For anyone who has been following the drama in St. Albans City over developer-driven changes to the infrastructure of tiny Maiden Lane, I thought I’d provide this update. On Monday night, the City Council dissolved the Design Advisory Board, which had unanimously opposed those changes.
Here follows the statement which I read at that meeting:
We, the appellants in the matter of the Smith House/ Owl Club at 13 Maiden Lane in St. Albans, Vermont, will not be bringing a separate appeal to Superior Court concerning the changes to parking on Maiden Lane that have been approved by the City Council.
Although we continue to believe that those changes will have an adverse impact on the historic downtown in general and on our neighborhood in particular, we feel it would be counterproductive to devote any of our limited resources to a separate appeal. Absent broader knowledge of the situation, the judge will be inclined to accept the opinion of the elected City Council as to what represents the best interests of the people of St. Albans.
For us private citizens to undertake the necessary traffic study would not only be financially impossible, but would also set a wrong precedent under which the City might again abdicate its responsibility to devote the necessary time and resources to thoroughly investigating the impact of a change to the right of way that may seem “minor” to the City Council but not to the neighborhood.
The City has taken the position that the scale of the private project for which the change is to be undertaken is not sufficient to trigger the need for a traffic study. We disagree.
The diminutive scale of Maiden Lane itself effectively enlarges the project and its potential impacts.
Even if the scale of the Connor redevelopment project for 13 Maiden Lane would not alone trigger the need for a traffic study, surely in combination with the large new ACE Hardware project less than half-a block away, it should.
Together, the two projects mean increased volume of traffic at the already troubled intersection of Main and Congress Street, doubling the impact on tiny Maiden Lane. Even Messenger St. is likely to suffer negative impacts near its intersection with Congress St.
For the City to take the position that neither of the two projects triggers the need for a traffic study is simply irresponsible. There were repeated requests for a traffic study from the public, but those requests were ignored.
In so doing the City administration has set itself up as an advocate for the interests of one private developer in opposition to concerns expressed by many members of the public and the entire Design Advisory Board.
If the City was not prepared to undertake the entire cost of such a traffic study, it could have compelled the applicants to contribute as a condition of their approval.
In light of their decision to rubber stamp Connor Contracting’s parking proposal and leave it to a judge to undo any damage from that decision, we do not believe that the City Manager, the Mayor and the City Council can be relied upon to protect the best interests of the people of St. Albans. However the remedy to unreliable government will not be found in an endless series of related appeals.
The only path to better governance remains at the ballot box.
Sue and Mark Prent, and Peter Ford