Planners reexamine Depot Street corridor

MANCHESTER - The Manchester Planning Commission dealt with an array of topics on Monday night, one of which was the proposal for alterations to the Depot Street corridor.

Ultimately it was decided that Regional Planner/Transportation Manager for the Bennington County Regional Commission, Mark Anders, would come back to the board with more information at least by the Nov. 18 meeting if not when the commission has its next meeting in October. One proposal for the redesign of the corridor included eliminating the turning lane, creating 10.5 foot traveled lanes with bike paths on either side. That proposal also included a narrow strip of green space between the bike paths and the sidewalks.

Another proposed alteration was to replace the existing center lane with an island of green space also known as a refuge island. Anders said that the refuge island was a good feature that would allow pedestrian traffic to cross the street without as much effort.

"One of things with streets like Depot Street, even with crosswalks, it can be hard to get across the street because there's a lot of traffic coming both ways," said Anders. "So, if you have a pedestrian refuge island, as shown here in the drawing, you get halfway across, wait for a break in traffic and then get across the whole way."

In that plan, the refuge island would be eight feet wide with a one foot offset on each side of it.

There was also a third option that left the turning lane in tact.

Planning Directior and Zoning Administrator Lee Krohn said that it appeared that of the three options there was only one - the option with the refuge island - that required construction and that the other two seemed to just involve resriping certain areas of the street. However, Anders said that was not correct.

"They will all involve construction because you will be [constructing] the buffer zone, which would physically narrow the roadway by quite a bit; by nine feet. So, there will be a lot of construction with this," said Anders. "It depends on how many turn lanes you want for how many feet."

Anders suggested possibly only including turning lanes at Price Chopper and the major intersections.

The planning commission also made the decision to be the lead community on the regional application in the solid waste plan. Manchester is currently part of a solid waste implementation program that was adopted by nine towns. Regional Planner for the BCRC, Michael Batcher, said that they have been in contact with the nine existing towns that are part of the plan as well as Bennington, Woodford and Stamford and have come to an agreement to create a 12 town plan.

"To try to offset the cost of this, which is a pretty big project Manchester is applying for a municipal planning grant for as much as $35,000," said Batcher. "The towns that are involved in this would then contribute the necessary matching funds. Manchester and the other nine towns already contribute funds to implement the current solid waste plan so it's no additional funding from you it would be additional funding from Bennington, Woodford and Stamford. We're estimating this is a total of about a $55,000 project to complete the whole plan."

Batcher continued to say that there were a lot of possibilities for resource sharing that would save money over time. The grant would not be awarded until December - if Manchester were to receive it - and it would not go into effect until 2014. Another issue that arose at the meeting centered around business owners hanging "Open" flags, which exceeded the size limit permited in the town's ordinance.

Guy Thomas, owner of Zoey's Deli, urged the board to consider changing the ordinance. Thomas had been hanging one of three flags that he had designed on the building until he was told he was in violation.

Thomas has always had an issue with people realizing they're open given that Zoey's is setback off the road. It was for that reason that he created his flags.

"We decided to take a more aggressive way of expressing that we were open, because I honestly wasn't aware that you couldn't do that," said Thomas. "We felt that this had some imagination, it had some color. It looks good from a distance and we would like some consideration to maybe at some point do it again."

Owner of Garden Arts, Steve Burzon, said he wrote a letter to the editor, which he received about 30 responses to - mostly in support of the businesses being able to hang up open flags.

Eventually the board decided to research the matter further and address it at the next meeting in October.

The board also revisited the concept of applying for a Village Center designation. Among other things the creating a Village Center designation would allow the town to more easily obtain grants. There is also a Downtown designation, which is a larger project with even bigger benefits. If the town decides to pursue the Village Center designation, Krohn said that it did not preclude them from obtaining the Downtown designation in the future. At the outset of the meeting there was also a reorganization of the board. Earlier this year the board's former chairman, John Ringwood, took a seat on the Development Review Board and they also lost some other board members. Unable to fill the vacancies, the Select Board took action and made the planning commission a five member board.

When the board reorganized on Monday night, Bill Drunsic was named the new chair and Greg Boshart was named the vice chair.

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