Pittsfield Traffic Commission Nixes 2-Way Plan for Reed Street
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Traffic Commission on Monday did not support Lee Bank's proposal that Reed Street be converted from one-way traffic to a two-way street in preparation for its new South Street location.
As an advisory panel, the commission failed to make a recommendation to the City Council for the proposal. Although two members voted for it, Sergeant Marc Maddalena, the police's designee was against, leaving the vote at 2-1.
"This means the petition does not pass," said Chairman Mark Brennan.
The commission did not believe it could make a positive recommendation with only two votes of the five-member board.
Councilor at Large Peter Marchetti had recused himself from the vote for a conflict of interest — he is a senior vice president with Pittsfield Cooperative Bank — and only three of the four existing members were present for the vote.
Because there is an open seat on the panel right now and Marchetti recused himself, the members grappled with whether the vote to support the petition was a proper fail and will be consulting City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta.
James Scalise of SK Design Group represented Lee Bank at the meeting. The bank purchased a parcel at the corner of Reed and South streets to build a branch with a drive-through that would replace its North Street location as the new hub.
Earlier this year, the bank demolished two buildings on the site, one a former auto detailing shop and a closed Pizza Hut.
The two-way conversion would reportedly aid traffic flow around the new branch and assist operations.
Scalise explained that they hired a traffic consultant to evaluate the abutting intersections for levels of service and determined that the project doesn't generate enough traffic to meet a level of concern when used from an engineering standpoint as it relates to the surrounding intersections and function of the roadways.
"As part of this proposal the bank is requesting that, should this project go forward, that they'd be allowed to have two-way traffic, at least along the frontage of their development," he said.
"So we submitted that initially as part of our preliminary submission to the city, we held a pre-development conference as we do with department heads, and in discussing it further, it was requested that we consider the entire length of Reed Street to two-way traffic, and the reason for that is really more global into looking at the neighborhoods, looking at the geometry of this road along with Clinton Avenue which is parallel, so we went back to the traffic engineer and asked them to evaluate those scenarios and again, there was no issue."
Scalise also brought up issues with illegally parked cars on Reed Avenue blocking the flow of traffic and creating hazardous situations.
"I don't want to speak for folks who are here, but I think it was their preference, rather than to have a street half two way and half one way, to have it be two way for the entire length and I think globally that helps the traffic pattern," he added.
Dick Laurens, owner of the property at 154 South St., and another abutter, Jim Torra, attended the meeting to speak on the proposal's lack of consideration for abutter needs.
He said the properties have given up parking spaces to not block the right of way and for large deliveries.
"Our properties heavily use that right away, and I looked through the whole survey and didn't see anything that really denoted any statistical work that was done to take into consideration what goes on there," Laurens said.
"On page three of the special permit, it mentions parking needs of Lee Bank but fails to mention that the south side of Reed Street has been used by Firestone for loading and unloading for decades and that they had, in the last several years, suppliers that use bigger trucks."
Torra brought up concerns about drivers cutting through their properties to go north.
"We're just concerned about, the total usage of our property with these entrances here," he said.
The two also had concerns about the proposal of widening the first 100 feet of Reed Street to make room for a painted or raised island. This, Scalise said, is to separate from Firestone's use of the street for unloading and meet the new creative arts district requirements with green space.
"The conversation pertaining to the proposal as it related to the abutters was having on the right of way, that the abutters on the northern side of Reed Street have and their concerns of people cutting and using that as a cut through," Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales said.
"It is essentially a jointly used private driveway, as there are in other parts of the city, and the city does not do anything to regulate traffic through them, it's a free for all unless the parties that have control over it, decided to change that."
The city urges users and owners of the right of way to do something about it to regulate it if they want to, he said, and added that the street is not currently regulated for unloading, in response to earlier concerns about Firestone's deliveries.
Morales asked Scalise what consideration was given to local traffic.
"The study we did was for public intersections and how where delays, where level of service will be impacted, so they measured the amount of traffic on Reed Street, so my sense is that that included all the traffic, including the traffic using private driveways," Scalise said.
Brennan doesn't want to see longtime businesses being crowded for the new bank and voted against the recommendation.
"A concern that I have is that existing businesses don't get shoved out for a bank," he said. "I just don't want to see existing businesses getting squeezed because somebody wants to put up a nice bank on the corner, it's definitely an improvement on the site, and I don't like to see a problem for an existing business."
Russo agreed that he would not like to see existing businesses be inconvenienced, but he would also not like to see a "repeat of the crater that is now at First and Fenn streets after a building was demolished and then the site plan never worked out."
Laurens and Torra said they have nothing against Lee Bank becoming a neighbor, but they have concerns with the conversion of Reed Street to two way and how it will affect them.
"It's the applicant's intention to do no work on that site of the order to interfere in any way with hopefully our new neighbor, we actually are giving up real estate to the city sidewalk on our property, creating green strips so that the road width can be maintained," Scalise said.
Scalise said the bank would likely agree to layout changes to appease the abutters and unofficially offered to give up some grass space for Firestone's needs.
Editor's note: The second paragraph was rewritten and further information inserted to clarify that the votes were positive but the number was not believed sufficient to pass the recommendation.
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