Mill Pond and Norwalk’s Development OP ED by Vinny Scicchitano
Norwalk. A Love story for Developers
I do not live in East Norwalk but as a resident of Norwalk, East Norwalk is a unique and charming crown jewel and the gateway to a gorgeous waterfront community where Norwalkers live, work, walk, shop and eat. Everyone visits East Norwalk and this area of Norwalk belongs to all of us in a special way. It is where we visit as the weather warms and we see friendly faces as we walk the beach or visit the cove marina for a morning cup of coffee. It is where we have memories of pushing our grandkids on a swing or bringing our own children to see the fireworks on the 4th of July. It is a place where moms get together to cool off the kids at the splash pad and enjoy some adult chit chat while the kids have a blast. It is where Norwalk students take their field trip and learn about Long Island Sound, sea creatures, oysters and collect sea shells. It is the place where we meet family and old friends to see an outdoor concert or have a bite to eat and sit around the firepit at Ripkas and watch the January full moon. East Norwalk is home to some fabulous local eats and home to our seniors with two assisted living facilities. It is where 400+ students attend school September-June and learn, play and thrive.
The Mill Pond Development is the perfect illustration of why I believe the people of the city of Norwalk have lost their voice. Our city’s rapid approval process in favor of developments does not provide the proper checks and balances to ensure input from its residents. It’s no secret that the East Nowalk community came out and passionately voiced their opposition to the plan as it had been submitted. Almost 800 residents and stakeholders signed a petition asking the decision makers to scale the project back. So what happened?
Why are residents dismissed? Why are their legitimate requests and concerns not deserving of action? It seems Norwalkers no longer get a say as to what they want for our community and the concerns fall on deaf ears of those that are appointed by our Mayor. So many spoke at public hearings and stressed that despite studies they already felt the impacts and negative quality of life aspects and that further excessive development in this area would only add to these effects and in turn impact their daily life. The residents’ voices were silenced and the developers prevailed. I believe strongly that the layout as approved was designed to maximize the developers profits. Incidentally, the developer who in 2019 and 2021 donated the maximum allowable amount to the Rilling for Mayor campaign. Maybe it is just a coincidence?
I support transit-oriented development for future projects but the area that this development exists leaves great concern regarding quality of life and infrastructure impacts. For TOD to work it has to be a benefit for the public, not the developer and the project locations need to be carefully considered. This location can not support such a high density development project as Mill Pond. Residents’ concerns regarding the traffic study that was performed was done in March and anyone who lives in Norwalk knows that East Norwalk in the late spring and summer months is a very crowded place and traffic studies taking place before late May are flawed and should have not even been considered by the decision makers.
With that, this project does not embrace our communities passion for environment, nature and open space landscape accessible to all. This area is the gateway of a small harborside neighborhood and overdeveloping that area will have great impacts to Mill Pond’s ecosystem that includes plants, organisms and animals. Residents deserve clean water and air, the right to bike and walk safely and the right to access their beaches, parks and water with ease.
Stop valuing profits over people. Our city has a responsibility to the residents that live here and to treat residents as if their voices matter. We are not the villains but the victims.