Fears the Coventry Regional Farmers Market may need to expend more than $20,000 and wait six months for a traffic study from the CT State Traffic Commission may be unfounded.
In fact, the Coventry Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision Monday (Jan. 9, 2012) to pursue a town-funded traffic study may help the farmers market organizers as they try to finalize a new site in time to open this summer.
The market had to find a new location when it could not reach an agreement with the Connecticut Landmarks to remain at the Nathan Hale Homestead. It also is now hoping to find a location where it can erect a barn, a permanent structure, won in a regional competition.
Still, if the PZC votes in favor of the special permit needed to relocate the farmers market to private land at 307 Silver St. off of Route 44, the state will require its own study. This is because state regulations require a study of the impact of an activity on local traffic when there will be more than 200 parking spaces.
Market organizers have said that a state traffic study could push them past the deadline by which they must have vendors signed up for the upcoming market season.
But State Traffic Commission (STC) Executive Director David A. Sawicki and Coventry Town Planner Eric Trott said information from the town’s traffic study could be incorporated into the state-mandated study and this could shorten the process.
Sawicki also said, if the PZC approves the market’s special permit, he is happy to share with the town’s choice of consultant/engineer what the STC needs in order to proceed.
“If it’s somebody who does traffic engineering and who has done STC work before, they will be familiar with the process,” he said.
The PZC plans to close the public hearing on the market’s special permit at its next meeting, at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 16 in the town hall annex.
Sawicki said heavily traveled state Route 44 is of particular concern. The STC wants to ensure not only that market visitors can safely get to the new location, but that the traffic generated by the farmers market will not interfere with local traffic.
Sawicki said an initial review of the plans seems to indicate it is not likely the farmer’s market site would require the same level of work as there might be for a large development.
He added, “There’s currently already a left-turn lane; that’s a plus for them.”
Regarding the rumored $20,000 cost of an STC traffic study, Sawicki said, “I have no idea what engineering firms charge for their time.”
He also noted that typically, it is the developer or applicant for a permit would provide the STC traffic study but in this case, the town could provide market staff with a report for the STC – as long as it includes all the data required by the state.
This isn’t likely to be the case, Sawicki said, so some additional work may need to be done, but the process could still move forward more quickly and be more affordable.
“There is some overlap which I did suggest to the consultant,” Coventry Town Planner Eric Trott said Wednesday, “we are not preparing a report for the STC … but there may be some crossed lines for both purposes.”
In the meantime, there has been a lively exchange on the market’s Facebook page about offers from other towns to give the Coventry Farmer’s Market a home – including Willimantic, which has a large green (Jillson Square) at the corner of Main and Jackson Streets, often used for carnivals, antique car shows and other entertainment – located near the famous Frog Bridge, as well as downtown restaurants and art galleries, and Eastern Connecticut State University.
Posted Jan. 11, 2012 as edited by and with additional reporting by HTNP.com Editor Brenda Sullivan
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