Protect the Partrick Wetlands
and our Community

Norwalk Mayor Forms Cranbury Task Force
Will study over-developement and Newtown Sewer Extension

Printed in the Norwalk Hour

A task force was formed Wednesday to plumb Cranbury neighborhood residents for their views on a proposed sewer line — and other development plans affecting the Norwalk neighborhood.

“The city needed to have a broader investigation before deciding to approve or reject the application of developers from the Poplar Plains project in Westport to install a sewer line along Newtown Avenue across the Norwalk border,” said Mayor Alex Knopp, speaking to Assistant Planning and Zoning Director Michael E. Wrinn, and two members of the newly formed task force at City Hall.

The Mayor’s Cranbury Neighborhood Task Force will review and seek public input on the proposed sewer line, and other developments, which many neighborhood residents believe will ruin the area’s remaining rural character.

The task force ultimately will report to the Water Pollution Control Authority, which is responsible for reviewing sewer-line applications.

For Poplar Plains, a Westport housing development mired in controversy, the sewer line would run up Newtown Avenue in Norwalk onto Newtown Turnpike.

The Westport Planning and Zoning Commission has denied the plan, and applicant ARS Partners is expected to submit another application. “Obviously, residents of Newtown Avenue have opinions pro and con about the sewer line. ... My action plan is to get a more accurate reading of those opinions,” Knopp said.

Knopp pitched the new task force as a forum to address any and all development projects affecting the Cranbury neighborhood. White Barn Theater plans to build a cultural arts school and 13 single-family homes on its 18-acre site that straddles the Norwalk-Westport border. Last month, about 60 Cranbury neighborhood residents blasted the plan during a public hearing. Most said the development will add traffic, threaten wildlife and further urban sprawl.

The task force comprises WPCA Co-chairman John Atkin; Norwalk Planning Commission Co-chairman Bill Kraus; Tanya Court, former executive director of the South Western Regional Planning Agency; JoAnne Jackson, Cranbury Neighborhood Association president; and Patrick Road resident Gail Wall, also a Norwalk Preservation Trust member and spokeswoman for the Cranbury neighborhood.

Attending the task force formation meeting were Jackson and Wall. “This is exactly what neighborhoods of Norwalk require. ... Our mission is to preserve the historic environmental landscape and rural quality of our neighborhood,” Wall said. The task force “will help us address these very issues of our community.”

In addition to forming the task force, Knopp wants the Department of Public Works to re-survey Newtown Avenue residents for up-to-date responses on the proposed sewer line; and the Health Department to review septic system failures.

Knopp also has requested updated proposals for the White Barn and Poplar Plains developments; traffic-and-speed counts along key Cranbury neighborhood roads; and a joint meeting of the Norwalk Planning Commission and the Westport Planning and Zoning Commission. “When a development is being built in one town, but has big impact in a neighboring town, there’s no opportunity for the regulatory and land-use agencies in the adjoining town to review the information,” Knopp said. “That’s a defect that we’re going to be correcting through this task force.”

On the Westport side, Matthew Mandell, director of the Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund, praised the formation of the task force. “I am pleased that Mayor Knopp is recognizing that cross-border developments could affect us all,” Mandell said. “We welcome the task force and will be happy to help in any way we can.”