Bay Road’s tunnel continues to vex

LISA SCAGLIOTTI
Correspondent

Bay Road’s low and narrow railroad overpass continues to vex both motorists and town officials who spent time at their Oct. 29 meeting revisiting the question of how traffic navigates the tight tunnel.

The problem spot has been studied and reviewed with the most recent decision in 2017 to put stop signs on either side of the narrow opening while still allowing for two-lane traffic. The setup leaves the decision to motorists whether to yield to oncoming vehicles.

Board member Colleen Parker said the setup remains problematic, particularly with visitors to town who are unfamiliar with it. Recounting an incident this summer, she said another driver stopped “and was yelling at me in French” when she tried to pass through at the same time.

Everyone agreed that it is unclear what approach is best: Some drivers expect to take turns when they meet from opposite directions; others proceed simultaneously.

“There’s something wrong with this. There’s not going to be a great solution,” Parker said. “We have to find the most economical, most efficient Band-Aid that we can put on this.”

All agreed that it’s safer for one vehicle at a time to go through the passage – two vehicles also leave no space for pedestrians or bikers, member Mark Kehoe noted. Parker added that the fire department’s largest truck cannot fit through the opening, either.

Town Manager Lee Krohn noted that the overpass is not likely to be replaced with a taller, wider bridge by the railroad or the state unless the setup is deemed unsafe.

“It seems that no matter what you do, somebody gets angry,” said board member Mike Ashooh.

“A classic small-town conundrum,” replied Vice Chair Jaime Heins.

Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Charlie Baker was also at Tuesday’s meeting for an informal update from the commission. He told town officials that the commission could possibly help study the overpass situation next year for possible recommendations. 

The discussion wrapped up with board members asking Krohn to review pros and cons of adding signs to caution drivers to proceed cautiously through the tight spot and take turns.   

Shelburnewood eyes expansion

The board heard a proposal Tuesday regarding a project to expand Shelburnewood Mobile Home Park in Shelburne village. Julia Curry, a representative from the nonprofit Cooperative Development Institute, explained that the park would like to double the number of units by adding 28 more lots on roughly seven acres.

The park is run by a resident co-op which would like to apply to the state for a Community Development Block Grant of up to $60,000 to pay for the engineering work to proceed with development. The town would need to sponsor the grant application since funds are awarded to municipalities from the program.

Curry said the current and future mix of homes in the park includes mobile homes, manufactured homes and even a tiny home with the common thread being affordable. Even without marketing the project, Currey said, the park has a waiting list of potential buyers.

Selectboard members spoke in favor of the project with board Chair Jerry Storey suggesting it include a path for residents to walk to nearby Shelburne Shopping Park. The board asked park representatives to return with key partners in place, specifically Champlain Housing Trust. The grant would require a match of up to 25 percent which the town could contribute to with funding or in-kind staff assistance.

Other business

• In a brief report to the board, Krohn said the Stormwater Advisory Committee has drafted a revised plan to establish a stormwater utility and ordinance which it would like to present at a public hearing.

The first attempt to set up this new aspect of town government to address state stormwater regulations and management did not find a consensus last year and returned to the committee for more work. The selectboard set Jan. 21 for a public hearing on the new proposal.

•The board postponed public discussion with residents of the Shelburne Heights neighborhood along Spear Street regarding the unresolved concerns about their wastewater system. Homeowners there have asked that the board consider some form of payment or refund on their costs to connect to the municipal system now that the new Snyder Homes development south of their neighborhood will connect to the town sewer system using the lines through Shelburne Heights.

The board went into executive session when the topic came up, saying it had new information from the town attorney to review and discuss given that the matter may be the subject of future litigation.

Board member Ashooh, who lives in Shelburne Heights, recused himself from that discussion. Member Parker voted against the executive session saying she thought it was unnecessary.

• A condominium owner at Harbor Crossing got the board’s attention with a request to review a decision by the Planning and Zoning Department to charge her a $1,700 impact fee.

Ellie Byers owns what originally was two condos in the development on Creekside Drive. Twelve years ago, she explained, she removed walls to combine the units. Now Byers wants to recreate two units – one to sell and the other to live in. 

Town staff determined that the project constitutes “new development” that is subject to a $1,700 fee. The town ordinance allows Byers to appeal that decision at a public hearing. The board agreed to schedule a hearing after Byers files a formal request.

• The board adopted a property tax collection policy to address delinquent tax payments. It outlines steps the town manager, who acts as tax collector, may take against those who fail to pay on time. A key feature allows for enforcement action including tax sales starting a year after the end of the fiscal year in which taxes became delinquent.

• The board made two appointments: Jean Sirois to the Planning Commission through April 2021, filling a vacancy and bringing the commission back to a full seven members; and Marissa Parisi to the Dog Park Committee through April 2022.

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