Transit center planners hold 'design charette'
By Tom Phelan - Staff Writer
Enfield - posted Thu., Feb. 24, 2011
Enfield has taken another step forward in its dream for a multimodal transit center in the Thompsonville section of town. The town’s planning and development department conducted a public forum on Wednesday, Feb 23, to share potential concepts of the center with residents, and to solicit their comments. The forum was conducted as a “Design Charette” - a workshop format which encourages attendees to participate in the decision making process.
About 60 people took part in the meeting at the Village Center on High Street in Thompsonville, where they heard and saw, firsthand, the ideas that were being considered for inclusion in the multi-year, $10.6 million transportation project. It was the second public feedback session of the project-planning phase.
The first public feedback session was conducted at town hall on Jan 26. Representatives of the town and the project planners met with the immediate neighbors of the proposed site in the week prior to the charette.
The planners took the concepts and suggestions from those meetings, and came up with new and reworked concepts, which they shared with the audience as a whole in a short presentation that relied mainly on a series of bullet points. Then the audience was broken into three arbitrary groups to review the concepts, ask questions and learn more about the ideas behind the drawings and illustrations of the refined plans.
Community Development Planner Peter Bryanton told the assembly, “This is your opportunity to be a planner for a day. We seriously want your comments so that we can integrate them into the plan.” He also reinforced where the town was in terms of the project. “We’re not here to debate the merits of trains and buses, or where this transit center is going to be located, because those issues have already been resolved,” he said. “The state and federal governments are funding the transit center, and they said it’s going to be at the location that we’re looking at.”
A representative of Enfield’s design consultants, Kleinfelder/SEA, moderated each breakout group, while a scribe made notes about the group’s concerns and suggestions. The notes were used to share all the groups’ ideas with the entire audience just before the meeting closed.
A review of the project’s design goals included encouraging transit oriented development in the area, creating “right size” parking, restoring contaminated property and improving vehicle and pedestrian access.
The smaller discussion groups each covered a bullet list of topics that included aesthetics of the buildings and features of the center, traffic flow during construction, environmental considerations and even the name of the center.
Members of all the groups struggled to hear the points being made and the suggestions offered to the group leader in the cavernous Village Center meeting room. Nevertheless, participation was active. And, while some speakers might have monopolized the conversation, everyone seemed to have their thoughts heard during the hour-long discussion period.
For the most part, the charette focused on the initial implementation of the TTC’s functionality, which will be to serve as the focal point for bus traffic. The buses will be of the shuttle variety, such as Dial-a-Ride. The plans call for a bus loop that would start at the transit center, stop at many locations, such as the Enfield Square Mall, proceeding as far as Hazardville, and returning to the center. Buses would most likely run from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
One of the most sensitive issues confronting the project is the potential remediation of the presumably polluted property around the old casket company and other buildings. According to Bryanton, just getting permission to get on the property to conduct testing will be a lengthy and legalistic process. As things stand, the planners do not know the severity of the condition, much less, how long remediation might take and what it might cost to clean it up.
However, the availability of Greenfields grant money to address the pollution is in a very positive state right now, despite the national and state economic conditions, according to Bryanton.
Prior to the completion of architectural and construction plans for the Transit Center, Kleinfelder SEA, will refine all of the information from the meeting and incorporate many of the ideas into a final conceptual plan which will be presented to the Enfield Town Council on March 21. Once the plan gains the approval of the town council, the public will have another 30 days to review and comment on the conceptual plans.