State Department of Transportation (DOT) officials seem poised to make a decision which could kill the Stewart’s plan for the corner of North Chestnut Street and Henry W. Dubois Drive in New Paltz, and that has village trustees railing against the tendency to prioritize automotive traffic despite the passage of the Complete Streets Act in 2011.
When reviewing plans to build a new Stewart’s at this corner, transportation officials determined that what’s really needed is a traffic light. What’s more, they think the estimated $500,000 cost should be paid with a Stewart’s check. Village of New Paltz Planning Board chair Eve Walter agrees that this is a challenging intersection, but believes the problems would exist whether or not a Stewart’s is built; if this light is a requirement, her understanding is that the application will be withdrawn.
The lot in question is part of the village’s neighborhood-business-residential district, where buildings must be two stories or more, accommodate a mix of commercial and residential uses and be near the road to encourage pedestrian use with street furniture and parking all around the back. It’s one of the few lots in the zone which could accommodate the maximum three-story building, but Stewart’s executives sought a variance because that’s just not the corporate model. A use which is in keeping with zone requirements would still likely generate more traffic than the business now being operated there.
Mayor Tim Rogers is clear that if a traffic light is to be built on a state road, it should be paid for out of state tax dollars. However, he’s in favor of simply redoing the striping at the intersection to better direct traffic. A light is not only more costly, but in his mind reinforces the mindset that all design needs to be built around driving, which doesn’t fit the “complete streets” philosophy very well.
According to information on the state department of transportation web site, a complete street “is a roadway planned and designed to consider the safe, convenient access and mobility of all 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.” Local leaders aren’t convinced those in the DOT have adapted to this new law.
Town Supervisor Neil Bettez, who was in attendance for the joint town-village meeting, cited another example of that thinking: the crossing signal at North Front to cross North Chestnut street. The walk signal isn’t “protected” — it doesn’t stop drivers in all directions — and he was told that making that change “would slow traffic down too much.”
Deputy mayor KT Tobin noted that the plan for how to include bicycle and pedestrian traffic in front of Zero Place was “shot down” by DOT officials; she thinks “mixed messages” are coming from state offices.