July 6, 2018
How do Norwalk residents view how the city’s land resources are used re: housing, development and transportation? A workshop was held on May 31, 2018 to take a look at integrating land use and transportation, with an emphasis on housing and transportation choice.
Below is a summary of the May 31st workshop. A full presentation on Connected and Complete Norwalk can be seen here. Don’t forget to take a short survey to let us know your opinion. The survey will be open until July 20, 2018.
The workshop’s initial presentation included information on broad issues facing Norwalk, such as regional transformations in retail, office development, transportation (autonomous vehicles), and the impending generational transition in housing from baby boomers to millennials. Participants also heard background on affordable housing issues and integrating transportation networks, including bicycle and pedestrian routes, with land use. The approximately 15 attendees were asked to complete two written exercises for their opinions and future priorities.
A number of possible options for affordable housing were discussed and attendees were asked in a written exercise to give their reactions—from “strongly agree” to “neutral” to “strongly disagree”. The options with the more “strongly agree” or “somewhat agree” reactions included:
- City government donation (instead of auction) of tax title properties appropriate for affordable housing to nonprofit affordable housing developers
- Consideration of a program for a security deposit guarantee for income-eligible renters (similar to a former State program
- Exploring programs to assist income-eligible first-time homebuyers.
Participants were somewhat less supportive of creating an Affordable Housing Trust to fund affordable housing, allowing more accessory units, and exploring a community land trust model.
Transportation issues and their relationship to land uses were also on the agenda. One idea that was introduced was multi-modal transportation, also known as transportation choice that provides networks for walking, biking, and transit that are alternatives to the car. A fifteen-minute bike trip typically covers three miles, which would allow Norwalk residents to reach many city destinations. Although we often think of transportation issues primarily in terms of commuting, residents make many short, local trips in the city that could easily be made on foot or by bike if there were safe facilities for walking and biking. Innovations to make transit more responsive can also provide more transportation choice.
Participants were led through a quiz on transportation issues, such as whether widening streets reduces traffic congestion (the correct answer is no). Through the quiz, it was revealed that review of ten years of daily traffic data on local streets for Norwalk indicates that the annual change in daily traffic is plus or minus 1% for the city as a whole. The neighborhoods north of Route 1 tended to have slight declines in daily traffic, while the neighborhoods south of Route 1 had slight increases in traffic.
The last segment of the presentation was about the benefits of promoting complete streets and using a multimodal level of service analysis (which adds bike, pedestrian, and transit to the level of service for cars) for transportation improvements. Complete streets is an approach to designing and operating streets for safe, comfortable, convenient access and travel for all users—pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists—to the maximum degree feasible. In addition, the group discussed the possibility of Norwalk applying to be one of four State-supported pilot sites for Shared Autonomous Vehicles.
Norwalk Resident’s Priorities
In addition to the first exercise on affordable housing options, participants were asked to suggest their top priorities for the next ten years for affordable housing, transportation, and other related issues.
Affordable housing. The priorities mentioned included:
- Locating affordable housing near transit and employment centers
- Employing initiatives that encourage moving from renting to owning
- Maintaining existing affordability initiatives
- Making affordable rental housing a priority to allow younger people and employees to live in Norwalk
A few participants noted that Norwalk now meets the State’s goal for affordable housing and towns like Darien and Westport should do more to take their share of affordable housing.
Transportation. Attendees had a number of suggestions for transportation priorities including:
- Implementing shared parking options and internal connections between businesses on major roads
- Having better transit frequency and on-demand micro transit
- Establishing water taxis
- Creating biking and walking options suitable to an aging population and changes in weather
- Deploying a circulator system among major activity areas
- Advocating for Wall Street and Merritt 7 train stations
- Ensuring that high-use pedestrian areas are repaired and maintained, including snow shoveling
One participant suggested making multimodal improvements as a series of pilot projects, so that people can see the benefits and get used to changes. Another suggestion was to have a continuous promotional campaign about transportation choice to create a change in culture.
Other priorities. People at the workshop also proposed other priorities including:
- Implementing zoning changes
- Building a river boardwalk from South Norwalk to the Wall Street area
- Considering allowing new types of housing, such as tiny homes, pocket/cottage neighborhoods, and two-family homes by special permit in single family neighborhoods
This was one of four topic workshops held in May 2018 to assess residents’ views and concerns for the next ten years as the city develops a ten-year plan or Plan of Conservation and Development also known as the POCD. The other three were City Design, Green, Sustainable, and Resilient Norwalk, and Prosperous Norwalk (Economic Development. Full presentations from each workshop can be found on the Resource page of this website.
Information from the workshops and the surveys will help guide the development of the draft plan over the summer 2018. Further opportunities for public comment in the fall will include a public open house, public review of the draft plan before adoption, and a public hearing at the Planning Commission when it considers adoption.