In May, landscape architect Jim Donovan and Gail Henderson-King, of Lamoureux & Dickinson, sought public comment on their draft plan at a well-attended information meeting. Residents offered a number of suggestions, and Donovan and Henderson-King returned this week with a revised plan.
Donovan explained that the revised plan encompassing the town common, town hall, and library was a hybrid of options previously presented. At the last meeting, residents suggested more greenspace near the town hall, and better traffic flow in the proposed parking areas.
Donovan said their initial change eliminated parking next to the town hall, creating a large green. “The more we talked about it, the more we felt that moving a lot of parking farther away from the town hall was going to create problems,” he said. Instead, the new plan would split the current parking area in two. The half closest to Taft Brook Road would become greenspace. The half closest to the library would be parking.
The plan still includes the construction of a driveway and parking area on the east side of the town hall. The driveway would continue on behind the town hall to the parking lot located between the town hall and library, which would also connect to the library parking lot. “This is large enough for school buses and the MOOver to use,” Donovan said.
The plan also includes sidewalks connecting the library and town hall. Trees would line the property along the roadways. Donovan said the plan could also include “rain gardens,” parking lot islands that “recharge” rainwater into the ground, as an alternative to traditional wastewater runoff handling measures.
At the May meeting, several residents demanded cost estimates for the options. Donovan said the cost estimate for proposed work at the town common would be about $750,000. But Donovan said it was an extremely conservative estimate – the “worst case scenario,” he said. “That’s if it’s all put out to bid and done at one time. It can be done over time, and you can go back and remove things from the plan. If the town does some of the work, and if you recycle some of the gravel, it gets less expensive.” Donovan noted that the estimate also included a 20% contingency and 20% for engineering fees. “This is the maximum you might have to spend.”
Some residents at the meeting questioned the need for the greenspace at the front of the town hall. “We heard from the community that you needed the greenspace for events, summer festivals, weddings, farmers’ markets,” Donovan replied. “There were a lot of requests to increase the greenspace.”
The plan also calls for a realignment of the intersection of Cooper Hill Road and Holland Road, and elimination of the “Y” at the intersection of Taft Brook Road and Holland Road. Noting that $24,100 had been allotted for realignment of the Taft Brook Road intersection, Linda Kersten questioned whether it would be enough money. “Does that include taking out the tree stump (at the “Y” intersection) and paving?”
Henderson-King said the estimate covered the entire job, including paving. Pointing at a graphic of the plan, Donovan noted that the realignment would result in an increase of area for both the town common and the property on the other side of the intersection.
Adam Levine said he was concerned about circulation in the parking lots. “Even now, when we’re at full capacity, when the library and town hall are being used, people are coming in and exiting all at the same time. This pattern looks like anything but easy-in and easy-out.”
Donovan said the configuration of the new parking areas would “force drivers into a pattern to get in and out. Ultimately it’s safer than the melee that occurs out there.”
The Route 100 corridor landscaping appeared to be substantially changed from the previous options. Gone were the roadside parking and some of the sidewalks included in the original plan.
Under the plan, the town would line Route 100 with trees. The effect would be to calm traffic as well as create a country road aesthetic. A narrow strip of greenspace, with trees, would line portions of the open area in front of Central Appliance and adjacent buildings, creating entrances and exits to the parking areas. The plan would create two “gateways,” at Dunn’s Corner and at the intersection of Route 100 and Blue Brook Road.
One of the biggest changes was the addition of bus stops along Route 100. The change angered selectboard member William “Buzzy” Buswell, owner of a taxi service and bus tour business.
“MOOver stops?” asked Buswell. “We decided a long time ago, as part of a compromise, that not a single taxpayer dollar would be used for the MOOver, and you’re suggesting MOOver stops that cost the taxpayer money.”
Donovan started to say the stops wouldn’t have to be built with taxpayer money, but Buswell continued.
“I already pay my taxpayer dollars to put myself out of business. I’m against using taxpayer dollars for the MOOver. It’s an insult to me to say you’re putting up MOOver stops. It’s 80% subsidized by the government and puts private businesses out of business.”
Linda Anelli, a MOOver board member, said there may be federal funding available for the stops. “While looking at transportation to make it as efficient as possible, if there are better stops for the MOOver, the MOOver has access to funding. VTrans and the feds encourage better designed stops.”
Buswell repeated his claim that the MOOver was putting other companies out of business. “Before the MOOver, there were five transportation companies in the valley,” he said. “There are two today. You’re talking about spending taxpayer dollars to enhance the MOOver, and I take offense to it.”
“Okay,” said Donovan. “I haven’t heard that before. It’s a good comment to make.”
The total estimate for the Route 100 corridor was about $767,000, with the same caveats as the town common estimate. Like the town common project, Donovan said it could be phased in so that the expense wouldn’t come all at once.
Levine questioned the cost estimates, noting that in one section, a bench was priced at $5,000. “Is this really padded that much? Are we potentially talking about spending only a third of the (estimate)?”
Henderson-King said the numbers were intentionally conservative. If this doesn’t get done for another 10 years, someone will say ‘Why were the numbers so low?’ We’re trying to pick a ballpark figure.”
Donovan explained that the planning process wasn’t at the point where specific equipment and materials could be priced yet. “We’re giving you the maximum amount we think this will cost. Most likely you can get it for less.”
A final presentation, including revisions from Wednesday evening’s meeting, is scheduled for Tuesday, September 18.