Friday, August 31, 2007
Pathways plan prompts lively discussion at Historical Commission
More than a dozen Historic District residents squeezed into the Historical Commission meeting at Town Hall on August 28 to hear about the latest plans for pathways in the town center and beyond. Chair Deb Belanger, Jack Troast and Selectman Alan Carpenito of the Pedestrian and Bike Safety Advisory Committee presented plans of proposed construction on Bedford Road, East Street, Lowell Street and Concord Street amid many questions and concerns voiced by the commissioners and abutters.
Historical Commission chair Peggy Hilton recommended that plans for each street be presented and discussed individually, beginning with Bedford Road, where the existing pathway from the post office to the ATM machine needs repair. Belanger said there would be no change to the siting and grade of the pathway, and that the top layer will be skimmed to remove the plant material, two courses of asphalt will be added, topped with a chip and seal surface (river run stone with an emulsifying layer). These materials were proposed for all the pathways and had previously been approved by the Historical Commission.
Bob Andrews of Lowell Street and other residents were concerned about pathway maintenance in the winter and the effects of plowing and freezing on the surface. Belanger assured them that a maintenance program was in the plan under the direction of Gary Davis of the Department of Public Works (DPW). As for durability of the materials, she pointed out that the Alcott House in Concord has a pathway of the same construction that has endured for 20 years.
Bedford Road blacktop
Love Seawright inquired about portions of an old blacktop path that run through her business property on Bedford Road. Belanger assured her that the pathway, that extends to Kimball's ice cream stand, will be at the same grade as the existing path and that special reference to this section will be added to the contractor's notes.
The Historical Commission approved the Bedford Road plan, noting no changes in alignment or elevation in the existing pathway.
The East Street plan had been approved by the commission in April 2005, with several conditions, including resiting of a stone wall on the Arnow property at 11 East Street. Belanger described the planned rebuilding of the wall to accommodate the pathway, which extends from the center to Partridge Lane. Property owner Elizabeth Arnow was present at the meeting and was satisfied with the plan.
The pathway crosses the David Chaffin property at 52 East Street and will impact the landscaping. Also, ledge is prominent on the property, and Belanger said, "Preliminary siting will depend on the conditions [the contractor] finds. We will limit destruction to the grassy area."
The commission gave its approval to the East Street plan. It next turned its attention to Lowell Street, where the proposed pathway extends from the post office to the Old Morse Road trail. Belanger unfurled a new plan, redesigned earlier that day, and pointed out that there were no proposed changes in the Historic District. The committee proposed removing a large elm at 109 Lowell Street. John Lee of 65 Lowell Street raised concerns about the impact of the pathway construction on his old and valuable black walnut tree. Arborist John Bakewell, also a member of the Pedestrian and Bike Safety Advisory Committee, agreed that the tree might be in harm's way. Belanger responded that "installation of the pathway will consider the roots" and that there would be a specific plan to protect the tree. Historical Commissioner Geoffrey Freeman suggested that the town hire an arborist to provide oversight for the pathway project, in addition to Bakewell and the supervision provided by the DPW.
Commissioner Larry Sorli proposed reducing the width of the pathways in the Historic District from five feet to four feet and adding curbing, stressing that the smaller width provides scaling more appropriate to the district. After considerable discussion, the commission approved the Lowell Street plan with qualifications on the four-foot width and curbing. The Historical Commission will recommend the exact location of the curbing.
Concord Street plan
A new plan for Concord Street was also presented, and lively discussion ensued between "We want it" residents on the west side of the street and "We don't want it" by one resident on the east side. The debate was sparked by an impassioned statement by Frank deAlderete of 106 Concord Street, who cited numerous traffic hazards for residents walking to and from the center, and asked why the pathway was currently sited on the east side. Belanger responded that there are more wetlands on the west side, that the police recommend as few crosswalks as possible, and that there were many families living on Clark Farm Road and Bingham Road who would use the pathway to walk children to school. DeAlderete and Concord Street residents Liz Carpenter and Sylvia Sillers (a member of the Historical Commission who recused herself) favored a plan that placed a portion of the pathway on each side of the street with two crosswalks in addition to the one in place at Church and Concord streets.
The Concord Street residents complained that they were never consulted about the plan nor notified of this meeting. "I read about it in the Mosquito," said deAlderete. As the clock inched toward 11 p.m., it was clear that these issues were beyond the Historical Commission review and a continuation was set for September 25. The pathways project will be discussed on September 6 at 8 p.m. at the next meeting of the Pedestrian and Bike Safety Advisory Committee.
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