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Board of Selectmen Meeting Minutes

CITIZEN STATEMENT TO BOARD OF SELECTMEN
Thursday, May 6, 2004

SUBJECT: PROPOSED RECONSTRUCTION OF SOUTH NEWFANE BRIDGE - BR-14

First, we wish to thank you for the careful attention which you give to the business of our Town. We know that you have many issues to deal with, and many details to address. We do not want to take a lot of your time from this business tonight.

We are here to express our concern with the Department of Transportation's proposed reconstruction of the South Newfane Bridge, BR-14. In this regard, we also thank you for the courtesy which you extended to the property owners most effected by the plan when you met with them concerning the plan.

Neighbors in South Newfane decided to meet and discuss the proposed plan. Word spread and over forty people responded from South Newfane, Williamsville, and the hill farms of the southern part of our Town.

After long discussion, this statement was prepared by several in attendance, and represents the opinion of those town citizens.

Initially we assumed that the proposal for the bridge came from the initiative of Vtrans engineers with a straighter, wider, faster mentality in road design. As we have researched Selectboard minutes and from information received yesterday, it appears that this design derives from the decision of the Selectboard. We are here to express our strong opposition to this design.

The Proposed design for Bridge #14, as we understand it, will straighten the road, widen the bridge, makes no provision for pedestrians, deletes the stop sign, eliminates many trees, takes land from adjoining landowners, and will, according to a Selectperson's quote of a Vtrans engineer, tend to make traffic go faster. Selectboard minutes (February 18, 2004) read: AThe realignment will improve the turning radius onto Auger Hole Road. (TH#5) The bridge will be four feet wider. No sidewalk is included in the reconstruction plans.

We strongly object to each of these aspects of the plan - the straighter road, wider bridge, absence of concern for pedestrians, deletion of the stop sign, elimination of trees, taking of land. We are offended that a bridge design would be proposed that only addresses traffic, and ignores the people who live in the village. We are offended that this design makes it easier for trucks to turn onto Augur Hole Road, and does nothing for the safety of pedestrians.

The design will also severely alter the nature and character of the Village of South Newfane, making it just one more blip on the traveler's highway. The construction, which will require the removal of many mature trees and new plantings, will result in a defoliation of the village for many years.

The proposed design ignores the Dover Road study, ten years of work by the Village Enhancement Committee, long-standing concern by citizens about slowing traffic in the villages, the current efforts to attain federal historic district recognition, and your own current Traffic Calming Committee.

Let it also be noted that there is distrust over the long-term plans for the Dover Road - a belief that this is an incremental step in creating a Class 1 Highway connecting Route 30 and Route 100, and that eventual steps will include straightening the curve by the Green Iron Bridge, replacing the Covered Bridge and Arch Bridge with Amodern bridges, and continuing to widen and straighten the length of the roadway.

Further, the proposed design ignores many planning principles in the ANewfane Town Plan, adopted June 4, 1998. To give just a sampling:

Community Goals - Planning Goals, p.4
1) To plan development so as to maintain the historic settlement pattern of compact village centers separated by rural countryside.
4) To plan for safe, convenient, economic and energy efficient transportation systems that respect the integrity of the natural environment, including public transit options and lanes for pedestrians and bicyclers.

Transportation, p.56, last paragraph - excerpt
Transportation planning, however, will require attention to more than just the movement of people and things from place to place; ensuring public safety and environmental protection, and maintaining ... the quality of life in Newfane are important elements in successfully meeting the community's broad needs.

Transportation, pp.63-64, Transportation Policies
1) The Town's road system should provide convenience and service at a level commensurate with need, while respecting the integrity of the natural environment, maintaining the community's rural character and historic sites, and ensuring public safety.
3) Town highway projects should be consistent with the Newfane Town Plan.
5) Development shall result in safe traffic conditions for pedestrians and motorists.
8) New construction or major reconstruction of roads and highways may include lanes for bicycles and pedestrians, wherever feasible ....
10) No improvement of the main road from East Dover to Williamsville Station should be constructed for the specific purpose of expediting motor traffic flow to or from the Deerfield Valley recreational areas.

Transportation Recommendations, p. 64

1) The Town shall regularly review the Vermont Agency of Transportation's proposed construction projects to ensure consistency with the Newfane Town Plan.

