The Town Council moved to take back the issue of Unionville traffic from the Unionville Traffic Committee Tuesday night, saying the committee, which has served almost two years, has nearly completed its information-gathering mission.
The vote came as the council refined and approved its strategic goals and decided how to proceed with one of the town’s top quality of life issues.
The issue was continued from the Feb. 13 meeting, when councilor Patty Stoddard made a motion to bring the current stage of the traffic committee’s work to a close. The motion was approved but the list of goals tabled as the council prioritized the goals due to budget constraints.
The motion took traffic committee members and councilors John Vibert and Charlie Keniston by surprise, and Keniston said it felt as though the others were trying to disband the traffic committee before it could finish its work.
Vibert offered his own wording for the motion Tuesday night, asking the committee be allowed to finish drawing its conclusions before making recommendations to the council in April. He also added that a separate committee be appointed to review the bridge, instead of leaving that as a later extension of the Unionville Traffic Committee’s work.
Keniston pointed out that since Department of Transportation officials advised the council that the state has no money to replace the Unionville bridge, that at this point, “there’s no point to establishing a bridge review committee.”
The language was dropped and Stoddard’s motion revised to allow the traffic committee to draw its conclusions and make recommendations to the council in April. From the conclusions, along with information from the bridge presentation, the council will establish survey questions to be sent to Farmington residents to get further input on how to proceed.
“The notion is to make the council the authority at this point,” Council Chairman Jeff Hogan said.
Members of the Save the Ville group stayed through four hours of the meeting to see the fate of the Unionville Traffic Committee decided.
Megan Parsons addressed the council, saying the committee had broken its word and betrayed the group’s trust by including the New Britain Avenue relocation plan the Save the Ville group worked hard to defeat among options presented during a townwide straw poll March 8.
She quoted former Town Council Chairman Mike Clark saying the plan, which was approved then rescinded by the council, would not again be proposed as is. She also quoted John Vibert saying that had the committee known it would encounter such resistance to the plan, it would not have moved forward with it in the first place.
“What’s really upsetting is I’ve been told one thing and something else is going on behind my back. What I would like to see is the Unionville Traffic Committee disbanded because it’s proven it’s been dishonest,” Parsons said.
But John Vibert left the council bench to respond to her.
“There’s been some confusion about the purpose of the meeting and why option 5, which was clearly discredited in the fall, was included in the program,” Vibert said. “What I was attempting to do in that program was find out where the community was. I knew going in there was a sizable amount of people not in favor of option 5 and I couldn’t imagine going forward in that way, but what I was trying to do was present a spectrum and have the public tell me where they want to go. I stand by my words. I wasn’t advocating number 5 … I’m sorry if I’ve offended people by them thinking it was on the table again — that wasn’t what my goal was.”