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Stonington Borough Meets About Bus Ordinance On Saturday

Two letters to Stonington Borough residents show controversy surrounds the bus ordinance.

 

Stonington Borough residents have the opportunity to voice their opinion about the newly enacted at a special meeting of the Borough Warden and Burgesses on Saturday, July 14.

In June the Stonington Borough Board of Warden and Burgesses passed a bus ordinance that bans busses more than 25 feet in length from roads south of Broad Street and school busses more than 25 feet in length are no longer allowed passed . The full text of the bus ordinance is available at the end of this article.

Following the passage of the ordinance a number of groups came out against the ordinance including the and about 100 borough residents that filed a .

Over the past couple of days residents in the borough have received letters that show some of the conflicting ideas surrounding the bus ordinance. Two of those letters appear below.

The Special Borough Meeting and a possible vote on the ordinance will take place on Saturday, July 14 at 9:30 a.m. at the .

About Buses in Stonington

 “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Some towns and cities are not appropriate for bus traffic. No one would expect to wheel a bus through center Trieste, Granada or Augsburg; Stonington’s streets are not so dramatic, but just as real. Except for paving, unchanged since the late 1700s; they cannot be widened.

This, is why Stonington kids walked to school. When in the 70s local schools moved, they still walked all the way to Wadawanuck Square to catch the bus to school. They still do.

In the 50’ an occasional tour bus would wander into town, edge down Water Street, then be totally trapped down at the point. Eventually, backing and edging around random parked cars then over corners and sidewalks they get out of town an hour later. Lessons learned, these drivers do not comeback. Only new drivers, under new managers may try it again,. and then again.

In the late 1990s, as a feasibility study, Warden Eileen Jchym and Street Commissioner Herve Lamb, with a borrowed bus and driver took it or tried to take it around Borough streets. Their conclusion: full size buses below Wadawanuck Square were unsafe, unpleasant and just would not work. For a time a generalized sign was posted, “No Buses Beyond This Point.” However, this policy was never set down as an official ordinance

In 2012 the P&Z Plan of Conservation and Development noted as its Point #1. “Increased traffic burdens on the Village arterial system, including the Alpha Avenue Viaduct and traffic along the length of Water and Main Streets should be carefully considered. Traffic capacity is a matter of convenience and public safety. As such The Commission must be sensitive to future development that would increase traffic flow in the Village.” Right.

Last month, the current Borough  Boards took what was meant to be a pro-forma step to finally document earlier policies as an ordinance. Essentially they voted, no busses of 35 feet or more shall go beyond Wadawancuk (or Library) square. There they may discharge or pick up any and all passengers they wish. From Wadawanuck visitors can readily stroll into the center. Tour groups who wish or need to be driven through town must either arrive in, or switch to smaller vehicles. That’s it. Pretty simple,…until the first mandatory public hearing before passage of a new ordinance.

Two nonprofit, non-taxpayer groups showed up, the Historical Society and NESS, the new sailing foundation. Each is undergoing pressure to increase revenue. Each has been evolving plans for increasing cash flow. This essentially, by brining multiple new visitors to their sites, preferably by bus. Through friends and associates they have petitioned against enshrining the Boroughs’ Bus Policy into ordinance.

Whether an influx of multiple large buses is good or is not good for the Borough is not the point in question for these groups.

The point for them is,…what these groups want and need, a free flow of large buses. They feel they are doing good, even noble, tax free work much of it funded by tax deductible donations, but they do have overhead and expenses and must charged fees. Expansion via multiple visitors preferably by the large busload is their solution. And there it is.

There will be a “Special Borough Meeting” and voting on this at the Borough Firehouse at 9:30 a.m., Saturday July 14.

The basic question is: Is bus control within Stonington better or worse for those of us who live and pay the taxes here.

It is your Borough. So do come, listen and vote!

Borough for residents committee (860-389-4454

 

To Borough Residents

From Betty Richards

My first reaction to the unsigned Notice left at my door-and yours-this morning was that the so-called “Borough for Residents’ Committee” is cowardly, afraid to list their names as committees routinely do. But there was a cell phone number listed so I called it. Edward McCreary answered the phone and acknowledged Burgesses). When I asked for names of other Committee members he stated composition of the Committee but said that he would have names at the Borough Meeting on Saturday.

I want to go on record as stating that I believe his Notice entitled “About Buses in Stonington Borough” is one sided, erroneous in part and distorts facts. To Summarize:

-Error. McCrery’s Notice refers to buses of “35 feet or more” as being affected by the Ordinance. In fact, the Ordinance affects buses “25 feet or more.”

-Distortion. McCreary’s notice cities “Point #1 in the 2012 P&Z Plan of Conservation and Development. (Another Error: Note that the “2012 Plan of Conservation and Development” is a Draft only.) There is no “Point #!” but there are relevant “Goals and Objectives” (the heart of the plan) which list specifics: #5. Maintain the policies that encourage a variety of commercial, retail, professional and marine related business that are complimentary to the human scale of the Borough. #9. Maintain a safe vehicular and pedestrian circulation system...that supports community facilities and services that are sufficient to meet the needs of the residents, businesses and visitors.

-One sided. McCreary’s statements suggest that two of our best local non-profits are guided by self-serving policies. In reality, their Boards are largely comprised of local residents. And why the reference to tour buses in the 1950s, a time when neither he nor I, nor most current Borough residents resided here?

I urge you to vote to rescind the Ordinance as it is written.

For the record, I am an Urban Planner and a former Chair of the Borough P&Z.

Here is the full text of the bus ordinance:

8. a) No person shall operate any bus over 25 feet in length on any roads south of Broad Street. Buses longer than 25 feet must drop off/pick up passengers at the southeast corner of High Street and Main Street, at Wadawanuck Square, then exit the Borough by turning left onto Main Street, left onto Water Street, and left back over the viaduct.

b) “Specialty Buses” such as trolley buses or mini-buses that are less than or equal to 25 feet in length may drop off/pick up passengers at the designated bus stop on the east side of Wadawanuck Square, at the public dock parking lot, at the parking lot at Stonington Point, or at other locations with permission from the Warden and Burgesses.

c) Specialty vehicles less than or equal to 25 feet in length, transporting residents with special needs, may pick up/drop off where necessary.

d) School buses longer than 25 feet may not travel south of High Street; they will utilize the bus stop on the east side of Wadawanuck Square. A “school bus” is defined in Section 14-275 (a) of the Connecticut General Statutes.

e) The Board of Warden and Burgesses, the Warden, the Borough Police Commissioner, or the Town Police can temporarily suspend this ordinance.

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