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Displaying items by tag: Willard Clark
Malta Town Board: The Process of Progress
MALTA— The Malta Town Board meeting on Monday, April 7 brought about significant actions on two fronts:
The first was the adoption, by a 4-1 vote (with Councilman Peter Klotz voting against) of the adoption of the Stewart’s Planned Development District (PDD) #315, which would eventually lead to the issuing of a building permit for a Stewart’s Shops (with gasoline pumps) and an Adirondack Trust branch office.
This building would be sighted on the high traffic roundabout at the intersection of NYS Route 67 and Luther Forest Boulevard – on the way to and from the nearby technology park.
As noted in Saratoga TODAY’s issue of February 28, the Stewart’s Corporation has offered a sum of $200,000 in seed money to the town, to pay for the costs of construction extending water lines (via Saratoga Water Services) along old Route 67 and Dugan Hill Road in a neighborhood to several homes, in the nearby neighborhood of Maltaville. Stewart’s agreed to not receive their building permit until this condition was completed.
A presentation/public hearing preceded the final vote, the last in a series over several town meetings, that was delivered by Mr. Tom Lewis, who has retired as Real Estate Representative at Stewart’s, but was staying on to shepherd this project through the process.
At Monday’s meeting, he delivered his portion of the proceedings before an audience which included Charles Wait, Jr. and Mr. Lewis’ successor at Stewart’s, Chuck Marshall.
On February 28, the story was subtitled “Growth That Works” and despite Klotz’ dissent, it says here that this was a favorable deal for the town and for everyone concerned. It is an example of a good public-private sector partnership that any place, let alone the Town of Malta, should want to replicate as often as possible.
The epitome of win-win. As in you get your water; I get a make-your-own sundae and some unleaded on the way home from the tech park. Mr. Lewis scored on his final drive and those who have seen him in this arena before were not at all surprised with the result.
The second front concerned a trio of resolutions regarding what is labeled the Round Lake Improvement Plan, or more commonly “the roundabouts”. The town board voted, also 4-1, but this time with Councilman John Hartzell voting no, to formally seek determination of the town itself as the lead agency, and to authorize the town’s designates to begin the process of eminent domain on several parcels along the corridor by evaluating the public benefit and providing a calculation of ‘just compensation offers’ to the given landowners for their parcels, a mix of both commercial and residential properties.
Round Lake resident Woody Sloat, in the pubic comment period, reminded the town board that continued action on roundabouts was contrary to the wishes of over 500 petition-singing area residents (see: mymaltany.nationbuilder.com) and later elaborated:
“A number of citizens who live in this area consist of professional engineers, educators, doctors, lawyers and law enforcement professionals who work in highway safety every day. These residents refused to be duped by the slanted statistical data that supports the point of view of individuals who created their position based on profit. The residents’ genuine concern is safety and quality of life.” Mr. Sloat said.
“It is a big disappointment to see the town supervisor and three of his councilpersons dismiss the 514 residents who appealed to their common sense. Their poor decision will not be forgotten.”
Round Lake Residents Say 'No' To Roundabouts
By Arthur Gonick
ROUND LAKE— As reported in Saratoga TODAY in its January 24 issue, the residents around Round Lake Road have risen up in force to actively resist the imposition of roundabouts as a solution to traffic problems at two key intersections.
While members of the Malta Town Board have characterized roundabouts here as a "done deal," the citizenry (about 75) who came out last Saturday, March 1 at the intersection at Chango Drive (one of the proposed sites) to wave signs and urge people to honk horns in support of their "no roundabout stance, as well as those who packed and spoke at a public hearing regarding eminent domain procedure at the town board meeting on Monday, March 3, say otherwise.
The town board voted at it’s last meeting of 2013 to accept Albany engineering firm Creighton-Manning’s (C-M) "preferred" alternative of roundabouts, though it noted in their report that it was a more expensive option and roundabouts that would be placed at the two intersections would have "non-conforming," features, or less than ideal specifications.
The roundabout projects are at the intersections of Round Lake Road with Ruhle / Raylinsky Roads and with Chango Drive. These two roundabout projects are estimated by C-M to cost $4.86 million, with approximately 80 percent funded by Federal and State sources while a project involving a traffic light (which does not exist at Chango Drive), turn signals and turning lanes (which are not at either location currently) would cost $3.1 million according to C-M estimates.
