Norwalk Residents Weigh In On Industrial Waterfront Uses

Norwalk Industrial Waterfront Plan SurveyAs the City of Norwalk studies how to optimize the industrial areas of its waterfront resources along the mid-to-upper Norwalk Harbor, the Planning and Zoning office is reaching out to the public and other stakeholders for their thoughts. 

One of the ways planners have gathered input is via an online community mapping activity. This digital engagement, which started in late 2021, was the first of several opportunities to gather public comment. Participants added their input on how they would like to see the waterfront used via an interactive map where they placed comments pinpointing to specific areas in the study zone.  Keep reading to find out what the public would like to see along the industrial area of Norwalk’s waterfront.

Interactive Waterfront Survey Findings

In all, more than 150 comments were made by more than 55 stakeholders, with 1,100 people visiting the site.  A large majority of comments involved a desire to include public access and open space along Norwalk’s waterfront.  Another popular comment was regarding infrastructure along waterfront areas such as the inclusion of sidewalks, paths and trails.    Below are some of the most popular comments for various areas along the Norwalk River. 

Broader Marina District

The comments pinpointed to Veteran’s Park asked for improvements to the park and increased water access, the input being that the water frontage is substantially underutilized.  Some ideas included putting in better boardwalk/paved paths around the park, adding plantings, picnic tables and access for kayaks and canoes.  Along Water Street many respondents said they want to maintain the land for water-dependent uses, such as boatyards and aquaculture.  Many liked the suggestion that anything vacant in this area should be required to be landscaped into parks accessible to the public since this area is flood-prone.  

East Bank of the Norwalk River 

Input on the waterfront area on the River’s east side industrial-mixed use transition area included a desire by many to finish the Norwalk Harbor Loop Trail of which there is a missing section in this area.  Commenters also wanted to see cleanup of the old asphalt plant in East Norwalk, possibly turning the area into a park that could serve as a buffer zone to accommodate flooding that occurs in the area regularly. 

Industrial/Commercial Business District Wall Street Area

Further up the river in the Wall Street area, many liked the idea of making the waterfront here more accessible to pedestrians, and increasing recreational marine uses such as canoe or kayak rentals.  Other comments included zoning the area for accessory uses that would enable cafes and restaurants. Respondents also expressed a desire to connect the area under the bridge leading to Freese Park with the Harbor Trail Loop.

Washington Street/Oyster Shell Park District

On the west side of the Norwalk River, a number of those surveyed would like to see the completion of pedestrian access from South Norwalk (SoNo) through Oyster Shell Park, making both pedestrian and bicycle access safer.  Others expressed an interest in a continuous boardwalk in SoNo on the waterfront from Washington Street to Elizabeth or Hanford Streets, including in front of the Maritime Aquarium.

Public Engagement for Industrial Waterfront Land Use Study

The Waterfront Land Use Study Steering Committee will continue to engage and inform the public with a series of public meetings.  Overall themes that came out of this original survey will be discussed and participants will be asked to rank the top three issues/concerns/themes that they would like this plan to address.  The committee will also make additional suggestions for land use and development intensity that the public can weigh in on.  

Give us your input in the latest survey

Norwalk, CT Holds Charrette on Revising Its Building Zone Regulations

Norwalk Charrette on Zoning RegulationsThis fall, the City of Norwalk held a charrette focused on rewriting and modernizing its building zone regulations which lasted over the course of five days. A charrette is a collaborative planning process that involves all stakeholders and this one was open virtually to the public. 

Norwalk embarked on a building zone regulation update following its ten-year Citywide Plan in 2019. One of the Plan’s recommendations was to take a fresh look at the city’s zoning regulations, which have not been thoroughly reviewed nor revised in 30 years. The charrette was part of a greater public outreach process to educate local citizens on the zoning code and get their input and feedback on what works and what needs to be changed.

How the Virtual Charrette Worked

​​During the charrette, the community learned about the city’s current zoning regulations. In a series of online focus meetings, stakeholders shared their hopes and concerns about how the new regulations may affect things such as transportation, architecture and design, community character, land use, development, neighborhoods, housing, green infrastructure, sustainability, and most desirably its waterfront charm.   For those who couldn’t make it to one of the meetings, an online virtual open studio was available for much of the day where people could join and ask questions, or share their thoughts on zoning.  Another way the city was able to get input from the public during the charrette was through a virtual mapping workshop. Using an online tool, people were able to access a map of the city and add markers to indicate what they liked about the character of Norwalk and their thoughts on opportunities for improvement. 

Findings from the Charrette

As mentioned in a report from The Norwalk Hour, “if one word was said more often than any other word this week, it was character. We heard from people wanting to maintain the marine character. Views of the water are important.”  On the final evening of the virtual charrette, the planning team presented their findings and discussed how the community input is shaping the new Building Zone Regulations in several areas. Here are some of their findings. 

