Green Roofs and Urban Heat Island Prevention
The Norwalk Complete Streets Project
What Are Complete Streets?“Complete streets” are designed and operated with the safety, mobility, and accessibility needs of users of all ages and abilities in mind. They are streets that are safe and convenient for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and drivers of all ages and abilities. The Norwalk Complete Streets Policy and Design Manual will help build a network of complete streets through the development of two critical documents:
- A Complete Street Policy, Ordinance, and Integration Plan: This document will institutionalize and streamline the integration of complete streets elements into future municipal transportation planning and land use decisions. The ordinance will establish procedures for evaluating street projects to ensure that they meet the needs of all users. The integration plan will provide recommendations for the procedures of additional City departments which will be affected by the adoption of complete streets.
- A Complete Streets Design Guide: This will guide the design, construction, and implementation of the complete streets ordinance. The design guide will include recommended lane widths, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, stormwater management techniques, and other strategies for different types of roads.
Why Complete StreetsComplete streets planning is about more than mobility choices. It’s about the examination of how transportation infrastructure impacts the ability of residents and visitors to access employment and key services, enjoy recreation and cultural amenities, and live healthy lives, among many other factors. The implementation of complete streets policies and guidelines is deeply tied to municipal priorities: should the city prioritize equity, safety, livability, and connectivity in transportation decision-making? This plan will build upon the numerous planning efforts the city has already undertaken to promote safety and accessibility for all roadway users, and will incorporate the aspirational goals of the recently completed Transportation Master Plan. This initiative will maintain the high level of community engagement for a complete streets policy in the city. The plan will promote economic sustainability and resiliency through sound design and policy recommendations for balanced development. Finally, it will provide the City of Norwalk with a toolbox and strategies to implement complete streets improvements in a responsive and efficient manner.
- Existing Policy Review, Best Practices Research, and Stakeholder Interviews (Winter - Spring 2023)
- Network Analysis (Current)
- Policy Development (Current)
- Walkability Workshop, Public Workshop, and Demonstration Project (Current, continues through Fall 2023)
- Design Manual Development (Fall - Winter 2023)
Stay Informed and Get InvolvedIt is our goal for residents, business owners, and stakeholders to be able to give input and collaborate on the creation of the Complete Streets Policy and Design Guide. Opportunities for collaboration and engagement will include: Steering Advisory Committee: A group of local leaders and public officials that will be among the first to review study documents and provide feedback before they are finalized. Online App/ Survey: A survey to help the project team identify participants’ familiarity with complete streets elements and agree with the manual’s goals and vision. Workshop: The project team will hold a workshop to educate residents about complete streets, gather input on what it’s like walking, biking, taking transit, driving, and parking in Norwalk, and provide input into the plan for the demonstration project. The workshop will allow participants to have direct input into the design of streets. Demonstration Project: The City will be sponsoring a demonstration project, which will allow the public to see one of the plan’s recommendations in place as part of a temporary installation. The public is invited to give feedback about what is and is not working before more substantial investments are made. Check this webpage regularly for updates on opportunities for community engagement. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please contact the project team using: CompleteStreets@norwalkct.gov Or visit the Norwalk, CT Transportation, Mobility, and Parking website.
Urban Farming: Growing a Greener Future for Norwalk, CT
Sustainable Food ProductionOne type of urban farming seen in cities is called Vertical Farming, a modern method of growing crops in vertically stacked layers using artificial lighting, controlled temperature, and irrigation systems. This technique can produce up to 90% more food per square foot than traditional farming and requires less water and pesticides. Other types of urban farming can include community gardens, farmers markets, rooftop gardens, or as small as a garden in your own apartment. By incorporating urban farming in cities, we can improve food access while lowering our carbon footprint. Urban farming allows for a decrease in transportation costs and reduces the need for preservatives and chemicals often used in mass production crops.
Support Your Neighbors through Urban AgricultureUrban farming has the potential to create a resilient local food economy. By supporting local farms, we're investing in our community's health and vitality. Urban farming provides income opportunities for residents and reduces the reliance on food imports, creating local jobs in the community. As consumers, we can support local farms by shopping at farmers' markets and participating in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Through these programs, families can receive a weekly supply of fresh vegetables and fruits straight from their neighborhood.
