Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Feedback from Public on Preliminary Recommendations

The Town held two meetings to solicit feedback on the Main Street Master Planning Study. The first meeting included members of Town Boards and Commissions, as well as key stakeholders on Main Street. The second was open to the general public. At each, Chris Ferrero of Ferrero Hixon Associates presented a Power Point Presentation outlining the scope of the study, overall goals and an analysis of opportunities and constraints, as well as recommendations in the following areas: Regional, Land Use/Zoning, Recreation/Environmental, Market Assessment, Transportation, Sense of Place, Streetscape, Key Reinvestment Parcels and Sustainability.

We received the following feedback at the stakeholder meeting:

A member of the Windsor Locks Preservation Association asked about the establishment of Design Guidelines. He wanted to make sure there were some controls in place before any new buildings ever g0t constructed next to Memorial Hall (Ahlstrom Parking lot).

When is the commuter rail line expected to be in place? DOT is conducting environmental reviews now and expectation is that the rail line will be operation sometime around 2011.

One resident was concerned with the recommendation about narrowing roadway pavement. Mr. Ferrero weighed in that ultimately DOT has the say over roadway narrowing, that it would not impact the Level Of Service and that the Average Daily Traffic is really not significant.

A resident pointed out that there was an issue with the gates and that is why the train station was relocated. Mr. Ferrero mentioned the precedence of other stations in the state that are closer to the gates and that ultimately moving the station back closer to the historical stop would have to be vetted by Amtrak and DOT.

An attorney for Dexter Plaza had questions related to the impact on parking of a proposed shared parking scenario with Bickford, the Post Office and the Congregational Church as tenants like Ocean State need to be satisfied.

We received the following feedback at the public forum:

A question was raised as to what benefits do Windsor Locks residents get from improvements to the Suffield 190 bridge work and the 135 condos in the Montgomery complex? Mr. Ferrero spoke of the Canal trail being a draw to the downtown and that condos in the Montgomery complex would add up to 200 people to downtown who would utilize local businesses.

Are business/property owners on board? Mr. Ferrero outlined the meetings with Ahlstrom, Dexter Plaza and Montgomery developer. He shared the sentiments of Ahlstrom management that they would like to reconnect to the community.

How will improvements like the Dexter Plaza parking lot and other improvements be paid for? Mr. Ferrero commented that often public investment such as streetscaping can be a catalyst that spurs on private investment. He stated that the scope of the study was to make recommendations and that the implementation will require additional consideration.

A resident questioned how loud the “whistle and bells” would be from new trains.

A representative from the Friends of the Canal had a series of questions/concerns including why the need for a second track for the commuter rail. He cited Baltimore which operates on one track. He suggested to open the canal to boats once again. He pointed out that a cemetery exists (21 graves) in the vicinity of the rail that could be used to argue against a second track. He suggested a walking trail on the west side of the canal to the railroad bridge. He also suggested that a goal should be to have a continuous trail from Agawam, through Suffield and Windsor Locks and meeting up with trails in Windsor and ultimately Hartford.

A resident questioned the islands proposed on Main Street at the Bridge Street intersection. He said the intersection was improved to move traffic effectively and he did not want to see the flow of traffic impeded. Mr. Ferrero commented that any proposals would have to be approved by the State DOT and would have to meet their various roadway standards. Traffic calming is a goal of the study.

A member of the group trying to preserve the historic train station commented that the plan is supposed to be “visionary” and that though people may not agree with every recommendation it is important to take some baby steps in order to build momentum. She believes more greenery, beyond the flower pots, is needed in order to create a different perception.

Is there any remediation needed at the Montgomery Complex? Mr. Ferrero stated that the site is a brownfield and that the developer is dealing with remediation issues. It is common in these historic mill sites.

It was pointed out by one resident that congestion on Main Street is only part of the day and most of the time traffic is not a problem. Truck traffic can be an issue.

A member of Step Up Main Street suggested something like the Hudson River Institute (research institute) for the Montgomery building or an entertainment venue. Mr. Ferrero offered a recommendation to add a roof top restaurant to the Montgomery redevelopment.

One resident felt that residential for the Montgomery building would be a safety issue. He also would like to see public access to the CT River and commented that there is no boat ramp in town.

Another resident thought residential for Montgomery would be great and that sprinklers should be sufficient for any fire safety concerns.

Another suggestion was to establish a canal museum. Still another was to open up the south side of the Ahlstrom property in the vicinity of the locks and the historic looking Windsor Canal Company red building to the public. Keeping the vegetation maintained so the canal could be seen better is a great idea. Someone questioned who would maintain the vegetation since it is not under town control. Mr. Ferrero stated that we need to see exactly where the jurisdiction lines are for Ahlstrom, Amtrak and DOT and that maintenance by the Town may be the most effective.

Copies of the Consultants' Draft Report are available for viewing at the Windsor Locks Library and Town Hall.