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Hostility, Huge Turnout Mark Unionville Traffic Meeting

More than 200 people appeared to vote on and argue about solutions to village congestion.

The Unionville Traffic Committee welcomed more than 200 people to what may be its last meeting at the Community and Senior Center Thursday night.

Cars filled the complex’s parking lots and lined New Britain Avenue; some residents left because they couldn’t find a place to park. The meeting was the committee’s most widely attended after the town used the Everbridge notification system to contact residents.

The crowd came to hear and vote on six options for improving Unionville traffic, centered around the South Main Street-New Britain Avenue intersection, which committee members said is the lynchpin of village congestion. Committee spokesman, town councilor and lifetime Unionville resident John Vibert presented the options, which he said were crafted from public input given at charettes held in November 2010 and suggestions from the Save the Ville group that protested the committee’s proposed New Britain Avenue relocation plan.

“We’re here to listen,” Vibert said. “We’re not here to make decisions around plans tonight but to get your input.”

The committee, which was charged by the Town Council with gathering public input around solutions to the village’s traffic problems, had already received and vetted several hundred suggestions. At the council table in February, members moved to bring the committee’s work to a close, saying that the body would likely be unable to get residents to agree to a plan and that the discussion had narrowed into a debate with a small group of residents. Thursday’s meeting was intended to draw from the larger community and see if residents both of Unionville and Farmington could get behind a plan.

Options

Vibert presented a range of options from doing nothing to replacing the Unionville bridge with a larger, three-lane bridge, though the first, he said, would leave the village facing a 1.3 percent yearly increase in traffic and the latter is unlikely to gain Department of Transportation approval.

Plans between incrementally increased in scope, impact and benefit, Vibert said. He weighed the plans effectiveness against a list of nine causes of congestion identified by residents at the charettes.

The second alternative was to widen South Main Street from the bridge to New Britain Avenue, creating a left-turn lane for southbound traffic; update traffic signal equipment and reconfigure the corners at Railroad Avenue so school buses would be able to turn down that road instead of blocking the intersection.

That plan would force removal of LA Styles Salon, he said.

Option 3 built on 2 by widening South Main Street from the bridge to New Britain Avenue, creating a dedicated turn lane for traffic coming down the hill and turning onto Railroad Avenue. That option also would reroute Rails to Trails down Railroad Avenue to eliminate safety concerns. Liquor Square would be removed.

Option 4 would widen South Main Street from the bridge to Depot Place, creating left-turn lanes for both south and northbound traffic. The plan would impact LA Styles Salon and Liquor Square.

The fifth option was the , which committee members say addresses all of the nine problems. Some in the crowd were surprised to see the plan, which was by a 4-3 Town Council vote in November 2011 and was the next month after the Save the Ville group gathered decrying the plan.

One Save the Ville member said former Town Council Chairman Mike Clark had assured the group the plan was dead and would no longer be considered. Another accused Vibert of overriding the sentiment of 1,700 people.

"The plan is still a viable alternative," Vibert responded. "What we're trying to do is present a full spectrum of options."

But from there the discussion disintegrated, with residents shouting, engaging in side conversations and talking over each other. Many stepped up to offer more ideas on how to fix traffic, though the committee had distributed a list of 88 ideas that had been considered and had addressed why a roundabout at Route 177 and Route 4 had been dismissed.

Vibert politely allowed audience members to comment, ask questions and even come up to a projected map for more than an hour.

Toward the end, Jay Sullivan, a New Horizons resident, thanked Vibert and Councilor Charlie Keniston for serving on the committee.

"I want to thank you and Charlie for putting up with this tonight," he said. "I hope that everyone here, though we disagree with each other, recognizes you have stepped up and done your public service, so thank you."

As the discussion began to devolve, people started leaving, grabbing ballots on the way out the door. Officials confirmed that some people filled out and submitted stacks of ballots before members realized the problem and began monitoring the process.

A hand vote showed the most support for Alternative 4, with slightly fewer hands raised for doing nothing and Alternative 3. The wider bridge received a few votes.

Next steps

The committee will tabulate ballot results and meet again Wednesday morning. If the group sees support for one option, it will recommend it to the Town Council later this month.

"It was unfortunate that several people standing in the back of the room were taking multiple ballots, filling them out and turning them in," Keniston said after the meeting. "The one word I heard here tonight was 'rude, rude rude.' There was a lack of respect to give speakers the chance to be heard."

He did say he was pleased with the turnout, as did Vibert, who was still smiling at the end of the night.