Urban Garden Hacks: How to Start a Garden in Your ApartmentApartment living doesn't mean we can't join the urban farming movement. There are plenty of ways to incorporate gardens in our apartments, balconies, and windowsills. Container gardens, indoor vertical gardens, and hydroponic setups can bring a variety of vegetables and herbs to your kitchen table. Starting an apartment garden can seem daunting, but it's easier than you think. With the right tools and some patience, anyone can grow their own food. Local nurseries or hardware stores can provide advice and starter kits to make the journey a little smoother. Check out these apartment garden ideas on Pinterest.
Connecting Communities through Urban FarmsUrban farming can bring people together, creating a sense of community around food. Participating in urban farms and community gardens can connect people from diverse backgrounds around a shared interest in sustainable food production. It can also create opportunities for educational programming and cultural exchange around food traditions. Community gardens are often managed through a partnership between local government, nonprofits, and residents. By participating in the management of these gardens, residents have a voice in the food system and can contribute to a more sustainable future for their community. If you’re interested in getting involved with a local garden community, look no further than Fodor Farm. A historical landmark dating back to 1809, Fodor Farm is now the home of sustainable gardens, food and garden demonstrations, and a newly updated event venue. On the grounds you’ll find 300 working plots and gardens that Norwalk, CT residents can rent for the season. Click here to learn more about Fodor Farm. Urban farming is a vital solution for creating sustainable food systems in cities. Norwalk residents can benefit from the economic and environmental advantages of urban farming by supporting local farmers, starting their own gardens, and participating in community gardening programs. By investing in urban farming, we can reduce our carbon footprint, support our local economy, and foster a sense of community around food.
Sustainability and Resilience Plan for Norwalk, CT
The Community Resilience Building Workshop Summary of FindingsOne of the major first steps towards creating this Sustainability and Resilience Plan was the Community Resilience Building (CRB) Workshop held in May 2022. In early 2022, the Redevelopment Agency began a series of discussions with The Nature Conservancy about conducting a Climate Resilience Building (CRB) workshop to engage with community members and define strengths and vulnerabilities within the City of Norwalk. This workshop was facilitated by The Nature Conservancy, Western Connecticut Council of Governments, and the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency in partnership with Sustainable CT. The leading objectives of this workshop included:
- Defining top local, natural, and climate-related hazards of concern
- Identifying existing and future strengths and vulnerabilities
- Prioritizing actions for the City
- Identifying opportunities to collaboratively advance actions to increase resilience alongside residents and organizations from across the City, and beyond
Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure Project: A Step Towards Sustainable Development
About the ProjectThe Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project is a collaborative effort between the Norwalk Department of Public Works and the Norwalk Recreation and Parks. The project aims to transform the existing parking lot at Calf Pasture Beach into a sustainable and functional green infrastructure system that will reduce the amount of polluted stormwater runoff entering Long Island Sound. The project involves the installation of a permeable pavement system(3125 sf), and eight bioretention areas and the planting of native vegetation(~21 trees, 59 shrubs, and hundreds of perennials/grasses). The permeable pavement system will allow stormwater to infiltrate into the ground, reducing the amount of runoff that enters the nearby waterways. The bioretention areas will provide additional treatment of stormwater through a natural process of filtration and absorption. The native vegetation will help absorb stormwater, provide a habitat for wildlife, and beautify the area. [gallery columns="4" ids="2189,2190,2191,2188"]
Benefits of the Calf Pasture Beach ProjectThe Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project has numerous benefits. Firstly, it will improve water quality in the Long Island Sound by reducing the amount of polluted stormwater runoff entering the waterways. This, in turn, will help to protect aquatic life and create a healthier environment for recreational activities. Secondly, the project will increase the amount of green space in the area, providing a more aesthetically pleasing and functional space for visitors. The addition of native vegetation will also provide a habitat for wildlife, contributing to the overall health of the ecosystem. Lastly, the project demonstrates how sustainable development can be achieved through the integration of green infrastructure. By transforming an existing parking lot into a sustainable and functional green infrastructure system, the project is an example of how we can mitigate the negative impacts of urban development while still meeting the needs of the community.
