts of sidewalk cleanup in their neighborhoods following the weekend snowfall.
Al Raymond, Spring Hill/Norwalk Hospital Area Neighborhood Association president, described sidewalks in his neighborhood as "relatively clear." Raymond credits that to light snowfall and warming temperatures.
Sidewalk clearing along Strawberry Hill Avenue in East Norwalk has been "hit or miss," according to Laurel E. Lindstrom, a District C councilwoman and president of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association.
"When school is in, along Strawberry Hill there's still some property owners that don't clear their sidewalks, so it's kind of hit or miss, and kids have to go (walk) into the street," Lindstrom said. And "there are sections of streets where sidewalks are well-shoveled. It really is dependent on the homeowner."
Norwalk council agrees to union contract
The Advocate Staff
Posted: 01/14/2009 06:59:44 PM EST
By Frank MacEachern
NORWALK - A four-year deal with one workers' union easily passed through the Common Council early Wednesday morning, but a new pay scale for department heads and some support staff only narrowly made it.
By a 7 to 5 vote, with three abstentions, a performance-related pay scale increase of zero to 6.5 percent was approved.
Michael Geake, Douglas Sutton, Carvin Hilliard and Bill Krummell, all Democrats, voted against the pay scale with Republican Andrew Conroy joining them.
Democrats Amanda Brown, Steven Serasis and Laurel Lindstrom abstained.
The vote followed a 90-minute closed door executive session where councilors debated the pay scale and a four-year contract with the Norwalk Municipal Employees Association, representing about 125 members, mainly clerical staff.
Ten council members backed the association's four-year pact, calling for 13.25 percent pay increase over four years. Three members, Richard Bonenfant, Douglas Hempstead and Conroy, all Republicans, voted against the deal. Republican Minority Leader Kelly Straniti and Serasis abstained.
Hempstead said he couldn't support the contract because it's too expensive. But he voted in favor because the pay raises for the department heads and others, noting it isn't an automatic increase.
"It's more discretionary, it's not a 'have-to' type of increase," he said.
The union contract was different, Hempstead said.
"I don't think we can afford it. We're spending something we haven't got," he said.
Brown said she believed the union contract was fair, but she couldn't support the pay matrix because there was too much discretion for the mayor and others.
The matrix, as the pay scale is called, covers 17 employees, said James Haselkamp, the city's personnel director.
The employees are a mixture of department heads, including Haselkamp, and senior, non-unionized employees such as City Clerk Mary Roman and the city's legal staff.
Mayor Richard Moccia performs evaluations of those department chiefs and of his staff, while department directors handle them for their staff.
The five evaluation levels are unacceptable, needs improvement, meets expectations, exceeds expectations and superior. The pay raise for someone meeting expectations would range from 2.1 percent to 3.5 percent. An employee with a superior rating would receive a pay range increase from 5.1 percent to 6.5 percent.
The annual evaluations are done in May and pay rises go into effect July 1, Haselkamp said.
- Staff writer Frank MacEachern can be reached at email@example.com or 750-5351.
Council harpoons beach sticker fee
By ROBERT KOCH
Hour Staff Writer
In late-night session Tuesday, the Common Council approved
a municipal labor contract, returned to committee a proposed hike to recycling bin and other public works department fees, and killed a proposal to charge residents for two-year beach stickers.
"It's patent absurdity to start adding fee after fee after fee after fee," said Councilman Michael K. Geake, who voted against the beach sticker fee. "Let's not delude ourselves into thinking, 'Oh, we're not raising taxes. We're just instituting fees.' Taxes are taxes, no matter what you call them."
Residents currently receive the two-year stickers free.
Under the proposal, residents 61 years and younger would have received up to two stickers at $20 each. Those 62 years and older would have been exempted from the fee.
The council voted 12-2 to reject the fee with council President Phyllis Y. Bolden abstaining. Councilwoman Laurel E. Lindstrom and Councilman Fred A. Bondi, chairman of the council's Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Committee, cast the two votes in favor of the proposal.
"It's dead. If they expect us to perform (budget) miracles, that's not going to happen," Bondi said Wednesday. "We're going to have to make cuts ... concerts and fireworks. We're going to try to work it out the best we can, but we might have to cut back."
Bondi and parks department Director Michael A. Mocciae had presented the fee as a way to maintain parks and parks department programs without the city having to raise taxes in the difficult economy.
Following an executive session discussion, council members approved a new four-year labor contract between the city and the Norwalk Municipal Employees Association. The union represents about 120 clerical and other municipal workers.
Under the retroactive agreement, NMEA members will receive a 2-percent pay raise July 1, 2008; a 2-percent increase Jan. 1, 2009; a 3.5-percent increase July 1, 2009; a 3-percent increase July 1, 2010; and a 2.75-percent increase July 1, 2011, according to city officials.
In other business, the council returned to its Public Works Committee -- for the second time -- a proposal to boost blue recycling bin and other public works fees. Public works officials presented the hike as necessary to recover costs; opponents maintain residents can't afford the increases. The cost of recycling bins would rise from $5 to $10; seniors would pay $5 rather than $10, under the proposal.