This caused resident Tim Downey at the public hearing to say that this issue came down to "Pork… you guys just wanted the money. The fix was in from the start."
Indeed, the acquisition costs of land for obtaining the proposed right-of-way widens the gulf between the two projects further. C-M estimated that roundabout right of way costs would be $165,000; while a traffic light project would be $39,900.
At the March 3 public hearing, representatives from C-M presented a report noting that some of the non-conforming issues had been resolved, but resident Elwood "Woody" Sloat noted that many remained, and even was skeptical about some of the "resolved" issues ever happening:
"The C-M group stated they are going to move the Stewart’s at Ruhle Road’s entrance/exit back (north) 20 feet and extend the splitter island. This was previously determined to be not feasible because of the extensive telephone/water/sewer and utility systems in this specific area. Many residents, including myself, are skeptical that this will ever happen and will probably result in a "change order" (which will drive the project cost further) once they get approvals.
"The citizens will watch every step of this construction," Sloat said.
Other residents at the public hearing concentrated on the safety issue of roundabouts, both for vehicles and pedestrians.
"I fear there will be children’s bodies lying in the road." Said Shelda Roerig, resident whose family tree includes original residents of this area. Her family currently owns the ice cream stand and miniature golf course near the proposed Ruhle / Raylinsky roundabout that many area children frequent.
Of the 16 commenters at the public hearing, only one spoke in favor of the project that the town board had voted for.
While this is obviously not a scientific sample, the packed town board meeting, a good number of motivated residents who lined Round Lake Road on a frigid Saturday and the passion of the community, exemplified by the now 400+ signatures against the roundabouts submitted at the public hearing, indicate that even though the town board has eminent domain on it’s mind, they think otherwise.
Their fervor could be capsulized by Kevin Eitzmann’s comment at the March 3 public hearing:
"This is not how democracy works."
Well, maybe it is. Stay tuned.
Round-about Lake Road
Residents Search For Response To ‘Malta-fication’ of Their Neighborhood
ROUND LAKE – To the east of the Northway’s Exit 11 sits a beloved historic village in the Town of Malta. Founded in 1867, lovingly maintained and treasured to this day by just over 600 residents and countless thousands of annual visitors alike.
Just west of this village is a modern vehicular / biker / pedestrian phenomenon: the roundabout. Only one exists here today, just east of the Northway and by all accounts it is serving its proper purpose, which is primarily to allow vehicles exiting the Northway to bypass the village and efficiently travel to routes 9 and 67 and the Luther Forest Tech Park.
But sometimes, too much of a “good thing” can work against the problems they were intended to solve, perhaps with dangerous consequences.
A good portion of village residents, as well as those living and running businesses around Round Lake Road believe this is what is about to happen to them, and they hope that they are not too late to stop it.
“I’m disgusted with the process,” said resident Elwood “Woody” Sloat, a long-time resident and a 25-year veteran of the New York State Police. In that capacity, Mr. Sloat has investigated traffic flow patterns and countless numbers of vehicle accidents. “The primary concern should be public safety in making decisions, and that is not what is happening here.”
At their last meeting of 2013, the Malta Town Board voted to go ahead with the construction of two more roundabouts along Round Lake Road –two points only about 1,500 feet apart on the west side of the Northway. Town Councilperson John Hartzell cast the lone vote against the measure and cited resident’s concerns for safety as the primary reason for his vote.
Mr. Sloat and I walked the two intersections / future roundabouts. He knew intimate details, the nooks and crannies of each. Later, area residents Kathleen Eitzman and Valerie Manley joined us. All three were vocally active against the roundabouts as the proper solution for these intersections.
They did all the right things. They made their feelings known at every possible meeting. They gathered over 250 signatures of area residents. Today, they felt that it apparently did no good.
“I feel we are being stepped on.” Sloat said, and the other two were quick to nod in agreement. “Only John Hartzell came down, met with us and looked at this area,” he continued. “I spent more than half my life investigating traffic and I am convinced it is the completely wrong solution (for these two intersections.) It is very likely to make a bad situation worse. A roundabout is not a turnkey solution to every problem.”
“The Town Board accepts an engineer’s report, and the people who live here have to live with the consequences. It’s as if the people directly affected had no weight.” Sloat concluded.