Potential for Similar ProjectThe Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project has the potential to inspire similar projects in other areas. As urban areas continue to expand, it is becoming increasingly important to integrate green infrastructure into urban development. The benefits of green infrastructure are numerous, including reducing stormwater runoff, improving water quality, creating habitat for wildlife, and improving the overall aesthetics of the area. By showcasing the benefits of green infrastructure, the Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project can inspire other communities to follow suit. The project is a reminder that sustainable development is possible and that it is up to us to take action to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for ourselves and future generations.
ConclusionThe Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project is an excellent example of how sustainable development can be achieved through the integration of green infrastructure. The project demonstrates how we can mitigate the negative impacts of urban development while still meeting the needs of the community. The project has numerous benefits, including improving water quality, providing habitat for wildlife, and improving the overall aesthetics of the area. In addition to the above benefits, the Calf Pasture Beach Parking Lot and Green Infrastructure project will also include the addition of a safe and protected pedestrian boulevard and a redesign of the entrance and exits to improve access and exit flow. The new pedestrian boulevard will provide visitors with a safe and enjoyable space to walk, run, or bike, away from vehicle traffic. This will recreate a beach walk from sand to surf over thermoplastic imagery designed for Norwalk. The redesign of the entrance and exits will improve traffic flow, reduce congestion, and enhance safety for all users. The integration of these additional features highlights the importance of considering all aspects of sustainable development, including the safety and accessibility of the space. By creating a more accessible and safer environment, the project will encourage more people to visit and utilize the area, contributing to a more vibrant and active community. The success of the project has the potential to inspire similar projects in other areas, contributing to a more sustainable city and livable future for all.
What is Blue Urbanism and Why Does It Matter?
What is Blue Urbanism?Blue Urbanism has been gaining traction in the field of urban design as a framework for “living lightly across the land and waterscape”. Timothy Beatley, PhD, coined this term in 2005 and ever since it has been praised by architecture professionals for its ability to create thriving cities with an emphasis on sustainable development practices. Timothy's vision for Blue Urbanism involves integrating urban sites with the surrounding water features, fostering regenerative ecosystems that are self-sustaining and resilient in nature. His emphasis is not only on developing positive relationships between humans and our environment but also between different communities and social classes. Timothy's ideas have become increasingly popular due to increased awareness about climate change, as well as improved urban designs that are designed around sustainability. Blue Urbanism will continue to shape the way cities are developed, enabling smart growth initiatives that benefit everyone from citizens to business owners alike -all while protecting some of the most fragile ecosystems on earth!
The Need for Blue Urbanism and Its ImpactIn recent years, urban planners and city officials have begun to recognize the importance of blue urbanism, which emphasizes the preservation and protection of water sources within and around cities. Through various initiatives like connecting parks and public spaces to bodies of water and cleaning up waterways, blue urbanism can foster an improved relationship between people and the rivers, lakes and oceans carved out by nature in our constructed environments. This is an important step towards managing our climate crisis responsibly while also reaping the economic, cultural, recreational and health benefits that access to clean water facilitates.
Challenges to Blue UrbanismBlue Urbanism poses a visionary approach to urban development, ushering in a greener and healthier future. However, there are numerous challenges posed by making this vision a reality. The planning and implementation phases require extensive interdisciplinary research to ensure that all stakeholders - such as industry partners and communities who call the city home - are truly supported by this transformative shift in how we build our cities. Financing is also another great challenge, requiring strategic investments from both the public and private sectors if this sustainable urban model is to thrive. Lastly, Blue Urbanism must be developed from within the community – which means engaging and working with local citizens in order for them to understand their environmental responsibility and create meaningful urban spaces for themselves and for future generations.
Embracing Blue Urbanism Through Education, Engagement, and StewardshipNorwalk is embracing Blue Urbanism by educating the public on water health, engaging in activities to protect our water resources, and creating an environment conducive to stewardship of Norwalk Watershed. Through collaborations with local organizations, Norwalk aims to foster better understanding of our watersheds and provide hands-on opportunities that empower citizens to take protective steps. Norwalk recognizes the power of citizen-centric solutions and will continue investing in educational programs and community engagement strategies that offer citizens the chance to participate in environmental stewardship efforts. In doing so, Norwalk is committed to preserving Norwalk's waters for generations to come.