Historical Preservation Policies, p. 77
1) Land use activity which preserves the historic and architectural character of Newfane Village, Williamsville, South Newfane and Brookside shall be encouraged.
2) Development which would adversely affect historic structures and sites, including destruction or alteration, isolation from or alteration of surroundings, or the introduction of nonharmonious visual, audible or atmospheric elements (such as telecommunications equipment and utility lines), should be discouraged.
6) Historic District structures are considered a scenic resource and are to be maintained so that they enhance the scenic or visual importance.

While there is an unfortunate lack of force in the Newfane Town Plan in the use of Ashould and Amay, the accumulative weight of the above citations is clearly in contrast to the proposed plan. The Newfane Town Plan should not be cavalierly dismissed (as the planned bridge appears to do) as Anice, but not applicable, practicable, enforceable, or required.

We don't think the Selectboard, representing the town's citizens, caretaking the Town Plan, and conducting the town business, can responsibly ignore the Newfane Town Plan in its decision, nor fail to hold Vtrans to the guidance of the plan.

On April 24, 2000, the Selectboard did a AConceptual Plans Review which provided for the reconstruction of Bridge #14. Preliminary plans for the rehabilitation of Bridge #14 were approved on August 16, 2001, and comments were sent to the state on October 4, 2001. These plans included removal of the current two-foot wide sidewalks, and were to include traffic Aoff-center to accommodate the painting of a walkway section on the store side of the bridge. (Minutes 08/16/01) These were the plans which received overwhelming support at a public hearing.

On April 3, 2003, the Selectboard voted to replace the bridge (at an estimated cost to local taxpayers of $120,000) rather than rehabilitiate the bridge (at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $32,000). There have been many changes in the membership of the Board, and new members are unlikely to have had an opportunity to become fully apprised of previous hearings and actions, and the reasons for them. We would prefer to believe that the Selectboard was not fully informed when they made their decision to replace the bridge. We don't think the board deliberately ignored previous citizen input and previous Selectboard decisions. There is nothing wrong with making a wrong decision providing it is corrected in time.

We are respectfully requesting that the Selectboard correct the decision of April 3, 2003, and the subsequent actions on February 19, 2004.

We request that the Board of Selectmen immediately communicate with the Vermont Department of Transportation that the proposed reconstruction of the South Newfane Bridge (BR-14) is
- inconsistent with the Newfane Town Plan in multiple ways
- inconsistent with the Dover Road study, contradictory to the efforts of the Village Enhancement Committee, and unresponsive to the current efforts of the Traffic Calming Committee.
- inconsistent with previously expressed public opinion and Selectboard decisions.
- costly to the taxpayers of the Town
- strongly opposed by residents and taxpayers of the Village of South Newfane and many informed residents and taxpayers of the Town of Newfane, and certain to result in costly, divisive, contentious, and perhaps litigious confrontations throughout the planning and implementation.

We request that the Board of Selectmen immediately instruct the Vermont Department of Transportation to prepare a plan which will reconstruct or rehabilitate the South Newfane Bridge (BR-14) consistent with the earlier decision of the Selectboard, and which will
- maintain the current bridge alignment, including the curve in the present bridge
- maintain the current width of the bridge
- provide for pedestrian safety
- undertake the project without a temporary bridge
- forcibly address traffic calming

(It should be noted that there is considerable sentiment that a covered bridge would be an even better plan, and could be designed to accommodate all emergency vehicles, and most delivery trucks, and would truly restore an historic aspect and appearance to the village.)

On the cover of the Newfane Town Plan are these words: AOur communities and towns are what we make of them ... or what we allow them to become.

We do not want our villages destroyed by bad highway designs. We are intent on maintaining our villages as places where we can live, bike, walk, stand about and gossip - and do so in peace and safety. Our life in our communities is more important than the roads that pass through them. Our peace and safety is more important than the traffic that passes through.

We view the Proposed Reconstruction of the South Newfane Bridge as a serious threat to the Village of South Newfane and the character of the Town of Newfane, and we respectfully request that your ultimate decisions regarding the Bridge #14 Project reflect the interests, desires, and safety of the residents and taxpayers of the Village of South Newfane who will be most affected by the project, and the Town of Newfane which must endure the changes to our town's character by your decisions.

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