"The turnout was tremendous. We had a lot of honest expression of opinion and we didn’t hear a lot of different ideas,” Vibert said. “However, I didn’t sense a strong consensus for any of the alternatives so it’s hard to imagine moving forward.”

Kaitlin Glanzer (Editor) March 09, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Okay, April, even if it's too late for the meeting, let's keep the comments polite. Impact means the building can't be there. John Vibert said they hadn't worked out all the details for the alternatives but moving the buildings was discussed under the New Britain Avenue relocation plan. I believe things like that would be worked out in cooperation with the surrounding property owners, should one plan go forward.
Susan Kasmar March 09, 2012 at 02:04 PM
It's important to listen to what the people of Unionville want. We do not want to have people lose their homes or their lively hood. I really loved the elder gentlemen's suggestion on making New Britain Avenue an no-thru road. That in itself sounds like it would solve the problem about the back up. Also encouraging people to use public transportation. I've lived in Unionville for 80% of my life. The traffic is back up during morning rush hour, after school and evening rush hour traffic and seems Thursday evenings. (Payday I assume). I don't mind it. I live on 177 and it's just the way it is. Every town has back up at these times. Get out of Hartford, West Hartford, Avon and you will see it's not that different from our town. It really seems the major problem is Route 4 and the five way intersection. Let's work on that. Just sayin and just my own opinion.
April Rogers March 09, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Kaitlin, there is nothing wrong with my comment. I did not attack any one person (tho I surely could!) just my opinion about how stupid the meeting was in general. It was the first and probably the last meeting I will attend as it was so poorly put together. Another question would be this.. If Vibert on his own put plan #5 on this proposal, what happened to the other people who worked on this committee? Was this a committee of one??? The whole thing makes no sense to me. Again, poorly poorly put together meeting by ALL who were involved.
April Rogers March 09, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Saul, you are 100 percent correct.. we were told by the town that the Carrier development would NOT impact traffic in our neighborhood or in town.. HA! how can you possibly build that many houses and have them and their 3 or more vehicles NOT impact traffic??? Not to mention that ontop of all that Carrier shoved in a couple extra houses without any notice going out to the neighboring streets. We were NOT supposed to have houses behind us and now I have this house right in my back yard. I can tell you what they are eating for breakfast because they are that close to me now. This town needs to stop building. yes some traffic comes from nearby towns but most of it is coming from right here in Unionville!!!
Megan McArdle Parsons March 09, 2012 at 03:23 PM
When the petition of over 1,700 signatures was approved, the town council changed their votes and said that they were not pulling a fast one and this plan would not be presented again, at least not for a very long time. John and Charlie attended that council meeting, as council members. They basiclly thumbed their noses at the town council, the community and the town of Unionville by putting this on the slate. And Saul, you obviously are not from Unionville if that is how you describe us. Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. I'm sure I won't ever run into you at Starbucks...there isn't one in the Ville.
Michael Andrew March 09, 2012 at 03:48 PM
SAUL Friedman, everyone remember that name too. He said nothing positive, who is the wannabe snob. About John Vibert, he was elected to the town, and he "ignored the 1700+ petitioners" by putting his solution back up for consideration, and not telling how many residents and businesses would be affected by choice 5. John Vibert showed last night that he does not even know how to show an audio visual presentation. If, and this was obvious not his aim, he was presenting for debate all the choices then the room should have been set up 90 degrees differently so that everyone could have seen the visual part of the presentation. This is not a redesign of the crossing of the Hudson/Mississippi river. It would take a qualified engineer staff about 90 days to come up with a plan that would be pleasing to most concerned, except John Vibert and Saul.....
Ron White March 09, 2012 at 04:22 PM
I agree there is no good reason to personally attack the traffic committee for trying to do the right thing. The original plan was from the CT dept of transportation. If the local residents don't want the professionally designed traffic improvements vote it down and move on.
Bob Smith March 09, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Darn! I seem to have missed Saul's comment since I no longer see it posted. He always leaves such interesting out-of-touch comments too. I do enjoy reading those. As for this whole debacle, I certainly hope we can put this behind us soon. From what I've read it seems that these meetings are nothing but counterproductive. Unless you are considering Mr. Vibert and Mr. Keniston's political suicide campaign as being productive, which is a debatable point.
dccb9 March 09, 2012 at 05:10 PM
How embarrassing for Unionville. Sounds like the residents in attendance acted like a bunch of children. Something needs to be done or Unionville with devolve into a perpetual traffic jam, destroying the qualify of life for village residents and the quality of life for all of Farmington.
