Exit 41 changes for Family Y OK'd locally, await state approval
Published 4:57 pm, Wednesday, June 23, 2010
The Board of Selectmen concurred with 30 recommendations made by the state that would drastically alter the layout of exit 41 of the Merritt Parkway. Changes to the exit are designed to accommodate the planned move of the downtown Westport Weston Family Y to a much larger facility on Sunny Lane, which has yet to be constructed.
"We want to make sure that residents who are impacted, and we'll all be impacted, have some recourse and that there will be a further study by the [State Traffic Commission]," First Selectman Gordon Joseloff said Tuesday night.
The plans were proposed by consultants hired by the Family Y, and the state Department of Transportation made the additional recommendations. According to Town Attorney Ira Bloom, if the selectmen did not concur, they would have been asked by the State Traffic Commission as to why, but their agreement avoided that scrutiny.
The implementation of the recommendations, however, makes approval by the State Traffic Commission likely.
The plans include a two-lane exit ramp that would be moved 80 feet east of its current location. The ramp would have space for 50 cars in case traffic backs up. A traffic light would be added at the intersection of Sunny Lane. The narrow Sunny Lane would also be widened.
The Board of Selectmen, which also serves as the town's traffic authority, also added several recommendations to the list of 30, the main suggestion that a traffic light be considered at the intersection of Route 33 and Partrick Road.
"They are not obligated to improve the traffic situation, but what they are obligated to do is mitigate the effect of their development," Bloom said of the Family Y.
Joseloff asked Michael Galante, the Family Y's traffic consultant, if the intersection would be safer than it now is, and he insisted that it would be. He said that several traffic studies have been conducted.
With upward of 60 people in the crowd, several disagreed with Galante, while others drew upon long-standing complaints about the controversial, 102,000-square-foot facility proposed for Camp Mahackeno.
"Your focus tonight is pretty narrow, but what you decide tonight is not going to be narrow," said Helen Martin Block, a former member of the Planning and Zoning Commission who resigned in opposition to the approval of the Family Y. "What you decide tonight is going to affect the entire town and it's certainly going to affect how I live, what I do, my safety, my enjoyment of life and hundreds of people in that neighborhood, including the animals."
Diane Cady, a member of the Representative Town Meeting, expressed concern that the Family Y might end up not having to pay for all the construction.
"It's not been mentioned except that the Y will underwrite it," she said. "I can't help but think that, whether it's federal or it's state, or privately raised funds, we will end up paying for it ourselves."
If approval is granted by the State Traffic Commission, the fate of the proposed Family Y would then rest with the courts. The group Y Downtown has filed separate suits against the Planning and Zoning and the Conservation commissions over the approvals granted the project.