Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Brewster selectmen vote to spare the spruce

[I read today, 17 June 2009, that public opinion counts for something in Brewster. That’s not always the case here in the UK, even in Budleigh Salterton].

Christmas came in June for the Brewster “Christmas tree” as the white spruce at the intersection of Satucket and Stony Brook roads was spared from the woodsman’s ax.

The fifth iteration of the Stony Brook mill site drainage and roadway improvement plan not only leaves the tree and traffic island intact, it’ll maintain the parking spaces at nine (instead of 20-plus), add a handicapped space, improve sightlines up and down the road and include curbs to limit parking and control runoff.

At Monday night’s meeting the selectmen voted 5-0 to support the plan after rescinding their support of the previous plan.

“Clearly we heard the signal at the last meeting,” said selectman James Foley, referring to the huge crowd that protested the original plan.

“The tree stays. The island is larger. We’ve eliminated a lot of pavement (3,733 square feet) and added green space,” he noted.

“The tree will stay where it is and that’s fine,” agreed Dana Condit, chairman of the Mill Sites Committee. “We’re moving the crosswalk 50 feet to the east. That’s 50 more feet of run room when you look up and see a car or truck bearing down on you.”

The traffic island will have a teardrop shape and is one-way on either side, with the entrance on the right (with a jog so larger trucks can turn) and the exit on the left. The new stop line on the exit side will add 350 feet of visibility to the north and 130 feet to the south.

“You gain three seconds of reaction time looking right,” said Police Chief Richard Koch.

“Autos park on the right hand side of the road toward Run Hill Road now and that’s an extremely dangerous situation,” Condit said. “Curbing will be put in so that will not allow people to park there.”

People could park off Run Hill Road itself and walk on the grassy area created by the curbing. The handicapped spot will take up what was tow spaces, so two new spaces will be added on the left side of the lot. Signs warning motorist they are approaching a National Historic site will go up in all three directions.

“We don’t want to change the place. A lot of the changes we propose are not significant. I think they can be done attractively,” Condit explained. “It’s up to us to make it a little bit safer.”
Koch said he would still like to see angled parking (it is straight on the plan) but drivers would have to come from the Run Hill Road side to park.

“The police chief and Dana have done an excellent job of putting something together,” selectman Ed Lewis observed. “I’m supportive of this plan.”

Selectman Peter Norton added they’d balanced the environment with safety.

But not all of the 50 or so attendees were happy. Elbert Ulshoeffer still opposed altering the historic district site and noted the selectmen were required to approve any tree cutting around the mill.

“It seems the procedure itself is backwards,” he said. “It has to go before the Historic District Commission if you move those stone walls, and the historic district comprises 837 acres (in the valley).”

“We have talked about the Scenic Roads Act and are well aware of scenic road requirements,” answered Town Administrator Charles Sumner. “We know a hearing before the planning board is required. The board of selectmen is in charge of public roadways and we felt this process was proper, to present the plan to the board of selectmen and don’t go through the other permitting things until they look at it.”

Joel Connolly was concerned the curbs and drainage grates in the road (there is no room for them on the side) will cause problems for bicyclists, such as himself but Chief Koch noted bicyclists have the same right to the road as drivers.

Christine Durgin wondered why there was such a rush? Sumner explained the grant money needed to be spent within three years and it was received last fall. While they have two years left he’d like to start work this fall as the town has another $1.6 million grant for work on the Route 6A culvert in the pipeline.

“I want to say thank you on behalf of that great landmark,” resident Gordon Wright proclaimed. “You people have been open minded so I’m here to say thanks for listening.”

Text credit: Rich Eldred, reprinted with permission from The Cape Codder newspaper, Orleans, Massachusetts USA;

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