Successful Examples from Around the WorldBlue urbanism is an approach coastal cities and city development groups can seek to find the balance between the protection, enjoyment, and proper use of water resources. Across the world, numerous cities have explored this developing way of looking at waterfronts, with stunning results. In Baltimore, the city and its residents have partnered with BioHabitats and the Living Classrooms Foundation to develop Oyster Gardens and Floating Wetlands that now span an area of approximately 2,000 sq. feet. These initiatives support their local marine habitats, remove pollution, and serve as educational tools. From creating efficient stormwater management systems and mangrove reforestation initiatives in China to rebuilding hurricane-devastated towns in Cuba, successful examples of blue urbanism are popping up everywhere. In these projects, locals often take a leading role in recreating their own environments while city planners and architects bring innovation to the processes, allowing for responsible and beneficial development with exceptional beauty.
In ConclusionBlue urbanism offers a great opportunity to improve our lives and the environment. By looking out for the health of our oceans and watersheds, we can ensure that future generations have access to clean water and healthy ecosystems. Furthermore, this approach can help reduce the carbon footprint in our cities by utilizing natural infrastructure and features such as parks and green roofs that each contribute to a healthier urban environment. With blue urbanism leading the way, we can make positive changes that will benefit both current and future generations. If you have questions or want to get more involved in our initiatives, contact us today!
What Are Accessory Dwelling Units and Does Connecticut Allow Them?
What are Accessory Dwelling Units?ADUs go by many names. Mother-in-law suites, backyard cottages, accessory apartments, and granny pods are just a few. At their heart, ADUs are a second, smaller house or apartment that is either attached to or detached from the primary residence. For example, often people have an ADU in their basement or backyard. The size and location of ADUs on a property are typically determined by that municipality’s zoning regulations. There will be a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and living room area. Each dwelling can be made to cater to a specific person or family size. Building ADUs can vary in cost depending on where you build it and how big you build it. Creating one in your existing house, like the basement, can be cheaper because you don't have to deal with adding walls, foundation, or plumbing. If you build one detached from your home , you do have to pay for new plumbing and electrical hook ups, it can be more customizable but at a more costly rate.
Benefits for Single Family HomesIf you have a single-family home, it can be hard to house extra family members or children who need to live at home longer but want their own space. One of the biggest benefits to owning an ADU is that you create space for family members who need it. Depending on the location of the dwelling, you can also rent it out to make extra income. ADUs can increase the value of your property by 20%-30%. It can also appeal to more buyers when you go to sell your home. These dwellings can also help reduce gentrification and desegregate neighborhoods by giving opportunities to people who otherwise might not be able to afford to live in certain neighborhoods.
Accessory Dwelling Unit Laws in ConnecticutThe laws around accessory dwellings in Connecticut changed in 2021. The legislation, Public Act 21-29, requires towns to designate specific zones where ADUs are permitted as-of-right, either attached to or detached from the single-family house. However, towns can opt out and set their own requirements for ADUs or not allow them at all. One exception to this is that towns cannot require a minimum square footage. Checking local requirements before building will ensure you aren't breaking any laws.