Earlier in the evening, the council approved the appointment of Thomas A. Dunlap, a magician and teacher, to the Historical Commission. He will fill the seat of Gail Wall, whose term expired Dec. 31. Wall did not seek reappointment.
The council adjourned at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Norwalk council rejects parks fee
Bondi says proposal is 'dead"
Posted: 01/14/2009 06:29:46 PM EST
NORWALK -- After a contentious and at times bruising debate, the Common Council this week shot down a bid to charge city residents a yearly $10 parks sticker fee.
The council member behind the proposal, Democrat Fred Bondi, who was on the receiving end of pointed attacks by other Democrats and Republicans Tuesday night, said he's not going to try it again.
"It's finished, it's dead. I tried to help raise money for the department and it failed. So when we start cutting services and people complain it's up to them," he said about his fellow councilors.
Bondi, chairman of the council's Recreation, Parks & Cultural Affairs committee, said the Recreation and Parks Department will have difficulty paying for events such as the annual Independence Day fireworks and weekly summer concerts without revenue from fees.
Only Bondi and another Democrat, Laurel Lindstrom, voted in favor as 12 council members voted against it. Council President the Rev. Phyllis Bolden, a Democrat, abstained.
The fee called for city residents to pay $20 for a two-year parks sticker. Residents over the age of 62 would not have to pay for a sticker. The sticker -- now free -- allows parking at Calf Pasture Beach, and Veterans and Cranbury parks.
Bondi said money from the fees is needed to help the Recreation and Parks department operate programs in jeopardy due to a $114,000 budget cut -- part of nearly $2 million in operating budget reductions Mayor Richard Moccia announced in November to deal with the city's revenue shortfall.
Parks and Recreation Director Michael Mocciae said the fee would have raised $600,000 during those two years.
Council members attacked the proposal Tuesday, with Democrat Michael Geake threatening to file a lawsuit against it. Geake said fees are a regressive tax and a way to raise tax revenue without imposing a property tax increase.
"A tax is a tax is a tax, no mater what euphemism you use for it," Geake said.
Republican Kelly Straniti said she opposed the proposed fee and also questioned why the matter was on council's agenda. She was one of five council members on the Ordinance Committee who voted in December not to change a city ordinance prohibiting Norwalk residents or property owners being charged a fee to enter Calf Pasture Beach.
"I think we are really wasting our time here tonight," she said.
One of the strongest attacks came from recreation committee member Richard McQuaid.
He said he wasn't in favor of the fee, especially since it wasn't clear the money from the fee would go back to the recreation department or put into the city's general fund.
McQuaid also was irritated when Bondi said it was the recreation committee's decision to send the item to the council for debate.
His voice rising, McQuaid said it had been a "waste of time" debating the issue in committee, and that's why he agreed to send it to the council.
When Bondi came over to speak with him during a break in the meeting and placed his hand on him, an angry McQuaid snapped at him: "Don't put your hand on my back."
-- Staff writer Frank MacEachern can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 750-5351.
Revaluation renders residents speechless
Posted: 01/12/2009 02:44:04 AM EST
NORWALK - Though several meetings are scheduled this month to discuss property revaluation, so far residents aren't saying much about it, two neighborhood association presidents said.
Maybe it's because residents still are digesting the recent tax bills they received, or maybe they are taking their concerns straight to the city, the neighborhood leaders said.
"Most people just got their tax bill, and that's from last year. It's not the revaluation tax bill yet," said Leigh Grant, president of the Norwalk Association of Silvermine Homeowners.
Laurel Lindstrom, president of the East Norwalk Neighborhood Association, said it could be that residents, concerned about the value assessed to their homes, have taken matters into their hands.
"With the deadlines they need to appeal, they are more likely to have gone to the city about this," Lindstrom said.
Property owners may appeal their assessments at city hall. The hearings are conducted by J.F. Ryan Associates, a Massachusetts firm the city hired to handle the revaluation.
The firm began work in July 2007 and inspected about 6,000 properties. In the past month, the company sent property owners a preliminary market value, which is determined by sales of comparable homes.
Homes are assessed at 70 percent of market value.
Connecticut municipalities must reassess property every five years. Norwalk's last revaluation was in 2003.
Residents may attend meetings, by neighborhood, to learn about revaluation.
The first, held last Tuesday, drew about 80 people from the Harborview, South Norwalk and nearby neighborhoods who questioned why there is a revaluation when real estate values are dropping in an economic recession.
Grant said she understands their frustration.
"Our houses are all going down in value while taxes are going up," she said.
Her taxes will rise about 13.5 percent, based on the market value she received, Grant said. She wants to ensure everyone is treated equitably, she said.
"I am aware to run a city you have to pay for it," Grant said. "I don't have a problem with that. I just want to fully understand it and make sure that Silvermine is treated as fairly as other neighborhoods."
Even in a more affluent neighborhood such as Silvermine, household budgets are hurt by higher taxes, Grant said.
"We have a lot of people who live up here who are on fixed incomes. We have people who have lost jobs. We have a lot of people who have children, and children in college," she said.
Her association will have its meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 21, at Silvermine Tavern.
