City streetscape plan opened to public comment at next council meeting

Terry RogersGovernment, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

Concept drawings presented to Milford City Council will now be open for public comment at the June 26 meeting

Milford City Council chose to table a request to approve proposed downtown streetscape upgrades at a recent meeting. Due to some disagreement among council about changes downtown, it was felt that public comment should be accepted regarding those changes at the June 26 meeting.

“In October of 2022, the city engaged KCI Technologies, to develop concept plans and streetscape improvements in the downtown area. And this ties into several projects that are in our Capital Improvement Plan,” Rob Pierce, City Planner, said. “I’ve included Southwest Front Street from South Walnut to North Church, and it also included Park Avenue from North Walnut and Denney Row from Park Avenue, Northeast Front and North Washington Street from the river to Northeast Front and also included to public parking lots that are in our CIP for repaving reconfiguration.”

Pierce explained that the streetscapes were outlined in the Downtown Master Plan and are part of the redevelopment plan for the central business district. Using the Rivertown Rebirth Master Plan, KCI Technologies performed field visits to the downtown area, met with staff and generated renderings for consideration. Public meetings were held March 8 at City Hall and those comments were incorporated into a presentation before council in April. After obtaining feedback from council, additional updates were made to the plan, which was presented for approval on Monday, June 12.

“Major changes or revisions from the last iteration that council reviewed, the roundabout that was at Walnut Street and Southwest Front Street was removed from the concept plan for now. And we also flipped the parking and the drive aisle on Park Avenue to give better separation and sightline visibility at that intersection at South Washington,” Pierce said. “We added potential retractable bollards on Park Avenue for our special events which would take place of our barriers that we currently use. And at the corner of Denney Row and Park, we left the dumpsters alone that are privately owned at the request of the business owner and tried to redesign that to provide some screening instead. So those are the main revisions to the plans.”

Councilman Andy Fulton asked if the dumpsters were along Park Avenue by Park Place or located elsewhere. Pierce explained they were located next to Arena’s and the original concept plan moved them in front of the building. The owner of Arena’s preferred leaving the dumpsters where they were. The new concept also added a loading area for deliveries near Arena’s. Councilman Brian Baer stated that he heard from constituents that they like the two-way traffic on Southwest Front Street in front of My Sister’s Fault. Councilman Todd Culotta commented that he was glad the lights had been removed near that location and that he felt it was working well.

“It’s not,” Councilman Fulton said. “It’s terrible. You can’t see the cars that want to go right, and they just blindside you. All of a sudden, they are there. When you’re on Walnut and Causey Mansion is right there and you’re going straight, the cars coming out [from Causey Avenue], you can’t always see them. Then, vehicles coming out of our finance office because that’s always a surprise.”

Councilman Culotta commented that he lived near there and was through the area “15 times a day.” He also reminded council that he made the comment that the light at Causey should be “thrown in the river.” Councilman Fulton expressed concerns that someone was going to get hit at the intersection, whether it was a pedestrian or a vehicle. City Manager Mark Whitfield stated he had received many comments about the change to the intersection and that most of them were positive. Councilman Baer pointed out that the traffic signals were not at the intersection he was discussing.

“One thing for council to consider is if you have two way traffic, you don’t have the ability to have on street parking on that street,” Pierce said. “So, by eliminating one way of traveling, we can fit parking in, widen the sidewalks and make it more pedestrian friendly. So, two way traffic would be more vehicle friendly while one-way traffic would be more pedestrian friendly.”

Councilman Culotta acknowledged that there had been an open house session where the public could make comments, but that he felt additional comments were necessary.

“People have not had a chance to speak in front of us on their opinions on it. You know obviously there’s four different opinions right here, on council alone,” Councilman Culotta said “I mean, I like it. I mean, the stuff was good, and they’ll do a lot for downtown enhancement. It’ll do a lot to attract business and economic development. I agree with that. I don’t know if Southwest Front Street needs on street parking. But I would like to hear from the public.”

Whitfield pointed out that the plan could be altered in the future if council desired two-way traffic, but Pierce stated that, for the purposes of design, the decision would need to be made ahead of time as converting a street from one-way to two-way was difficult once other streetscaping was completed. He also pointed out that he wanted to get moving on the projects in order to start the process as of July 1. Councilman Fulton also agreed that additional public comment was warranted.

“Okay. I appreciate Rob’s comment that they were generally well received,” Councilman Culotta said. “Well, I have a lot of neighbors that had a lot of things to say on it that weren’t included, so therefore, an open forum in front of all council, what would be ideal.”

Councilwoman Katrina Wilson asked how many times council planned to take the information to the public, concerned that this could lead to delays. She felt council needed to make a decision one way or another.

“No, I think Todd was saying to go ahead and just make it a public comment. Do we push this to the next agenda and have it as a public comment? So that way we hold the discussion. Once again, we introduce it, we show it,” Councilman Fulton said. “We open it to the public so we can hear the public’s comments and then we can make a decision with the people that are taking their time to voice their opinion and people against it, or people with just an opinion. It just gives the people one second to speak in front of us before we render a decision to move forward or the concept plan, right. We’re spending the money.”

Councilman Culotta stated that Councilwoman Wilson was correct, and that council should not keep ‘kicking the can down the road and never deciding anything.”

“I agree. I can’t stand government like that,” Councilman Culotta said. “However, we already can see we are not in agreement on everything here. So, open it to the public. If nobody speaks, then nobody speaks.”

City Clerk Terri Hudson suggested placing a formal notice on the city website that public comments would be taken at the next meeting in order to get the word out. She also suggested posting on social media that public comment would be taken regarding the updated streetscapes.

Council voted unanimously to table the measure in order to obtain public comment at the June 26 meeting.






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