ZBA to bring Flagg Road safety issues to BOS – February 2nd

Above: Improving safety where a culvert narrows Flagg Road without warning is one of the issues that the ZBA plans ask Selectmen to address next month. (image cropped from Google Maps)

This week, the Zoning Board of Appeals informed the public that they will be asking Selectmen to approve “three major” safety measures for Flagg Road and Deerfoot Road.

The announcement was made at a hearing on the potential impact of traffic from Park Central developments. The hearing focused on a Peer Review of the developer’s most recent traffic study. The study looked at travel projected for the two large residential projects, plus a hotel and assisted living facility.

Peer reviewer, Jayson DeGray of Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., determined that greatly increased traffic Flagg Road doesn’t present serious issues. With an average of three accidents per year, and no clear trend of problems, he was adamant that the project couldn’t be denied for safety. He said it would smack of inclusionary zoning and be sent back on the Town almost immediately.

He did concede that Flagg Road had issues “that warrant conversation”. But he believed those were long standing issues, not just the result of the project:

The Town has some mitigating responsibility here. But a plan is warranted for the future of Flagg Road and I would suggest that now is the time to do it.

DeGray recommended developing a comprehensive, traffic calming, neighborhood improvement plan with input from area residents. He said that a plan would be a tight balancing act between old trees and concerns about narrow roadways. He urged that there are plenty of low cost items that can slow cars down on the road (e.g., painting a yellow line down the center of the road.) 

The peer review was pushed for by residents who disagreed with many of the assumptions made by the developer’s consultants, TEC. Many argued that TEC’s projections were low and the percent of drivers that would head towards Route 30 were greatly underestimated. The Town contracted DeGray to check the assumptions (an independent consultant paid for but not selected by the developer.) He was also asked to address neighbors’ comments and concerns.

To appease neighbors, DeGray created a “worst case scenario” with a much greater number of drivers and sent all of them down Flagg towards Deerfoot. That scenario added 50% more drivers to the back roads. It was a number he argued was still “clearly within intended use” of the roads:

Deerfoot Road and Flagg Road is a collective road by nature. It is intended to serve some level of regional mobility as well as mobile access

The room was in consensus that something should be done on Flagg Road. But opinions varied on what measures should be taken.

ZBA Chair Leo Bartolini informed the public that changes to the roadway need to be made by the Board of Selectmen. He arranged for the ZBA to address the BOS on the safety issues at their February 2nd meeting. The ZBA will recommend installing a sign prohibiting commercial parking on the road, removing some trees, and rebuilding “the culvert”.

The culvert is a small segment of road close to the Route 9 end of Flagg Road, where the road narrows with guard rails on each side. The ZBA has recommended rebuilding the culvert to widen the road. Depietri agreed he would do that if called for.

In the traffic study, TEC advised installing a “road narrows” warning sign at the culvert. This week a TEC consultant warned the public that rebuilding the culvert and each other safety measure to widen the road and improve site lines will cause increased speeding:

the speed will inherently go up each time, as it feels like you can speed on that roadway.

Flagg Road resident, Tom Gittins, presented a petition to oppose widening of Flagg Road. Gittins said that he collected signatures easily on Sunday afternoon from more than 20 neighbors. He found that everyone he reached between 73 Flagg and Lover’s Lane supported it. (After Lover’s Lane, a few chose not to sign.)

Gittins said his personal opposition is based on his opinion that widening of the road will cause increase speeding and ruin the character of the neighborhood. He encouraged the board to pursue other traffic mitigation. He also urged including Lovers Lane and Clifford Roads in any neighborhood plan, since are used as alternate routes to main roads.

DeGray disagreed that widening the culvert by itself would impact speed, though widening the entire roadway would. That opinion was echoed by resident John Green who urged that specific narrow points on the road with already speeding cars cause a hazard that need to be fixed.

Resident Howard Rose pushed for forcing traffic from Park Central to exit towards Route 9 only. Bartolini commented that all of Flagg Road could be made one way in that direction. Green opposed the idea of being forced to drive his kids onto the “death trap” exit on Route 9, where his wife was just rear-ended.

Issues around Route 9 access are under the authority of MassDOT, not the Town. Under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, the state will have to review the large project for safe access.

The BOS meeting will take place on February 2nd. Bartolini expects that Department of Public Works Director Karen Galligan will be in attendance to make recommendations.

The chair asked developer Bill Depietri to consider donating mitigation funds for resulting work on Flagg Road. Depietri responded that he would rather do the work himself to ensure “it gets done in a timely fashion”.

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