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Road Safety Issues Being Ignored

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Editor,

     Serious concerns by neighbors concerning traffic and road safety issues were expressed to Mayor Michael Newhard and the Village Planning Board during its Tues., Dec. 10 meeting at Town Hall.  These discussions were presented by neighbors from Sleepy Valley Rd., Woodside Dr., and Locust St. Many of these concerns centered on the intersection of Woodside Dr. and Locust St. near the entrance to the currently proposed development before the Planning Board known as Village View.

     The most alarming of these concerns was brought forward by Locust St. resident Donna Kipp. She presented to the Mayor and, later, to the Planning Board members, an iphone video she herself had recently made. It showed a stream of cars approaching the intersection at high speed and making right turns without stopping. It occurred to neighbors that there was no mention of this striking traffic hazard in the applicant’s traffic reports.

     After the meeting, the neighbors went on to examine the most recent traffic report prepared by Mr. Silber’s traffic consultant, Creighton Manning of Albany, NY. (pages 21-43 of the Supplemental “EIS”).

     In the interim between the Tues., Dec. 10 meeting at Town Hall (covered by the Dispatch) and the Tues., Jan. 14 follow-up Planning Board meeting at Village Hall we closely examined the applicant Charles A. Silber’s SEIS traffic report, keeping in mind the wide variety of specific concerns expressed by neighbors at the Tues., Dec. 10 Town Hall meeting.

     In the report, we found what we believed to be an alarming number of quantitative mis-statements concerning road conditions as they influenced accidents, misrepresentations of road conditions, mis-characterizations of road safety, and omissions of serious occurrences, such as a recorded fatality and major crashes. The fatality occurred near the point on Sleepy Valley Rd. which Dr. Mark Tuckfelt identified as one of its most dangerous sections; (a few weeks later, following the Tues., Jan. 14 meeting) we spoke with the Creighton Manning project manager, Kenneth Wersted (who actually had written the original published traffic report of 2018 and its SEIS sequel). He told us that he was “appalled” by the occurrences we cited, but, due to budgetary and time constraints, was not able to examine local conditions such as the major crash at the Decker house at the intersection of Locust and Woodside four and one-half years previously.

     We then went on to draft our “appeal” to the mayor and the Planning Board members. Our points were based on the traffic and road safety concerns we had voiced to the Mayor and members of the Planning Board at the Tues., Dec. 10 meeting combined with our disappointed examination of Mr. Silber’s SEIS traffic report. The appeal detailed our critical observations concerning roadway and traffic safety conditions as made by informed neighbors (Stanley van Duzer and John Sinsabaugh). These neighbors have lived here in this neighborhood for most of their adult lives.

     We saw that Donna Kipp’s video seriously challenged the validity of Mr. Wersted’s quantitative and computer-based approach, an approach which drew its conclusions from what we see as the mere quantification of turns by cars at a number of intersections, most of which do not have any direct bearing on the safety of our neighbors.

     In our appeal we requested a new traffic report which “takes into account the full variety of traffic dangers facing our community.” In any case, we believed that our appeal would lead to some kind of constructive conversations between members of the Planning Board, the concerned neighbors, the Mayor, and the applicant, Mr. Silber, and hopefully looked forward to the Tues., Jan. 14 Planning Board meeting at Village Hall as providing a forum for such a conversation.

     Mr. Wersted, presented to us by the Planning Board, as a “traffic engineer” was the featured speaker. The Tues., Jan. 14 Planning Board meeting did not provide a forum for such a conversation. The gag rule was in effect for the entire hour: this means that the only permitted discussion that was allowed to take place was between members of the Planning Board (including its attorney) and Mr. Wersted.

     Erased from the discussion during this meeting were all prior verbal and visual points raised regarding road and traffic safety by concerned neighbors (including Donna Kipp’s iPhone video) at the Tues., Dec. 14 meeting, and any fair mention of the contents our Tues., Dec. 19 appeal to Mayor Newhard and the Planning Board; Mr. Dickover’s (the Village attorney) mis-characterization of the neighbors’ position rendered unrecognizable the points the neighbors had taken pains to present at the Tues., Dec. 10 Town Hall meeting.

     Raymond Maher, a very well-informed neighbor (a thirty-year resident of our neighborhood) said to the full Planning Board at the close of the meeting that he believed there were numerous “mistakes” in the discussion which had just taken place between the Planning Board members and Mr. Wersted. A Planning Board member then told him he was “out of line.”

     We submit that Mayor Newhard and the Planning Board have completely ignored these constructive comments from concerned citizens, and for reasons best known to them, are considering an SEIS that is seriously flawed and completely unacceptable. If the developer is allowed to go ahead with the current plan, it will, we believe, put residents of Woodside Dr. Locust St., and Sleepy Valley Rd. at serious risk of injury and, possibly, even death. We believe, in our account of the foregoing, that the underlying principle of “home rule” has been ignored.

     We believe that Village residents should be made aware of how irresponsibly our elected officials are behaving in this regard.

JOHN GRUEN & FREYA CARLBOM

GUY & DONNA KIPP

DAVID DEMPSTER

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