The meeting for residents of East Norwalk, Central Norwalk, Central Norwalk East and Strawberry Hill is 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Community Room at city hall.
At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, residents of Cranbury, West Rocks and Wolfpit may meet at the Norwalk Senior Center, 11 Allen Road, in the gym.
At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, residents of Silvermine, Central Norwalk West, West Route 1, West Norwalk, Springhill, Ponus and Broad River will meet in the community room at city hall.
At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20, residents of Brookside, Rowayton and Wilson Point may meet with city officials at a site to be determined.
- To schedule an appointment, call 854-4192 or visit www.norwalkct.org and follow the link to 2008 Revaluation Information.
Norwalk city workers to get 13 percent raise
Posted: 01/09/2009 02:44:50 AM EST
NORWALK - The city is poised to give a 13.25 percent raise over four years to some municipal employees, when the Common Council reviews a new contract Tuesday.
The council Personnel Committee OK'd the pact Wednesday with the Norwalk Municipal Employees Association, the union that represents about 125 clerical staff members.
Personnel Committee Democrats said the contract is a fair one for both sides although the recession is battering city revenues.
Michael Geake said trying to save the city money by negotiating lower raises with the union would not have been fair.
"It would be unfair to take it out on them because they are the last group (to reach a contract agreement)," Geake said.
The contract is retroactive to July 1, 2008, and expires June 30, 2012.
The proposed contract calls for a 2 percent raise in the first six months of the contract, and another 2 percent as of Jan. 1. The second year would see a 3.5 percent hike, with a 3 percent rise in the third year. The final year would see a 2.75 percent increase.
Laurel Lindstrom agreed with Geake.
"To treat certain groups different than others isn't right. You have to be fair and make sure you are not going to create a hardship for people because it is a difficult time right now," she said.
She said she is leaning toward backing the contract when the full council votes, unless she hears an argument or new facts, which convince her to change her mind.
"I am always going to be open to what the public says or other council members say," she said.
Douglas Sutton also said he supports the contract.
"This is something I'm comfortable with. We have to keep the benefits (between) the unions comparable," he said.
The next municipal union contract up for negotiation is with the city's blue collar workers, Local 2405 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. That contract expires June 30.
The police and firefighters contracts expire on June 30, 2011, and the Norwalk supervisors contract expires June 30, 2012.
The council's agenda wasn't finalized as of Thursday.
Neither Personnel Committee Chairman Richard McQuaid, a Republican, nor the municipal employees union President Monique Cipriano, could be reached for comment.
- Staff Writer Frank MacEachern can be reached at email@example.com or 750-5351.
Norwalk public works fee increases return for 2nd opinion
Posted: 01/08/2009 02:47:53 AM EST
NORWALK - Just one month after Common Council members spoke against raising some public works fees, they will face the issue again, after the Public Works Committee voted Tuesday to send the issue back before the full council.
Committee member Kelly Straniti, the council's Republican minority leader, maintained her opposition to raising the fees as she cast the only no vote Tuesday.
"I would have voted for it if (the fee increases) had been done in increments," Straniti said Wednesday. She said she couldn't support increases that would see some fees double.
Fellow committee members Fred Bondi, Laurel Lindstrom, Bill Krummel, all Democrats, along with Republican Douglas Hempstead, voted to send it back to the council.
Democrat Carvin Hilliard and Republican Andrew Conroy were not present at the meeting.
The Common Council meets next Tuesday.
Under the proposals, the cost of a blue recycling bin would double from $5 to $10. The cost for senior citizens would rise from $2.50 to $5. Those fees last were changed in 1991, Public Works Director Hal Alvord told the council at its December meeting.
Fees for driveway permits and inspections would rise from $150 to $200 for smaller driveways, and from $300 to $400 for larger driveways. The fee for encroachment permits would rise from $150 to $200. The last hike in these fees was three years ago.
A tree removal permit fee would increase to $200 from $150. The last time it was changed was in 2006.
Bondi said he has been lobbying council members to change their minds and support fee increases.
"This is something we need. We have a lot of services to pay for in this city," he said.
He said no resident has approached him to argue against the fee increases since the Dec. 9 council meeting.
"None. I don't think the public is against it," he said.
That December meeting featured a unified front of Democrats and Republicans opposing the fee hikes; they voted to send it back to committee. They argued it would place a burden on city residents at the same time the economy was eliminating jobs and reducing incomes.
But it's the recession that makes raising fees necessary, Mayor Richard Moccia said.
The city has seen revenue drop, hammering its bottom line, he said. The fee increases are necessary to fund city services and will not pose a continuing tax burden on residents, he said.
"These are one-time fees. It's not a permanent tax increase on people," he said.
Krummel agreed the money is needed during the economic downturn.
"Looking ahead, we're looking for ways to keep city services functioning," he said.
He also argued that people who benefit from city services should pay for them.
"The basic philosophy I think we should follow here is that people who benefit from particular services should pay for them rather than having the general public pay for them. These (fees) are largely aimed at builders, developers and contractors," Krummel said.
- Staff Writer Frank MacEachern can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 750-5351.