Board agrees to clamp down on Van Sicklen Road speeders

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The Selectboard agreed last week to a series of traffic-calming measures for the Williston portion of Van Sicklen Road, though some board members said they believed the measures should have gone farther.

The Van Sicklen Limited Partnership, operating under the aegis of the Snyder Companies, will fund the installation of the calming measures as part of an agreement attached to the Act 250 permit for a nearby housing development in South Burlington.

The list of eight traffic calming tools recommended by the Dufresne Henry engineering firm include changing the striping on the road to give it a narrower feel, providing chokers in the middle of the road, installing a guardrail at a culvert crossing, posting warning signs and increasing police presence on the road.

As part of its Act 250 permit, Snyder was originally required to fund the installation of speed tables on Van Sicklen Road in Williston. The stipulation came at the behest of the town, which signed on as a party in the Act 250 application.

However, a subsequent engineering study showed that the road did not meet the state standards for speed tables, because of the volume and average speed of traffic. The road, the study showed, is being used as a collector road rather than a local road.

Selectboard members Ginny Lyons and Jeff Fehrs expressed regret that the road has become something other than a local road, carrying more traffic that travels faster than the town would like.

They asked engineer Gregory Edwards of Dufresne Henry whether the town could do anything to return Van Sicklen to being a local road. However, Edwards said, the road’s classification was simply decided by how traffic utilizes it.

Edwards told the board that putting speed tables on a road that did not meet the state standards for it could expose the town to legal liability.

Complicating matters, the city of South Burlington views Van Sicklen as an east-west collector road and “has no interest in putting traffic calming on their half of the road,” said Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire. Therefore, South Burlington would not be interested in discouraging use of the road.

Still, Fehrs said, he did not support the proposed traffic calming steps, though he agrees with Snyder’s contribution of $8,000 for the work.

“I don’t think what we suggested in this letter is enough,” Fehrs said.

Lyons said she supported the traffic calming measures because she believed it was important that some changes be made on the road. Lyons agreed with Selectboard member Andy Mikell’s assessment that the board could review the efficacy of the traffic calming tools at a later date.

“I’d rather have something than nothing,” Lyons said.

Mikell resides on Van Sicklen Road and his wife, Ashley, attended the meeting and asked questions on various aspects of the traffic-calming plan.

McGuire said Van Sicklen neighbors would have preferred the speed tables, but found the calming measures an acceptable alternative.

Lawsuit negotiations

As a possible court date approaches, town attorneys have entered negotiations with a developer suing the town.

Village Associates filed suit against the town in 2003 after it did not receive sewer allocations for its large multi-use project proposed for property on Zephyr Lane near Taft Corners. The project, which would include 110 residential units, had received phasing allocation from the Development Review Board.

The lawsuit seeks a sewer allocation for the project and unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire said the two sides have held talks, but he declined to disclose further details publicly at last week’s Selectboard meeting. The Selectboard held a closed-session to discuss specifics of the negotiations.

Ambulance study

The Selectboard renewed discussions of an ambulance and staffing study that advocates hiring nine full-time fire and rescue workers and purchasing two ambulances.

The Selectboard weighed its next step in reviewing the study at last week’s meeting with Fire Chief Ken Morton and Peter Soons, the chief of St. Michael’s Fire and Rescue, which currently provides the bulk of the ambulance service in Williston.

Morton and Soons agreed to be part of a group that solicits information from various fire and rescue officials, including South Burlington Fire Chief Doug Brent. South Burlington recently added ambulance service.