Friday, May 1, 2009
Church Street by Common to remain two-way
Deb Belanger, Pedestrian and Bike Safety Advisory (Pathways) Committee Chair, presented a revised plan to the Board of Selectman (BOS) at Tuesday night’s meeting that would preserve two-way traffic at the Church Street intersection between Concord and School Streets. The revision, which she called “The result of multiple sequential compromises over a year and a half” would allow the entire circle of the Town Common to preserve two-way traffic flow, even though other portions of Church Street remain one-way in orientation. However, abutters who had requested the two-way road presented continued objections to the plan, requesting the town to consider re-engineering the pathway to put it farther from houses. The BOS voted to accept the revised plan as is.
“The widening of the road will allow it to remain two-way,” said Belanger. She noted The First Religious Society (FRS) has agreed to yield an up to a four-foot portion of the Town Common to enable the road to expand slightly and attain sufficient width for two-way traffic.The pathway will be located across the road from the Common and entirely within the town’s right-of-way.
The Board of Selectman approved the revised plan, 3-1 with Doug Stevenson, Al Carpenito, and John Williams for the plan. Bill Tice represented the lone negative vote, and explained that although he supported the two-way plan, he felt that the possibility of adjusting the pathway slightly away from abutter properties was worthy of further discussion. Selectman Tim Hult recused himself from the vote, explaining that he felt a conflict as he serves on the FRS parish committee and was representing the church at the meeting.
“The FRS enthusiastically supports the Pathway Plan and believes that this part [Church Street pathway] needs to be completed,” said Hult, but added “The Church is very much of the mind not to approve pathways on The Green itself.” Hult said the FRS would support the revised plan before the Selectman.
Hult noted that the FRS would also allow a slight adjustment at the intersection of Church Street and Concord Road to shift the pathway slightly away from abutter properties. A letter from the FRS sent to town officials dated April 27 stated the church would cede up to four feet to the town road but would prefer as “minimum intrusion” to the common as possible.
Belanger commented that the additional pavement of the Town Common was not needed for the project to go forward, and requested that the BOS approve the revised plan as presented to keep the project on track.
Residents abutting and living near the School and Church Streets intersection voiced their opinion on the revised plan.
“I’d like to request that the town consider giving the church’s generous offer to give the abutters a little relief from the existing pathways,” said Jack O’Connor, 68 Church Street, and admitted, “I know we agreed to all this last July, August.” Also an FRS member, he said that he appreciated not having to give up so much of an already tiny front lawn. He acknowledged the space lay in the “town’s right of way,” but supported moving the pathway slightly to give him relief in use and maintenance of his driveway. He further commented that the move would protect the tree roots better. He encouraged the town to “be a good neighbor to us.”
“I echo what Jack has just said,” said Sylvia Sillers, 49 Concord Street. “We all thought of the plan as being done. We were very much surprised that an entirely different plan showed up in the box of the Historical Commission [on Monday, May 27]. It doesn’t really give us much time to react. I have severe misgivings with the hearing tonight with one day notice [on the revised plan].” She also expressed satisfaction that the church would yield a little more land at the corner. She noted that the revised plan eliminated five feet of paving at the corner and thought that additional width might add to the safety of the intersection. She concluded, “I would hate to see us take precipitous action when a little more work would make this a little bit better.”
Stevenson turned the discussion back to the revised plan on the table. “My concern is that we’re well over a year into this discussion.” He called the solution as “livable” and cited the $6,000 already spent to support engineering plans for this intersection. He concluded that “at some point, the process needs to come to an end.”
Williams said that he had felt the main abutter concern had been to preserve two-way traffic. He believed the revised plan was a “major victory” and added, “I don’t now understand why we have another problem.” Belanger concurred, and endorsed the revised plan for Selectman approval.
After the Selectmen approved the revised plan, a visibly relieved Belanger picked up her materials and went on to the Historical Commission for final approval of the last outstanding piece of the pathways project. She was followed by a crowd of abutters and other residents from the BOS meeting. ∆
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