ADU Laws in Norwalk, ConnecticutIn Norwalk, CT ADU regulations were adopted in 1982, with updates adopted by the Planning & Zoning Commission at their December 8, 2022 meeting. There are currently 259 accessory apartments in the city. After reviewing the new state laws, Norwalk agreed with the majority of the new state law. In fact, many of Norwalk’s current ADU regulations already comply with the law, including:
- Permitted in all zones where the primary use of a property is a single-family residence
- ADUs allowed to be attached to or within a single-family residence
- Setbacks and building frontage must be less than or equal to that required for single family residences
- No more than one parking space for an ADU
- A familial, marital or employment relationship between accessory apartment
- occupant and single family residences owner is not required
- Separately billed utilities is not required
Prohibited StructuresIn Norwalk, the following structures are prohibited and shall not be used as an accessory dwelling unit:
- Mobile homes
- Recreational vehicles
- Travel trailers
- Shipping containers
- Storage containers
- Any other wheeled or transportable structures
Procedure for ApprovalA certificate in the form of an affidavit which verifies that the owner continues to reside on the premises, the minimum rental duration and all other conditions met at the time of the original application remain unchanged, shall be submitted to the Zoning Enforcement Officer by January 31 of each year. Applications for attached accessory dwelling units shall be permitted subject to approval by the Zoning Enforcement Officer, and applications for detached accessory dwelling units shall be permitted by the Planning and Zoning Commission, subject to Section 118-1451 with a site plan review. Both forms of approval are considered as-of-right which comply with the standards established by Public Act 21-29.
Norwalk's New Business Development Center
What is the Business Development Center?[caption id="attachment_2140" align="alignleft" width="1024"] Photo courtesy of Nancy Chapman[/caption] The new business center, located at 3 Belden Avenue, was opened on November 3, 2022. It’s designed to be an all-inclusive resource that entrepreneurs and business owners can utilize throughout the life cycle of their businesses. This center was constructed using various sources of federal, state, and local funding. The American Rescue Plan Act gave the development center a vital infusion of funding to help complete it. "We have the opportunity to have staff onsite to be able to assist with local and state grants, be able to build business plans, business models, offer professional development training, and be able to offer residents…and people in the region, as a whole, an opportunity to be able to take a dream that they may have stored for a very long time and actually make it a reality,” says Jessica Vonashek, Chief of Economic and Community Development for the City of Norwalk.
What Services does the Business Development Center Provide?Whether you are looking at starting a business or expanding one, the development center can help you. Services are extensive and cover a variety of topics:
- Financial Education
- Loan or Grant Application Assistance
- Technical Support for Local, State, or Federal Permitting
- Business Plan Development and Implementation
- Local and State Licensing Requirements
- Insurance for Your Business
- Market Research
Have More Questions?With the help of private sector experts and higher-education resources, you can make your dream of starting your new business in Norwalk, CT a reality. If you want to learn more about Norwalk’s Business Development Center, contact us today or come visit us at the Norwalk Business Development Center Monday through Friday from 9 am to 4 pm.
Recommendations for Norwalk's Industrial Waterfront
A significant portion of the waterfront in Norwalk, CT has been zoned and used for industrial use. The city undertook a planning exercise to determine the appropriate land uses for these historically industrial waterfronts. The draft plan, Industrial Waterfront Land Use Plan, has been developed for the city to use as a policy roadmap, allowing these areas to grow and change in a way that balances and aligns with both public and private needs.Changes to the zoning laws around the Norwalk waterfront will be aimed at promoting economic development and preserving the water dependent uses in the area, while also increasing public access, improving water quality through improved drainage techniques and providing native vegetative buffers, while also improving the built environment. Read more to find out some of these suggestions for how to revise this waterfront.
Why the Norwalk, CT Waterfront Rezoning Matters
Before we begin, let’s take a quick look at why the Norwalk waterfront needed to be reevaluated.
It’s quite an understatement to say that industrial waterfront land has vastly changed in the last century. In Norwalk, the use of industrial waterfront has been transitioning from strictly industrial uses to less intense uses, such as marinas and small boat facilities, while legacy uses such as oyster harvesting and bulkhead repairs continue to be integral parts of the community. In addition, modern innovations, like the innovative boat building and storage or marine highway programs like harbor harvest hold promise for future economic success for our harbor.However, updating industrial waterfronts comes with its challenges. The historical use of Norwalk's urban waterfront plays such an enormous part in the city's identity. It's also an essential piece of the local economy. The Norwalk waterfront has an array of uses.Some areas are zoned exclusively for heavy industrial uses, while others are reserved for commercial or public use and some have a mix of uses which can include residential This is why the Norwalk Industrial Waterfront Land Use planning process looked at ways to benefit both public and private institutions alike, including the input of many stakeholders to thoughtfully address these uses. Read further to learn about the major themes that occurred throughout the planning process.