Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

Cranbury Task Force Hear First Concerns
Norwalk, Westport & Wilton Planners speak

Printed in the The Norwalk Hour Feb 24, 2004

NORWALK — Cranbury neighborhood residents and their Westport neighbors on Monday evening gave the mayor's Cranbury Neighborhood Task Force plenty of suggestions on how to halt overdevelopment in their areas.

In forming the task force last fall, Mayor Alex Knopp said he intended to engage Westport and Wilton residents and officials in the debate.

At issue is a proposed Newtown Avenue sewer line to serve Poplar Plains, a 22 single-family home development planned off Partrick Road in Westport.

To the west, members of the Save Cranbury Association are seeking to convince trustees of the White Barn Theater Foundations to allow them six months to raise money to purchase the site. Trustees envision 13 single-family homes.

"Is (Poplar Plains) developable if Norwalk says, ‘No,'?" asked Bill Rothschild of Thistle Road. "It's really in the hands of Norwalk to make that decision. The fundamental decision is will Norwalk enable this development."

Outlining zoning and development regulations were Norwalk Planning and Zoning Director Michael B. Greene, Wilton Town Planner Bob Nerney, and Westport Planning and Zoning Director Katherine Barnard.

Using zoning maps, all three planners painted a picture of stringent zoning and largely developed land. Greene outlined Norwalk zoning, from half-acre parcels to conservation developments, where 50 percent of land must be kept open space.

ARS Partners LLC wants to run the sewer line up Newtown Avenue to serve Poplar Plains. Westport officials frowned upon extending town sewer lines northward but rejected the housing plan without prejudice. ARS Partners is now examining environmental issues; another proposal is expected.

The stalled nature of Poplar Plains and uncertain fate of the White Barn Theater didn't assuage tax force co-chairman Bill Kraus' concerns that smaller subdivisions might collectively hurt the area.

"Have you thought about what the cumulative effect would be of three- and four-lot subdivisions?" Kraus asked.

Greene said he would gather subdivision information for the task force's next meeting but added that the data will only address the larger developments.

Knopp asked Barnard whether ARS Partners might hypothetically fund its own connection to the Westport sewer line. Barnard answered that she hadn't heard any such discussion, and added that "the area is not scheduled for sewers."

Amy Ancel of Westport said the proposed sewer "is not the be all and end all" of Poplar Plains. She said ARS Partners wants the sewer to maximize development. Ancel said seven building lots with septic systems would be preferable.

On traffic, Common Council President Bruce I. Kimmel and Cranbury and Westport residents saw a serious problem getting worse. They cited "short-cut" traffic driving Newtown Avenue, Wolfpit Avenue and Wilton Road.

"If you put the two separate developments together, you could have a very large problem," said Kimmel, referring to Poplar Plains and the White Barn Theater.

Greene said traffic congestion goes beyond adding homes. He said the growing number of vehicles per household is also responsible.

Halting development in neighboring communities is equally problematic, he indicated. William Wrenn, former council member and now Norwalk Land Trust president, asked the task force to mind wildlife. He said the White Barn and Partrick Road properties form a wildlife corridor.

Carol Frank of Norwalk and another speaker asked the task force to consider the impact of such developments on taxpayers via added enrollment to area schools.

Attending from Westport were at least a half-dozen members of the Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund, including Co-Director Matthew Mandell. He was told by Knopp that the group may formally submit its concerns to the task force and review reports generated by the task force.

The Mayor's Cranbury Neighborhood Task Force will meet next at 7 p.m. on March 22.