Housing

During the charrette, people asked for a greater variety of housing types in more locations. Allowing for multifamily and accessory dwelling units that fit into the character of single family neighborhoods. Part of this is an expressed need and desire for more affordable workforce housing.

Sustainability and the Environment

Important to charrette attendees is the maintenance of the maritime character of the city, and the need to preserve water views. The protection of natural resources and the coastline is also a public concern.  Attendees talked frequently about the need for green infrastructure such as permeable pavement, accessibility for bicycling and pedestrians, solar power, green roofs, and sustainable stormwater solutions.

Industry and the Economy

While open, green space and preserving the character of neighborhoods were important to charrette attendees, there was discussion about protecting some industrial zones. There was a call to look at other locations for these zones than where they are currently.  The biggest concern with industrial zones was the need to address the contractor yards in these neighborhoods and adjacent to homes. There is a Norwalk Industrial Zones Study underway which is taking a look at these issues.   Also of importance for attendees was protecting water dependent commercial uses while still allowing for public access to the water. Currently, the city is working on an Industrial Waterfront Land Use Plan to guide decisions on the best uses of Norwalk’s waterfront resources. Overall, the public wanted to retain, grow, and attract a wide range of businesses, allowing for various commercial building types that are more compatible in more areas.

Mobility and Transportation

Managing all modes of transportation was a critical concern for attendees, especially making land use decisions that support and improve walking, biking, and public transit.  Parking was brought up as having an impact on the character, walkability and desirability of the community. There were presentations on shifting parking lots to be hidden and interspersed among businesses as attendees expressed an interest in a review of parking standards.

Next Steps in the Zoning Regulations Update

The zoning regulations planning team is taking all the feedback from the charrette and drafting new regulations. The intention is to simplify what is now a complicated document, and consolidate some of the zoning districts.  The overall policy will be to take a character-based approach to zoning. This means grouping zones together that are similar, and creating character districts where certain building types are appropriate for each district, while taking into consideration policies such as open space and commercial uses, etc.  Residents, businesses and others in the community will have the opportunity to review and provide feedback to the draft, continuing the important public input to ensure the new regulations take into account all who live and work in Norwalk.  To see videos from the Charrette Presentations CLICK HERE 

Applications Being Accepted for 2021 Neighborhood Assistance Act Program

Neighborhood assistance program in Norwalk If you're a nonprofit in Norwalk, CT you may be interested in applying for the Connecticut NeighborhoodAssistance Act Program (NAA). The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency is handling the application process for tax exempt organizations in Norwalk. The deadline for applying is 5 p.m. on May 10, 2021.  What is the Neighborhood Assistance Act Program? Read on and we'll fill you in on the details on how it works and how both area businesses and the Norwalk community benefit from this program.

Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act Program

The Connecticut Neighborhood Assistance Act program is a tax credit program designed to incentivize businesses to provide funding to support approved municipal and tax-exempt organizations. Businesses may be eligible for a tax credit of up to 60% of the amount they contribute to one of these organizations. Tax credits may even go as high as 100% of the contribution amounts for certain qualified programs.

How Do Nonprofits Qualify For The Program?  

Community programs must be approved by both the municipality in which the programs are conducted and by Connecticut’s Department of Revenue Services. A tax exempt organization interested in participating in the NAA Program must first complete in its entirety the program proposal application, Form NAA-01. This form must be submitted for approval to the municipality where the tax exempt organization’s program is conducted. In Norwalk that is the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency. All approved applications will then be sent to the CT Department of Revenue for another round of reviews. Organizations that qualify include, but are not limited to:
  • Employment and training
  • Energy conservation
  • Child care services
  • Substance abuse
  • Neighborhood assistance

What Are The Guidelines For Businesses?

Although the program is available to a wide range of businesses, there are some parameters to be followed to qualify. For one, the annual tax credit is limited to $150,000. There is also a minimum contribution amount of at least $250 to qualify for the program.  The application process for businesses can be done online through the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services website.

NAA Application Process in Norwalk

All tax exempt organizations in Norwalk will follow this process: 
  1. The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency will collect applications and, after a public hearing, will present them to the Norwalk Planning Committee and Common Council for approval. Then the Agency will submit applications approved by the City of Norwalk to the CT Dept. of Revenue Services.
  2. The Dept. of Revenue Services will post on their website the list of approved applicants for businesses to review as potential community programs to make a contribution towards.
  3. Businesses wishing to sponsor a community program will have to fill out and submit Form NAA-02 between September 15th and October 1st. No earlier and no later.
  4. Later in the fall, CT Dept. of Revenue Services will notify municipalities of the applications that received contributions from companies. At that point, municipalities are asked to notify the organizations directly.
Nonprofit applications must be sent via email to koleary@norwalkct.org before 5 p.m. on May 10, 2021. For more information, or to have any questions answered about the NAA, visit the Department of Revenue Services or call 860-297-5687. Applicants are also welcome to contact Katie O’Leary at the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency at koleary@norwalkct.org.

More information on CT NAA Program

Form NAA-01