The What: This Week in Southwest Connecticut

The What is your look around southwest Connecticut—from Greenwich to Fairfield—for the week of March 14.

The What: This Week in Southwest Connecticut
Warmer weather days are on their way. Photo by Kelly Prinz. 

March 14

Happy Monday and happy almost spring! The forecast this week with highs in the 50s for our area has us excited for the warmer months ahead and all the fun outdoor activities that come with it.

For now though, we’re still in the heart of budget season. Stamford Mayor Caroline Simmons presented her first budget this past week, while Norwalk, Darien, Westport, and Fairfield conducted public reviews on their proposed budgets. Let’s take a look at what’s happening around our region this week.


Mayor Caroline Simmons laid out three main priorities in her proposed $638.4 million budget:

  • Advancing economic prosperity and working to make Stamford more affordable and equitable
  • Investing in infrastructure and quality of life initiatives
  • Making government work better for residents

“Budgets are a reflection of our values as a city,” Simmons told a joint meeting of the Board of Finance and Fiscal Committee of the Board of Representatives on March 9.

Of the $638 million, about $591 million is proposed to be generated by local taxes, with the remainder coming from other sources, such as state funding and revenue generated by city departments.

The city side of the budget includes $182 million in operating expenses, $87 million for employee benefits, and $52.7 million in debt service, for a 1.4% increase over last year’s budget. The proposed budget for the Board of Education is $308 million, along with an additional $4.5 million that the city spends to support educational programming, which overall is a 4.9% increase over last year.

In total, the proposed mill rate, or tax levy, is projected to increase just under 1%.

“We didn’t want to overly burden the Stamford residents this year,” Simmons said. “We’re all feeling the rising cost of living. This budget keeps in mind what people are feeling in Stamford.”

This week, reviews of individual department budgets will continue. The Fiscal Committee will hold a budget hearing on Tuesday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m. when it will review the budget of operations-related expenses, including vehicle maintenance, solid waste, stormwater management, road maintenance, leaf pickup, and snow removal. On Wednesday, March 16 at 7 p.m., there will be a joint meeting of the Board of Finance and Fiscal Committee to review the budgets of the police department, animal shelter, and fire department.

Learn more.

Other meetings this week include:


The Board of Estimate and Taxation will continue its department-level review of the city’s proposed $414 million budget this week. On Monday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m., the board will discuss the budgets of economic and community development; transportation, mobility, and parking; planning and zoning; code enforcement; business development and tourism; and police. On Tuesday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m., the board will review all open items—or budget items that the board asked for more information on throughout the process.

The Board of Education will discuss and possibly vote on the proposed plans for a new Norwalk High School at its meeting on Tuesday, March 15 at 7 p.m.

After months of community meetings, presentations, and discussions, the Norwalk Board of Education will be deciding between two options for the planned new Norwalk High School. Both options cost a little over $190 million and the plan is to receive about 80% reimbursement from the state.

Initially, the total project cost was slated for $225 million, but the state, “due to other competing projects,” allocated $189 million for the project, according to Jim Giuliano, the project manager, which forced the city to change its plans for the site. This included keeping the current science wing and renovating it as new, reducing the footprint, and potentially finding other funding options for the swimming pool. Both Mayor Harry Rilling and Superintendent Alexandra Estrella expressed support for keeping the pool in the project, after hearing concerns from parents about it potentially having to be cut. Rilling said in February that he was talking with a foundation about exploring potential “funding options.”

After reworking the plans, the school district and its consultants came up with two options:

  • Option A: Construct a new building in the footprint of the existing building
  • Option B: Construct the new building on the current football field

In a letter to the Board of Education, Alan Lo, the city’s buildings and facilities manager, recommends that the board approve Option B.

“We believe building a new school on Testa Field (Option B) is the most practical option,” Lo said. “This provides the least amount of disruption to academics and daily operations of the school as well as allows the design to be consistent with the educational goals of the new facility.”

Learn more.

Other meetings this week include:


A new draft affordable housing plan for Fairfield aims to find “ways to address housing affordability” in the town and find ways to “expand housing options and choices.”

The Affordable Housing Committee will be unveiling the draft of the 2022-27 Affordable Housing Plan, at a joint meeting with the Plan and Zoning Commission on Monday, March 14 at 7 p.m. It is the first public presentation of the draft, which is necessary to satisfy a state requirement of having an affordable housing plan in place by June 2022.

