History of Rights-of-Way on East Avenue Widening/Lowering and Railway Bridge
Dated: October 5, 2016
TO: John Igneri (Chair), Rich Bonenfant, Faye Bowman, Michael Corsello, Eloisa Melendez, Michelle Maggio, Tom Livingston
CC: Mayor Harry Rilling
Good afternoon Public Works Committee Members of the Council,
At last night’s meeting, there was considerable confusion about how a master rights of way agreement might impact the council’s prerogative with regard to state projects vs city projects. During that conversation, our Public Works Director informed you that the Rights of Way on the concurrent East Avenue roadway/East Avenue Railway bridge projects were never associated with the roadway. This is an error of fact.
A quick review of the progress of the ROW on these two projects, which were separate projects until 2012 (though advertised and planned together for coordination purposes) will show that the ROW issue was actively transferred from a city-sponsored project to a state-sponsored project to get around council opposition to the property takings–effectively making the issue of council consent disappear. I encourage you to review the history through the attached documents, and urge you to continue to do your own research to make sure you retain your privileges and ability to defend your constituents in the future.
- In 2009 RR Bridge (170-1375) – no ROW (Docs A & B)
- In 2009 Widening/Lowering East Avenue (102-297) – ROW required (Docs A & B)
- As a result of significant intervention by Councilmembers at the Public Works Committee Level, the resolution the Council ultimately approved contained language requiring continual input from the public on both projects – the resolution does not contemplate ROW (Docs C, D, E & F)
- In 2010 Common Council appropriates the 10% Municipal funds for Widening/Lowering into Capital budget for 2011-2012.
- In 2010 all public information session and all public hearings on both projects are exhausted. All discussion of easements/ROW reference ONLYthe Roadway Project 102-297 (Doc G (excerpts))
- In December 2010, as a result of the need for additional ROW activities/full takes, the resolution is put before the council again, for ONLYthe Roadway Project 102-297 (Doc H)
- In July 2011 Norwalk’s Public Works Committee fails to authorize the signing of a ROW agreement in connection with ONLYthe Roadway Project 102-297. Minutes document that the total takes are due to the lowering of the roadway creating unsafe egress for the properties on East Avenue. No mention is made of using the takes as a staging area for the railway bridge, nor is any reference made to a parking area. The majority of the votes against approval are documented as being in opposition of the takings. (Doc I)
- In August 2012 a significant change to the configuration of both projects is proposed (use of the proposed takings for a parking lot and transfer of unapproved ROW from a project that required a (once denied) ROW agreement due to funding sources to a project that did not require an ROW agreement. This change was neither presented to the public, nor to the Common Council of the City of Norwalk. (Doc K)
- In Sept 2012 drawings for a proposed parking lot are added to the project plans. (Doc L)
You will note that the council had significant impact on the discussions surrounding ROW throughout the process, providing considerable push-back at the committee level and seeking to modify the ROW agreement in favor of the residents on the CITY sponsored project. With a Master ROW, the dynamic you see here will not exist, because you will be presented only a terms sheet, not a request to authorize signature of an agreement, and the DOT will have a veto on any proposed changes.
In addition, you may remember that on the East Avenue project, the council also eventually passed a resolution regarding the clearance under the East Norwalk railway bridge, and made a change to an engineering agreement in respect of the preferred clearance. Under the Master ROW agreement (and the previously authorized Master Engineering Agreement), the State would also be able to ignore those decisions by the Council.