Monday, September 30, 2013

East Street Subdivision Decision Postponed

Westfield Fire Department is immediately
across the street from this lot

The Planning and Zoning Commission heard concerns from neighboring residents and the Westfield Fire Department about water drainage, traffic, and public safety, during a public hearing on an East Street subdivision application Wednesday evening. The Commission was responsive to residents' concerns, and decided to continue the public hearing until October 23rd, to give the applicant more time to address them.

The application was for a modest subdivision of 3 houses on 2.5 acres, across from the Westfield Fire Department at the intersection of East and Miner Streets. The lot was recently clear cut, and an 1850 house demolished. This area of East Street has seen a large number of houses built in the past decade, especially on the ridge above East Street. The Commission heard from several residents that the houses on East Street, and East Street itself are prone to flooding.

Charlotte McCoid owns a house bordering on the lot, she expressed concern about the impact of increased storm runoff on the street, as well as neighboring properties. She and her sister Barbara each gave a historical overview of the area, having grown up in this area. They worried about the impact of new houses and landscaping which would block views for traffic along East Street, Barbara said, "I see this as additional traffic accidents waiting to happen."

In an unusual move, the Westfield Fire Department retained a lawyer, Mike Dowley, to express its concern about traffic. Dowley said the Fire Department uses 10 large trucks, and during an emergency call, the volunteer fire fighters arrive rapidly at the station, park their vehicles and rush the trucks out for the call.  The intersection with Miner Street contains a large green in the middle, which the trucks must use when turning. Dowley urged the Commission to postpone a decision until the impact of the subdivision on traffic could be studied.

The lawyer for the applicant cautioned the Commissioners that the concerns were about an existing condition, "No evidence has been presented to indicate that these (new houses) would make existing conditions different." She added, "If we comply with the regulations, then under the rules, we are entitled to an approval."

Commissioner Ken McClellan concurred, he defended the rights of a property owner to do what they wanted with their land.

Other Commissioners disagreed. Commissioner Dan Russo felt that traffic and public safety was important, "It's not just a safety issue for these three houses." Russo asked if the applicant would accept a delay so that the issues of traffic could be studied.

The applicant agreed to the delay, and the Public Hearing was continued to the October 23rd meeting of the Commission.
Author's Disclaimer: I am providing information about P&Z meetings, as I have done since 2008, on a volunteer basis for The Eye. I am now a candidate for the Planning and Zoning Commission, and I will continue to cover P&Z until the election in November, because my motivation as a volunteer and one of my goals as a candidate is to increase community understanding of and involvement in land use decisions. The Eye welcomes coverage of P&Z (and other municipal meetings) by any correspondent, including all candidates for office; I would be thrilled to divest myself of The Middletown Eye's P&Z "beat".

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