Friday, March 26–Council Grants One-Way Street Request

BERLIN – Walnut Hill residents got their wish Monday night when the Berlin Mayor and Council approved their request to designate Walnut Hill Drive a one-way street.

All the property owners in the small development were in favor of the change, representatives of the community have said.

The town council held a public hearing on the requested change Monday night. No one from the community registered any objections at the council meeting.

The decision to pursue the change of the loop road from two-way to one-way came after the annual meeting of the Walnut Hill Homeowners Association in May, said Laura Bren, one of the association’s directors, due to safety concerns.

“The vast majority of our homeowners right now take the clockwise turn to loop around,” said Bren.

Vehicles traveling counter-clockwise catch other cars and pedestrians off guard, according to Bren.

Walnut Hill Drive is a fairly narrow street, Bren said. There are also some blind spots and areas obscured by trees, she said.

The board of the Walnut Hill Homeowners Association voted unanimously to request a change to one-way traffic on the loop.

Katherine Munson, president of the HOA, said that the community congregates on the green in the center.

“There’s a lot just crossing of the street, not just using the street,” said Munson.

With only eight houses out of the 28 planned actually built, now would be the time to make the street direction change, wrote Susan and Gerald Jacobs, in a letter read by Munson.

Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing expressed some concern over traffic at build-out, which would have to pass most of the houses in the community every day.

“What you will have is 100 percent of all the traffic going past your house,” said Downing.

Traffic that can travel both ways is broken up, he pointed out.

Downing also expressed concern that people on the far end of the loop would speed through the community to get home faster.

“The speeders themselves are going to be the residents of Walnut Hill,” Downing said.

His biggest concern, he said, is about visibility when both sides of the street are used for parking. The street was originally designed for no on-street parking, Downing said.

There is no reference to on-street parking in the plans the town has, said Planning and Zoning Director Chuck Ward.

Ron Cascio, one of the three developers of the community, said there were never any plans to prohibit on-street parking.

“Regardless, those streets should not have any parking,” Downing said.

Walnut Hill Drive is 22 feet wide, two feet narrower than the standard two-lane road. Cascio said parking is not an issue on the road.

“You might find it shouldn’t be an issue but the council has to consider the ramifications, foreseen and unforeseen, of changes to the traffic patterns,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams.

Another consideration, Bren said, is the orientation of the driveways. Her driveway, she said, is impossible to get into from the left.

“I certainly go right,” Brenn said, who lives in one of the houses furthest from the entrance when following the road to the right upon entering the development.

“Every time I enter the neighborhood it’s to go right,” said Mary Ellen Rosenblood, who owns six lots at the left side of the loop. “It would be easy to go left but for whatever reason we don’t. I am very much in favor of the change.”

“Our children go that way and follow the flow of the traffic,” said Bren.

One argument for making the one-way change has been that the children of the community are used to watching for cars from only one direction.

“It’s working the way it was designed to work. The right flow of traffic is they enter there and turn right … those who live there expect cars from one way because they almost always do,” said Cascio.

He added, “When cars are parked on the side of the street they do drive slowly because they expect something to come from between the cars.”

Cascio asked the town council to make the change “before we’re here for a tragic reason asking for a fix.”

Ward asked the council to order a stop sign to be posted at the turn onto Walnut Hill Drive. Someone who misses an address might drive around a second time, and cross the entrance.

Councilwoman Paula Lynch suggested that there be no parking allowed along the green.

Cascio said he would hate to see signs put up, but that the community could stencil “no parking” on the curb.

The town council voted unanimously to switch Walnut Hill Drive from two-way to one-way, to install a stop sign at the entrance and to designate the inner edge of the road no parking.