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Following lengthy discussion at a July 6 Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) public hearing, P&Z members unanimously approved a special zoning permit for the construction of a child day care center at 2 Saw Mill Road in Hawleyville, which would serve up to 210 young students.
Most discussion among P&Z members at the session concerned the hazards involved with motorists exiting the western leg of Saw Mill Road to enter its offset four-way intersection with Mt Pleasant Road and Hawleyville Road.
As part of the redevelopment project, the existing driveway for the 1.9-acre parcel, which intersects with Mt Pleasant Road, would be eliminated, with the vehicular access for the site shifted to a new driveway on Saw Mill Road.
The facility would be operated on Mondays through Fridays by Educational Playcare, Ltd, a firm that has 13 day care centers in Connecticut and two centers planned to open this fall. Children from infancy to age 5 would attend.
Engineer Dainius Virbickas, of Artel Engineering Group, LLC of Brookfield, representing the developer, presented plans for the project to P&Z members. RSD-Newtown, LLC, of Windsor is the applicant for the project in a B-2 (Buisiness) zone.
The environmentally sensitive Pond Brook, a stream that carries water from Taunton Lake to the Housatonic River, crosses the southern section of the development site, and also forms the property’s western boundary.
The project would combine 16,788 square feet of new construction on two levels with an existing 2,514-square-foot 1779 house at the site for an overall 19,302-square-foot facility. An existing garage on the property would be razed to make way for the project. A 48-space parking lot would be constructed. Outdoor playgrounds would be created. The new building would be constructed in the style of a barn.
Because the site has sloping terrain, the developer would need to construct retaining walls there to create a sufficiently large flat area for the new construction. Sitework will include earthen cutting on the property’s east side and filling on its west side. The project would be served by a public water supply, as well as municipal sanitary sewers.
In a three-page traffic analysis, DLS Traffic Engineering, LLC, of Windsor, representing the developer, concludes that shifting the driveway for the site from Mt Pleasant Road to Saw Mill Road improves traffic safety on Mt Pleasant Road and simplifies overall traffic flow patterns in the area. Also, the proposed project can be accommodated by area roadways with improved safety and no significant impact on traffic operations, according to DLS.
Traffic engineer David Spear described the traffic flow aspects of the project to P&Z members.
P&Z member Jim Swift raised questions about traffic conditions at the offset four-way intersection near the site. P&Z member Corinne Cox noted that the continuing development of Hawleyville will result in much more traffic traveling through that intersection.
Mr Spear said that a day care center would not generate a significant amount of traffic. Also, the sight lines at that intersection would be adequate for people entering the junction from Saw Mill Road, he said. The planned new driveway at Saw Mill Road would amount to “a major improvement,” he said.
P&Z member Roy Meadows noted that the intersection is not a standard intersection, adding that it is more difficult to navigate than is described in the DLS traffic report. Mr Meadows later said that the information presented to the P&Z does not appear to accurately reflect conditions at the intersection.
P&Z Chairman Robert Mulholland said the traffic issue posed by that intersection is the difficulty which motorists face in seeking to exit Saw Mill Road and make a left turn to enter the junction.
Mr Mulholland urged that Mr Spear provide a traffic analysis that thoroughly covers all traffic flow at the intersection.
“This is not a poorly operating intersection,” Mr Spear stressed. Saw Mill Road provides the best vehicular access point for a day care center, he added.
Mr Mulholland said he expects that most parents leaving the day care center would turn left from Saw Mill Road, briefly travel on westbound Mt Pleasant Road, and then turn right onto northbound Hawleyville Road, traveling toward the Exit 9 interchange of Interstate 84.
Mr Mulholland urged that motorists exiting the day care center be instructed to follow the eastern leg of Saw Mill Road, after which they would enter Mt Pleasant Road at a point lying about 900 feet east of Saw Mill Road’s western intersection with Mt Pleasant Road.
Only one person spoke during the public comment section of the public hearing — resident Wendy Knothe of 5 Saw Mill Road.
Ms Knothe said that entering Mt Pleasant Road from the eastern leg of Saw Mill Road is not a good idea due to the high speeds of motorists traveling eastward on Mt Pleasant Road.
Also, exiting Saw Mill Road’s western leg to enter Mt Pleasant Road is “tricky,” when considering the dynamics of the traffic signal in the intersection which provides a “protected turn” for motorists who are turning left from eastbound Mt Pleasant Road onto northbound Hawleyville Road, she said.
Ms Knothe noted that is especially difficult to enter that intersection from the western leg of Saw Mill Road in the mornings.
“It’s a complex intersection… It’s very dangerous,” she said.
The difficulty of making a left turn is compounded two lanes of eastward traffic traveling uphill on Mt Pleasant Road, she said.
“It’s terrible… There’s sightline issues,” she added.
Mr Mulholland told applicant Harry Freeman of RSD, “I think there’s a major safety issue, and I hope it doesn’t deter your business.”
P&Z members then formulated a motion, which they approved, granting RSD the special zoning permit. Among the conditions listed in the approval are that the applicant install a sign at the exit driveway of the day care center informing motorists that they may only make a right turn onto Saw Mill Road at peak traffic flow periods. Also, the day care center’s brochure must note such a right-turn requirement, according to the P&Z.
Those conditions are intended to keep motorists from entering the offset intersection of Mt Pleasant Road, Hawleyville Road, and Saw Mill Road from Saw Mill Road during times of the day when the traffic flow is heaviest in that area.