Transportation issues dominated discussion during Vienna Town Council’s meeting Monday. The Council voted to support two traffic-calming measures at Walnut Lane and Elm Street. The Council also decided not to pass the resolution supporting the sales tax.
The request for traffic-calming measures on Walnut Lane was hotly debated between residents for and against any measure. Unlike other streets seeking traffic-calming requests, Walnut Lane, located off Lawyers Road in the northwest quadrant of the town, is a comparatively shorter and narrow street with a sharp curve. However, like other streets, residents say car volume and speed on the street are high. More than 20 residents came to the meeting to listen to the proceedings.
"Please consider the facts now," said Walnut Lane resident Dr. Jerry Covel to the Council. "You saw the numbers, you saw the speeds."
After examining the area, the Transportation Safety Commission recommended that the one-way sign currently on the street be removed and placed at another location, because the sign is misleading. The Council then explored the option of restricting right turns during peak hours.
But as soon as the Council put that option on the table, residents lined up for their turn to voice their opinion.
Supporters for the restrictive turning signs argued that safety was their biggest concern. Opposing residents argued that if the restrictive right-turn signs were placed, it would make it more difficult for other neighbors living in the area to get around.
ONE CONCERN was that if Walnut Lane gets two no-right-turn signs, the traffic would spread to other neighborhood streets already burdened with volume.
"A West Street neighbor told me there’s a fairness issue here. If you take traffic off Walnut Lane, it’s going to come to my house," said Pat Brandon.
After listening to the public speak, Councilwoman Maud Robinson said that speed, not volume, seemed to be the greatest concern for the residents. She then proposed that speed humps be placed in lieu of a restrictive turning sign.
The final motion that passed unanimously supported the creation of two speed humps on Walnut Lane.
"The most acute unhappiness is with speed," Robinson said.
The second traffic-calming measure was the request to place a speed hump on Elm Street. Residents said their petition for a speed hump from earlier this summer had been approved by the Transportation Safety Commission but never initiated. The Council then discovered that there was no record of the approval because, due to staffing changes that had occurred at that time, the approval wasn’t recorded in the minutes. The Council then voted unanimously to create a speed hump on Elm Street.
"It had fallen through the cracks," Mayor Jane Seeman said of the petition.
In addition to discussing traffic-calming measures, the Council debated whether to approve a resolution supporting the sales tax referendum. Councilwoman Laurie Cole supported the resolution, saying that the referendum approaches problems on an area-wide basis.
"I believe the sales tax referendum and what it hopes to accomplish is of great concern for Vienna residents," Cole said.
Councilman Vincent Olson disagreed, saying that the development plans fail to solve the traffic problem.
"We won’t gain anything from these roads," Olson said.
Councilwoman Robinson asked the Council not to pass the resolution, because she said the electorate can decide for themselves how to vote on the issue.
"The town has never taken a position on a bond referendum," Robinson said.
Albert J. Boudreau agreed and offered his motion to encourage voters to vote.
"I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Town Council to tell people what to do," Boudreau said.
Mayor Seeman said supporting the resolution does indeed show leadership and doesn’t sway voters to vote one way or the other.
"As leaders, we need to show that we’re taking a position," Seeman said.
The Council voted against the resolution to support the bond referendum 5-2, with Seeman and Cole voting for it.
The Council passed unanimously the second motion on the table, which urged citizens to vote as they deem appropriate.
OTHER ITEMS VOTED by the Council:
*The Council affirmed the decision to reject the sign put forth by Spokes Etc. Spokes Etc. had met with the Architectural Review Board to make a sign compliant with town regulations, but then it decided to use its original proposal for a sign, which had been previously rejected by the Council. A Spokes Etc. representative was not present for the hearing, so no explanation for the sign change was made.
*The recommendation from the Transportation Safety Commission to paint lines on eastbound Church Street at Beulah Road northeast to ensure that motorists do not use the asphalt nub as a turning lane was denied by the Council but accepted by the mayor. The Council declined the recommendation after hearing Vienna police chief Bob Carlisle affirm that making such a line would define the traffic limitation for that area. While the Council agreed that drivers should use caution when they turn, they acknowledged that making the turning area a violation could potentially make traffic within that area worse.
*The Council voted unanimously to accept the money from the State and Local Emergency Preparedness Grant. The $75,000 would go to the Vienna Police for the purchase of the following items: (1) a response-utility vehicle; (2) a reverse 911 system; (3) video surveillance for the police department. The grant money comes from the 2002 Federal Terrorism Act.