By Kevin Clayton, Village Wine & Coffee owner and Shelburne resident
I am writing to you as a concerned stakeholder in Shelburne village. As far as I understand, the “loop road” and the intersection of Route 7/Harbor/Falls Road are important issues being considered in the coming year(s).
Since I own the corner lot and building on Harbor Road and the intersection of Route 7, I feel that it is imperative that I be contacted concerning any planning or changes that would involve and or affect this property and its businesses. That didn’t happen during the widening project with Route 7 and it is not happening now with proposed “loop road.” So I am hoping that somehow time will be taken with not only me, but the other business owners and stakeholders in the village to include us in this process.
Traffic on Harbor Road/Falls Road is a direct result of children being driven to school instead of walking or bus ridership (which I believe is only 20 percent) and the increased population using the athletic facility. There is an increase in local population, but most of the traffic problems occur during school times. What is being done to get children to walk or ride the bus?
Why can’t the village speed limit be dropped to 30 mph, like the Route 7 corridor in Burlington, between Flynn Avenue and the rotary? This could make the village a safer place. I cross Route 7 many times a day at the signaled intersection and at least once or twice a day I witness someone running the red light. If the speed limit were lowered, this may help reduce this safety hazard and make that pedestrian crossing safer. If Burlington was able to reduce their speed, why can’t we?
We are stuck with the fact that Route 7 bisects the village. Unless someone comes up with billions of dollars to buy up land and homes to create a bypass, the road is going to go right through the middle of town, so here are some thoughts about possible solutions.
Use the train station “access road” to create a road access to south of the town offices and exit across from Church Street, where a light could be installed on Route 7 to create another exit from Harbor Road to the east and south. It would require moving the baseball fields, which would be a lot less expensive than the proposed “loop road.” It could also create a more centralized parking situation for the village.
Why not use Athletic Drive as an egress to the north, put in a railway crossing, and have an exit by the Citizens Bank and traffic light there, across from the proposed Pomerleau development exit? This could also ease traffic coming from the north that wants access to that facility. At the same time put in a light at the Harbor Road Athletic Drive intersection. This may do a lot to ease the traffic flow.
Now these are ideas that could have been brought up at the Selectboard meetings, but they didn’t want any creative input, at least at the meeting I attended in the fall.
A big concern with the potential “loop road” is the one way status of Falls Road in the village. Since traffic comes from the south from Falls, Mt. Philo, and Marsett Roads (approximately 5,000 cars daily) would essentially be removed from the village business equation, routed through the Shelburne Shopping Center and possibly dumped out on Route 7 north of the village. What would be done to help the village merchants who could, in all probability, lose business from those one way travelers? Also, what about adding all those cars into the middle of an already busy shopping center, not to mention taking away parking spaces that are currently being used by the businesses there?
The current intersection, even with its faults, is in scale and in proportion to the historic nature of the village. If you try to satisfy federal guidelines in the construction of a new intersection, would that necessitate having to follow federal guidelines that would result in a “Taft’s Corner” situation that could essentially destroy the historic nature of Shelburne village? It may also remove the building that houses a local business. We need more businesses in the village, not less.
It is a complex situation that requires many levels of creativity and implementation. Please try to bring in as many stakeholders into the discussion and planning as possible, so that that we can maintain the historic integrity of the village, address the traffic concerns, and keep our village economy healthy. I really want to understand and help with the village’s future, but it is not easy when the town does not include stakeholders in the planning and decision process.