The plan has found that Fairfield needs both more housing units overall to support the town’s growing population and that it needs more housing options and choices to support the different needs of residents, such as parents looking to downsize when their kids move out or younger residents looking to move out.

The plan also argues that steps could allow the town to “take control of its future” and make sure that the developments in town fit with both the affordable housing needs and the community around it.

Some recommendations in the plan include:

  • Increasing the affordability set-aside requirements (perhaps to 15% or higher) in all zoning districts—which means that if a new development is built at least 15% must be reserved as affordable units.
  • Amending zoning regulations for the Designed Residence District that would allow for more  housing options, increase the number of affordable housing units, and enable smaller housing developments. This could be done through requiring deed-restricted units or allowing more density.
  • Supporting the Fairfield Housing Authority in their work to create additional affordable housing units.

Learn more.

The Board of Finance held its first public hearing on the proposed $342.7 million budget this past week, heard a presentation from First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick, and began its department reviews. The board has heard from nonprofit organizations who receive some town funding; the administrative and general offices, which include the First Selectwoman’s Office, Community and Economic Development, and Plan and Zoning; and the Finance Department.

The board will hold more public sessions this week including a review of the Board of Education budget on Tuesday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m. and a review of the budgets for health and welfare; culture and recreation; and public works on Wednesday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m.

Other meetings this week include:


The Representative Town Meeting will vote to approve funding to address the issues at Central Middle School at its meeting on Monday, March 14 at 8 p.m. So far, the Board of Education and Board of Estimate and Taxation have approved $1.6 million for repairs on the current building and an additional $150,000 for education specifics and environmental analysis for future construction on a new Central Middle School building.

The RTM will also consider a “sense of the meeting” resolution, which aims to express the opinion of the board on a certain issue, this time on the state’s affordable housing statute.

If passed, the resolution could be one of the loudest calls to action to amend the state statute by a municipality.

The goal of the statute is to increase affordable housing, particularly in areas outside of the cities, which tend to have the most affordable housing options. Its supporters argue that the statute has helped create more affordable housing options in the state, and particularly in more affluent communities. Local officials across the state and in Greenwich have cited some of the negative impacts of the developments, some of which are laid out in the resolution.

The proposed resolution states that the town has seen a significant increase in “8-30g” developments. Over the prior 29 years, according to the resolution, Greenwich had 8 projects filed under this statute. In the past 14 months, 13 projects have been filed by developers under 8-30g.

“Under CGS § 8-30g developers may construct buildings substantially in excess of Greenwich’s local zoning limits, as long as 30% or more of the units are deemed affordable,” the resolution reads. “The combined impact of these projects filed under CGS § 8-30g will have significant negative consequences for the environment and for town infrastructure as developers’ plans would require the clear-cutting of trees, an increase in the amount of impervious surfaces, and could overwhelm the capacity of Greenwich’s wastewater treatment plant, roadways, drainage systems, and schools.”

Learn more.

Other meetings this week include:


The Board of Finance hosted its first public hearing on the more than $143 million budget last week, and there will be a second hearing this week on Tuesday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m. Following the public hearing, the Board of Finance, at 7:30 p.m, will discuss and vote on the plans to spend $6.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The Education Committee of the Representative Town Meeting will also be conducting a budget review and discussion on the Board of Education’s budget on Monday, March 14 at 7 p.m.

Other meetings this week include:


This week, First Selectwoman Jen Tooker is kicking off a series of community meetings on resident traffic and safety. Tooker and members of the public works, planning and zoning, and public safety departments will be inviting residents from each district in town about their concerns on traffic, pedestrian, and bicycle safety, as well as what town officials are currently working on to address those problems. Some of those solutions are a part of Tooker’s proposed budget for the town. While all residents can attend any meeting, each meeting will be focused specifically on the district listed.

The first meeting will take place on Thursday, March 17 at 7 p.m. for residents of District 1. (See this town map to find your district.)

Other meetings this week include:

Please note: All of these agendas and information here are current as of Sunday evening. Meeting times and agendas may get adjusted throughout the week.

Thank you for reading! Hope you all have a safe and healthy week, and as always, feel free to leave us some feedback using this short survey, which will help inform our work.

Have a great week,

Kelly Prinz

Founder, Reporter at Coastal Connecticut Times