Tuesday, the Main Street Design Working group presented their update to the Board of Selectmen. They shared revised plans based on their recommendations for the reconstruction project.
The new plans were pitched to and generally accepted by the board as the best version of the plan to date. Yet, selectmen Bonnie Phaneuf and Paul Cimino asked to hold off on voting that night.
Phaneuf asked that the community have a chance to see the materials and be notified of the vote. She pointed out that the agenda listed the item as an update, not a vote.
Chair Bill Boland stated that other business without language specifiying a vote (a liquor license also under “Appointments” agenda) was approved. And he argued that people will always find something to object to.
Boland counseled moving forward so the Mass Department of Transportation could schedule a public meeting they hoped to hold in November.
Phaneuf rebutted, “The DOT doesn’t pay taxes in Southborough.” She argued the issue was too important to the town to rely on semantics for the right to vote that night.
The new “25% plan” scheduled for a vote of support incorporates changes from the group’s back and forth with MasDOT and VHB (the town’s engineering design consultants). It was supplemented by the working group’s list of pros and cons for their revisions.*
The group was in consensus on most items, but not in full agreement with every detail or how the town should proceed.
Member Steve Phillips, a Main Street resident, continued to urge the board to research an alternative plan under Chapter 90 funding.
One of the benefits that he pointed to was tackling the project in smaller sections. He said it would lessen the impact on the community. And he believed the town might be “pleasantly surprised” by what could be done. He was supported by member Claire Reynolds.
Member John Boland, former town DPW Director, pushed in the opposite direction. He claimed that the terrible state of the road’s underlying structure wouldn’t allow simple repaving.
Boland furthered that Chapter 90 funds still require approval from the state. And he counseled that any approved alternative would look “awful lot” like the current plan.
Member Sue Baust also opposed using Chapter 90 funds for Main Street. She said there wouldn’t be enough left to fix other town roads.
Selectman John Rooney said that while he respected all members opinions, he gave special weight to Boland’s expertise as the person who was responsible for maintaining the town’s roads for so long. He said that Boland swayed him to believe that pursuing an alternate plan wouldn’t make sense.
The new plan still includes the controversial 4 turning lanes at the intersection of Routes 30 and 85. But the group believed they made the “large intersection as small as it can be.” A turning arc was reduced to retain more of the Community House property.
Earlier iterations were designed to allow regular turns by a large towing truck pulling a tractor trailer. That was due to the location of a downtown towing business, Ted’s of Fayville.
At the previous Main Street update, selectmen decided to reach out to Ted’s to ask if they could find an alternate route. The business and town apparently came to an understanding. Since the specific towing is something that happens about once a month, Ted’s will notify the town in advance.
The plans also added more green space to the Town Common.
Another improvement was insertion of grass strips between curbing and sidewalks wherever they could fit them in. (VHB said that any strips that would be narrower than 2 feet aren’t feasible to maintain.)
Most of the plans details were approved by the working group unanimously or 6-1. The exceptions:
- The biggest divide (4-3) was on having sidewalks on both sides of 85 South to accommodate people walking to Woodward Elementary School. (Some believed it important for safety. Others believed the crosswalk and existence of a side path directly to Main Street were sufficient. They seek to preserve more trees and Community House property.) It was the only detail on which the group asked for the BOS to make the call.
- The group supported the design’s eliminatiion of parking in front of Dr. Stone’s property, but two members opposed it.
The board opted not to vote on those specifics until after voting on whether to pursue moving forward with the plan.
Upon questioning, VHB and the DPW clarified for the board:
- Some of the plan details include items that require waivers by MassDOT that may not be approved.
- Some details, like the parking in front of Stone’s, can be changed as late as for the 75% plan (if they don’t require too big last minute major changes.)
- Future public meetings by MassDOT will be information sessions but not hearings with public comment periods.
- VHB is still working on the response letters to people who submitted public comments on the project
On Tuesday night, Bill Boland made a motion to approve moving forward with the project, supported by Rooney. He withdrew the motion based on Phaneuf’s and Cimino’s request to delay the vote. Selectman Dan Kolenda participated remotely for much of the discussion, but had to sign off before discussion of a vote. Before signing off, he voice support for the plan.
Cimino praised the working group for their great work. He and Phaneuf both agreed with the other selectmen that the plans were the best to date. But neither specified how they plan to vote.
The vote is scheduled for the night of Tuesday, November 18. For a look at more related materials, visit the DPW’s website. You can watch the meeting through Southborough Access Media’s video streaming, or check for rebroadcast times.
*Note on the Working Group’s Pros and Cons list: The items are broken out by section. Each section is divided by “1” (the previous plan) and “2” (the revision approved by Working Group vote).