The two intersections each have their own properties, but there is little doubt that as they stand today they have multiple danger points that could use corrective action. Whether a roundabout is the best solution is certainly a matter of dispute.
The first, at the corner of Ruhle / Raylinksy Roads and Round Lake Road, is about 1,000 feet west of the Northway. At this point, it is a very busy two-lane intersection with no turn lanes and a traffic light with no turn arrows. At the northeast corner, there is a busy Stewarts Shop with two entry/exit points – one on Round Lake, one on Ruhle.
Further down on Ruhle, a pediatric medical practice has had to resort to homemade ‘slow’ and ‘stop’ signs (which are legal on private property) to handle the number of cars that pivot into the lot and turn around because they have no means of getting out of Stewarts and heading west on Round Lake Road. Across from this building is a marked crosswalk to a popular mini-golf course which many children and families use, but there is no stop sign.
Some brave drivers make a left turn out of the Stewarts lot at the Round Lake exit point to head east to the Northway, but this is a difficult maneuver at all times and nearly impossible during peak traffic periods. Making a left turn from Ruhle to head west is no bargain either. With no turn lanes or arrows, maybe one or two cars can get through this way per light change.
A roundabout would appear to address some of these problems, but the primary beneficiary would be to establish the primacy of east-west traffic flow along Round Lake Road. Yet a roundabout placed here would bring additional concerns, according to Sloat.
For one thing, the roundabout turnoff onto Ruhle will, by necessity, be perilously closer to the Stewarts entry/exit. Because the roundabout will also eliminate the Round Lake Road eastbound access point, more cars will likely be queued up to leave at the remaining one. Moving this entry/exit point further away from the turnoff is not feasible due to utility box placement and other factors according to the engineer’s report obtained by Saratoga TODAY.
Further, the consulting engineer’s (Creighton Manning) report said that a 36-foot ‘splitter island’ (a raised or painted traffic island that separates traffic) length would still be safe, though the report indicates that a minimum length of 50 feet is acceptable and 100 feet is desirable.
So imagine this: a vehicle heading west on Round Lake Road signals for a turnoff onto Ruhle. A driver who is looking to exit Stewarts, perhaps having already waited awhile to get clear sailing, sees the vehicle with it’s turn signal still on from the turnoff and wrongly assumes it is heading into the Stewarts lot, when it is planning to continue.
I must admit that I’m no engineer, but Mr. Sloat certainly appears to have a compelling argument that a roundabout is a more expensive and less effective solution as opposed to strategically placed turn lanes, traffic light arrows and stop signs around this intersection.
But about 1,500 feet to the west is another intersection where you don’t need an engineering degree to see that a roundabout is overkill, in the manner of shooting a hummingbird with a bazooka and claiming you deserve a marksman’s medal.
The intersection of Chango Drive and Round Lake Road is a three-way intersection without a traffic light or stop sign. It does have a painted crosswalk across Round Lake Road, which an able-bodied person would have to be brave to cross.
On the south side of Round Lake Road is a major shopping plaza with the area’s primary supermarket (Hannaford) and Ms. Manley's salon. On the other side, a semi-assisted living facility for seniors. Behind the plaza is Chango Elementary School, where many children could be walking to school.
As currently constituted: a recipe for disaster. But is a roundabout likely to improve anything? Sloat makes a case that it could be even worse.
“Pedestrians crossing roundabouts are never desirable. These structures are designed to establish the primacy of vehicle traffic flow, in this case east-west along Round Lake Road.” He notes.
“Would you want a loved one, a senior, a child crossing a roundabout?” Sloat concludes, “they have no right of way and in many cases drivers have less reaction time.”
Kathy Eitzman has a double-whammy against her at this intersection. In addition to safety and quality of life concerns for the area her family has in lived for years, her home sits adjacent to this intersection.
She’s also an associate real estate broker, so when she asks:
“When was the last time you heard of a home on a roundabout being desirable? When has it ever increased a residential property’s value?”
You get the feeling she already knows the answer.
But the answer to “what’s next?” for these three citizens who have spent their whole lives working through the system is unclear at this point. It’s hard to imagine them lying down in front of the bulldozers in protest, yet it’s hard to imaging them take the Malta Town Board’s decision lying down.
The two roundabouts are projected to be completed sometime in the fall of this year. This is the epitome of a developing story and we’ll report on those developments as events unfold.