Council votes to revert to original sidewalk plan for Buckingham Village

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Wed., Jan. 22, 2014

The Glastonbury Town Council voted to add a sidewalk along Manchester Road, near Hebron Avenue, in front of the Buckingham Village shopping plaza, per an agreement that had an alternative plan in place which could not be approved.

The developer of the plaza, Sea View Irrevocable Trust, had deposited $40,000 with the town for the construction of sidewalks, to improve pedestrian access to the plaza. The five-year period lapses in May of 2014, at which time the funds would be returned to the developer if the town does not act on the project.

In its meeting on Sept. 11, 2012, a sidewalk plan for the west side of Manchester Road was approved which included a crosswalk near the plaza, but an accompanying crosswalk was not approved because of safety concerns, including those of the legal traffic authority, Police Chief David Caron, who said the curvature of the road limits the line of sight needed for drivers to stop in time for pedestrians. The sidewalk was then discussed by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Sept. 18, 2012, and did not receive a favorable recommendation.

Peter Alter, the attorney representing the developer's trust, said installation of the sidewalk would not provide a business benefit to the occupants of the center, and suggested that the funds be dedicated to a more suitable use. Alter said the developer offered to accept the return of half of the funds and would donate the remaining half, plus interest, to another town project, and cited the Riverfront Park improvements as an example.

“The construction of the sidewalk is not prudent,” Alter said, “does not create better bicycle or pedestrian circulation or safety in the area, and may well raise safety issues in the area by its installation.”

Councilman Whit Osgood said that the original plan for the sidewalk was for it to be constructed on the other side of the road, and he felt that the earlier options should be explored. “What we're doing this evening, I believe, is just falling back to the first position, which is the sidewalk along the east side of Manchester Road, as opposed to the alternative solution...which we couldn't get approval for,” he said.

“The funds are available, and it was the original intent of this PAD development,” said Councilman Larry Byar. “I believe it will make it much easier in the future, as we do look to connect the sidewalk infrastructure in this area.”

But other council members weren't sure that the town shouldn't take the developer up on his offer.

“It is a sidewalk to nowhere,” said Councilman Tim Coon. “I'm of the opinion that we should split the difference. There are a number of other locations in town that are just as valuable and necessary to pedestrian safety that we can use this [funding] for.”

Council Chair Chip Beckett said the town has been “stymied” because of the topography and trying to stay in keeping with the town's plan of conservation and development, which calls for pedestrian access to a “town village center” such as the Buckingham development.

The council voted for the original plan of construction sidewalks in front of the plaza, by a vote of 6-2.

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