- February 12, 2019
Windermere Town Council members passed a temporary traffic-calming program to alleviate traffic concerns along Oakdale Street at their Tuesday, July 12, meeting.
Residents along the road have expressed issues with cut-through traffic, speeding, stop sign running and aggressive-driving behaviors for years.
To address the issues, the council previously had approved a temporary roadway closure of East Eighth Avenue at Main Street and East Seventh Avenue at mid-block on the line between the commercial and residential parcels at their Tuesday, June 14, meeting.
Although the original business item on the June agenda pertained to closing the southeastern quadrant of town at East Sixth Avenue, three of the four council members present voted to temporarily adopt the new plan, with Council Member Tony Davit dissenting. Mayor Jim O’Brien was absent, and Council Member Molly Rose was present on Zoom, which allowed her to participate in discussion but not vote.
The four items in the original resolution to address the resident-initiated issue, included closing off a portion of East Seventh Avenue just east of The Art Room and closing off East Eighth Avenue, as well as creating left-turn-only signage and a possible diversion barrier at East Ninth Avenue and Oakdale Street heading north and south, and closing off East 12th Avenue and Chase Road.
The July approved temporary measure will only include the use of a diverter with no road closures and authorize flexibility to Town Manager Robert Smith to implement the program, providing for a re-evaluation period after three and six months, and requiring an ordinance for permanent traffic-calming measures.
Smith said concerns have been raised by residents about closures of East Seventh Avenue and East Eighth Avenue but he has seen no real pushback on the diversion plan.
Many community members echoed their concerns during public comment, speaking out against road closures and calling for traffic studies with clear goals.
Martin Collins, Gloria Groom, Frank Chase, Jim Willard and Nancy Nix were several of those who spoke out.
Collins said his main issue with the proposed measure is there are no goals for the resolution and the traffic data in the area has been inconclusive.
“If we proceed with closing those streets, I’m asking that the resolution be amended, but please collect the data on how big the problem is on Seventh and Eighth and establish a goal on what we’re trying to solve there before we upset the traffic patterns over here,” Collins said. “Generally speaking, all my neighbors are against closing any streets,” he said. “We understand this has gone down a road that the residents of south Oakdale are very passionate about — the big problem they have but they can’t measure. We would like to have goals established on the diversion also so that when we measure this thing after the diversion is put in place, we can show the results and be able to determine what is successful and what isn’t.”
Willard said although he is in favor of doing something about the traffic issues, he thinks the closing of roads is a big deal and the council needs to be cautious about it.
“Before we start restricting publicly dedicated roads, the town needs a pretty substantial, compelling interest as to why they’re being closed,” Willard said. “Closing roads is a permanent problem and creates unintended consequences and more problems than it solves.”
There also was much debate between council members on the traffic issues.
“Maybe the way to start it is to just do the Ninth Street diversion and see what that does and see where that throws traffic before we start doing more closures,” Council Member Molly Rose said. “I do think that the majority of people though want to work with this and try to find a solution. They may disagree on how bad the situation is, but I also think traffic isn’t going to get any better. This is the best it’s ever going to be. … It isn’t going to get better unless we try to do something about it.”
Council Member Bill Martini said although the town may not have 100% documented data which illustrates the problem, he believes due to the overwhelming outpouring of residents that there is a problem.
“I’m not particularly married to any solution,” Martini said. “Whatever creates the least amount of inconvenience for the residents and will provide an additional measure of safety for the residents, I’m all in favor of that.”
Council Member Tony Davit disagreed with his fellow council members, voicing concerns over lack of studies and engineering, and recommending a tabling of the issue until a public forum is held where all residents in the southeastern quadrant are notified.
“If we are banking on the fact that it’s temporary, why do it anyway?” Davit said. “Let’s evaluate it more. … Again, the majority of the residents that have come in for the last couple of public workshops that I’ve been involved with were looking at a different plan and it wasn’t all the affected residents. The folks that were noticed for those public workshops were within 500 feet of Oakdale, not the entire quadrant.”
The resolution was passed 4-1, with Davit dissenting and O’Brien absent.