Safety of intersection should be priority when reviewing hotel project

Many residents of the village and many dedicated and committed participants and contributors to village life have expressed genuine concerns about the proposed Lake Flower hotel. Some concerns are philosophical. Others are aesthetic. But safety should trump them all.

My wife and I have navigated the intersection of Lake Flower Avenue and Brandybrook as drivers, as cyclists and as able-bodied pedestrians. We have found it a dangerous intersection as drivers and we avoid it. We have found it a dangerous intersection as cyclists. We have found it a dangerous intersection as able-bodied pedestrians. Flooding of that intersection has become almost routine, making it more dangerous still.

At the Aug. 5 village Planning Board meeting, the applicant for the Planned Unit Development District that could clear the way for the proposed hotel made no bones about the fact that his project cannot go forward without the inclusion of the proposed parking lot across the intersection of Lake Flower Avenue and Brandy Brook.

At that meeting, the applicant had no proposal at hand for insuring the safety of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians at this intersection or at the entrance of the proposed hotel project. Everyone who drives in the village has experienced the difficulty of making a left turn out of the parking lot down the road at the Ace Hardware/Tops Plaza. A left turn out of the entrance of the proposed hotel will be substantially more difficult still, with traffic slowing as it approaches the Lake Flower/Brandy Brook intersection.

Hotel guests, finding the primary hotel lot full, will re-enter Lake Flower Avenue and travel to the ancillary lot, making things worse still. Add to this the increased pedestrian traffic returning from the ancillary lot to the hotel for a midsummer wedding and it’s hard to imagine it getting any worse.

At the meeting, the Applicant stated that Mayor Clyde Rabideau was in consultation with the state Department of Transportation regarding modifications to the intersection that would accommodate the increased traffic and congestion. Reassurance by Rabideau, outspoken and unwavering in his support of this project, is not sufficient. The village has been unable to get any movement out of the DOT in their repeated requests to move the scheduled repaving of Lake Flower Avenue any sooner than 2020. What’s different now?

There is no guarantee that a safe redesign and reconstruction of this intersection will ever take place if this Planned Unit Development District Aplication is accepted by the Planning Board.

The New York State Complete Streets Law, enacted Aug. 15, 2011, requires that any roadway construction or modification be planned and designed to consider the safe, convenient access and mobility of roadway users of all ages and abilities. This includes pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation riders and motorists. It includes children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

As stated in the Complete Streets Act, Complete Streets will contribute to a “cleaner, greener transportation system” and “more citizens will achieve the health benefits associated with active forms of transportation while traffic congestion and auto related air pollution will be reduced.”

The Complete Streets Act applies to any project undertaken by the state Department of Transportation or any local project that receives State and Federal Funding. Essex County has also enacted a Complete Streets policy to include locally funded projects.

No one can reasonably argue that the intersection of Lake Flower Avenue and Brandy Brook is a safe intersection. No one can reasonably argue that it safely accommodates cyclists, pedestrians, the elderly or the disabled in its current configuration or with its current level of traffic congestion. No one can reasonably argue that additional traffic at that intersection can be safely accommodated with its current configuration. No one can reasonably argue that left turns from the primary parking lot of the proposed hotel will not snarl traffic and increase the danger to all involved.

I believe that, before accepting this Application, the Planning Board should require that a full traffic study for the impact of the proposed hotel be completed. As with any traffic study, a projection of the incidence ratio of fatal accidents at that intersection under current conditions and proposed conditions should be included.

I believe that, before accepting this application, this Planning Board should require the applicant to present a proposal approved by the state Department of Transportation that will ensure the safety of this intersection and one that is in full compliance with the New York State Complete Streets law.

The applicant has stated that he has no plan to ensure the safety and accessibility of this intersection. Without such a plan, the application for a Planned Unit Development District should be dead in the water. Aesthetics, height, public space; they can all be negotiated. Safety cannot.

I urge the village Planning Board to deny this application for a Planned Unit Development District on this basis alone.