Crowd says: ‘No way’ to one way

Gwen Chamberlain

Only one man in a room of more than 20 village residents and business people supports converting Water and Wagener Streets to one way traffic.

Vince Rosato, who owns the former Garrett Winery building at the corner of Liberty and Water Streets, said converting even just Water Street to one-way traffic would help village businesses because it would allow for the addition of up to 28 parking spaces.

“It opens up a huge amount of parking for the village. Leave Wagener two-way, and make Water Street one-way,” he said.

Several others, including a man who previously supported the idea of  “experimenting” with one-way traffic patterns on the streets, spoke against making any changes.

Bill Burg, explained while he originally thought the traffic pattern worked well during the Liberty Street bridge construction detour, he now thinks one-way traffic would cause safety problems at the “triangle” where Water and Wagener intersect.

Safety was one of the primary concerns brought up by those who spoke up Monday night at a public hearing held by the Penn Yan Village Planning Board.

David Hartman, who is the Yates County Highway Superintendent, spoke as a village resident. He said he’d heard one of the reasons for the proposed change was safety. He said “Safety should be the top priority. Unless there has been some sort of traffic study done — you need to have that information to make that statement. You really can’t make that statement.”

Hartman said he doesn’t believe people will park on Water Street to do business downtown. “It’s not going to help anything. It’s just human nature to hover around until they find a spot,” said Hartman, who added, the residential parking problems of a developer should not be a village problem. Hartman was referring to plans by Chrisantha Construction to convert two Birkett Mills warehouses to upscale apartments.

Bruce Lyon, the village code enforcement officer, said the apartment development site plan that has been approved by the village planning board includes off street parking for residents of the proposed apartments.

David Nielsen, whose business sits at the point of the triangle formed where Water and Wagener Streets meet near Main Street, opposes changing either of the streets traffic patterns. He said during the bridge closure detour, people often went through his parking lot, and added, “People never did learn the traffic pattern. Up until the day the bridge opened, they went the wrong way.”

Susan Andersen, vice president and branch manager of Lyons National Bank, which is located on Liberty Street between Water and Wagener, said the company’s priority is the safety of pedestrians.

She said changing the traffic patterns might create the same situation that happened during the bridge detour — cars driving through the bank’s parking lot at a high rate of speed. She said one employee’s car had been hit and people leaving the bank nearly were hit by passing cars. “From our point of view, it’s just not a good idea to have a thoroughfare go through there,” she said.

Brent Bodine, director of public works, presented three scenarios for traffic flow on the two streets. He said if Wagener Street was kept as two way traffic and Water Street converted to one way traffic between the triangle and the Lyons National Bank entrance, the village could add 28 parking spaces at a cost of about $3,000.

People expressed concerns about traffic flowing through the bank parking lot with that scenario.

Bodine said the street, at 31 ft., is too narrow to add parking spaces on both sides.

Maintaining two way traffic on Water Street and converting Wagener Street to one way would only give the village another six to seven parking spaces.

Other comments from people at the meeting included concerns about the general flow of traffic around the village, particularly during busy summer and fall months and access for emergency vehicles.

Mike Clancey expressed concerns about emergency vehicle access, but spoke in more depth about his concern that village officials and volunteer board members should be working on other priorities.

“There are numerous things to be addressed. My concerns are more about using our scarce volunteer resources in these boards to address other issues.”

Mayor Robert Church and Trustees Richard Stewart and David Reeve attended the meeting but did not comment during the public hearing. As he was leaving the board room, Church said, “I’m just here to listen.”

When Planning Board Chairman Cliff Orr asked people to raise their hands if they supported one way traffic on either of the streets, Rosato was the only one to raise his hand.

Near the end of the regular meeting, the planning board agreed to send a letter to the village board explaining that the majority of the people who attended the meeting opposed any change to the traffic pattern.