Hiawatha Lane Apartment Project Suffers Another Setback

Another meeting.

Another defeat for the proposal to build 187 apartment units on Hiawatha Lane. That’s the tough-to-access property bordering I-95 exit 17, for many years home to some of the most affordable housing in Westport.

Last night’s unanimous vote made it 2 towns that have repeatedly opposed plans by Summit Development. After a number of denials by Westport boards, this one came from the Norwalk Conversation Commission.

They ruled 5-0 to deny a request to build an emergency access road through the Norden property. It abuts Hiawatha Lane.

The Norden property includes 1 apartment building, and 11 acres of designated open space with a conservation easement. It was created  as part of a 2006 agreement with the then Norden property owners (now Avalon) and Westport and Norwalk residents. The easement specifically called for a gravel path for use by both towns’ residents for walking and bicycling, but precluded vehicular use.

The gravel walking path. (Photo/Matthew Mandell)

Summit’s request by Summit to modify the easement was made following the Westport Planning & Zoning Commission’s denial of the Hiawatha project. Westport’s fire marshal had raised health and safety issues, noting that the only access to the complex was at the end of a long cul-de-sac.

Summit claimed there would be no environmental issues with the expansion of the path. However, the Norwalk Commission felt there was no need to modify the easement to allow for this.

Save Old Saugatuck, a neighborhood organization led by resident Carolanne Curry, was joined by members of the East Norwalk Neighborhood Association in opposing the request to modify the conservation easement to allow a road.

The Aspetuck and Norwalk Land Trusts both opposed the request as well. They said that modifying an easement for the sole benefit of a developer would set a bad precedent.

State senators Will Haskell and Tony Hwang, along with state representatives Jonathan Steinberg and Gail Lavielle sent letters in opposition. Hwang and Lavielle also spoke at the hearing.

Artist’s rendering of the proposed 187-unit apartment complex on Hiawatha Lane.

Norwalk’s opposition to the project mirrored what happened 14 years ago. Then, Westport residents spearheaded by Curry and RTM member Matthew Mandell aided Norwalk residents in their drive to preserve the land.

The no-road constraint in the easement was agreed to at that point, in part to stop  future cross-border encroachment.

The latest setback for Summit followed 2 appellate court decisions regarding a sewer extension. Summit also failed to block Westport from joining a suit filed by them against the State Housing Authority, seeking to overturn the moratorium granted from 8-30g applications.

(Hat tip: Matthew Mandell)

8 responses to “Hiawatha Lane Apartment Project Suffers Another Setback

  1. Werner Liepolt

    How much has Summit cost us Westport and Norwalk taxpayers in legal fees?

  2. Excellent news that Norwalk is acting sensible!

  3. I keep saying this development or that development is the last straw…but still here…but this one might be the…

  4. How much does it take for the developer to see that he has a crappy concept and that no amount of lipstick will beautify this pig?

  5. Michael Calise

    Congratulations Carolanne and Save Old Saugatuck!!!!

  6. Elizabeth Thibault

    This is excellent news and certainly the correct decision by the NCC, but we know this isn’t the last we’ll see of Charney/Summit. They’ve sunk too much money into this project to walk away. Stay aware and diligent. While they’re certainly entitled to improve and develop their property, they must do it in a way that is safe, smart, fitting, and non-destructive. There will be more to come, and we need to ensure they are held to the standards that do not endanger the neighborhood, residents (new and old,) and the environment.