dccb9 March 09, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Well put. The businesses will be harmed whether they are relocated or not. Most residents in nearby areas avoid those businesses anyway - just to avoid having to drive through Unionville. Unionville needs to be a place people want to come to - not a place to avoid because of congestion.
Kaitlin Glanzer (Editor) March 09, 2012 at 05:15 PM
dccb9, please register under your full name to comment. Thanks.
dccb9 March 09, 2012 at 05:16 PM
I agree. These people should be ashamed of themselves - shouting over each other, stuffing ballots - pathetic.
Justin March 09, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I don't see why there is a need to fix this so called traffic problem. Ok, lets say we do fix it and traffics moves more smoothly. Now word gets around that it is easy to drive through Unionville and do you shopping. Then all these people who say they avoid it will come back and we will be in the boat we are in now.
Robert Huelin March 09, 2012 at 05:24 PM
It is disappointing that the response to the obvious and serious traffic problem is arrogance and anger. Criticizing the committee, in particular John Vibert, for putting all options in front of the public smacks of entitlement and political gamesmanship. The famed 1700 petitioners are not a majority of anything--not the whole town and not even the residents of Unionville. The assumption that their opinion is the only opinion is insulting to the 24,000 other residents of town (and the thousands of other residents of Unionville, myself included) who may support the original plan, and more importantly who may want the opportunity to consider all of the options anew. John Vibert and the rest of the commission are sincerely trying to develop workable solutions to a complex problem and they are going to great lengths to involve the community and to incorporate community feedback into their proposals. We are lucky to have someone like John, who cares enough to try in the face of selfishness, ignorance, apathy and rage. Sadly, improving the situation seems impossible, but when I'm stuck in traffic for up to 30 minutes every day trying to cross the bridge, I won't hold it against John that he did everything he could to bring the community together to find a solution.
Miriam Devlin March 09, 2012 at 05:37 PM
@ Robert, Amen!!! John Vibert did an excellent job of presenting the options that it shows his genuine care and concern for the town and its residents.
Kay Higgins March 09, 2012 at 05:38 PM
I did not have a chance to go to the meeting, but now I'm glad I didn't. The traffic comittee seems to have gone out of their way to accomodate the opinions and suggestions of a relatively small group of people, and, in the process, explored many alternatives to the original plan. All of these plans seem to have been fleshed out sufficiently for most to understand. The well-being of our town is dependant on sensible management, not rabble-rousing.
Jennifer March 09, 2012 at 05:48 PM
This is what is insulting...yes we need a plan, but option #5 should of never been on the table. Here are minutes from the 12/13/11 Town Meeting. "asked what the next steps would be if the Town Council were to rescind their action on the New Britain Avenue relocation plan from the November meeting. The Manager explained there would be no Special Town Meeting and the action as passed could not be considered again. and that there would not be immediate revisiting of the current plan." Minutes of the Town of Farmington Regular Meeting of the Town Council December 13, 2011
Susan Copley March 09, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Very well written, Robert! I agree with your thoughtful comments and thank you for presenting the FACTS without emotion and anger. That's what Unionville needs more of!
Robert Huelin March 09, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Jennifer--I think you need to be clear about the effect of the Town Manager's statement. The "action as passed" means the specific motion put before the Council. It does not mean that no aspect of that plan, or even the plan entire, can never again be considered by the Council or the public. And last night's meeting was not a Council meeting, or a Special Town Meeting or any other legislative meeting--nothing about putting the unpopular plan before the public last night in any way contradicts or undermines the Town Manager's explanation. As it is, I think it is highly unlikely that the Council will act on any plan at this point, and the rejected plan is certainly dead at least for the next few years. I think including the rejected plan in the options presented yesterday was a sensible way to make the presentation--as the highest visibility proposal, it represents an excellent baseline for the public to use when comparing alternatives. I would also reiterate that the plan was rescinded in response to criticism from a vocal minority---there are many residents of Unionville and the town as a whole that would be happy to see the rejected plan move forward, even if we don't start a petition drive to make that happen. Just because the Council's approval was rescinded does not mean everyone agrees that the plan should never be discussed again in any public meeting about the traffic situation in Unionville.
Richard Jenkins March 09, 2012 at 09:32 PM
They try to make it look like people have a say in what happens but in the end they can and will do whatever they please. I have a feeling they will go with that original plan as it solves more problems then all the others. That's why they put that one back on the table. trust me it will happen eventually weather we like it or not.
Bill Watson March 09, 2012 at 10:13 PM
A salute to Robert Huelin. I hope our Town Council processes all this and makes a sound decision that will make Unionville a better place to live and visit in the future.
Tim Sheldon March 09, 2012 at 10:20 PM
I Don't get this do you people live under rocks ? The problem is that we have traffic yes we do .the solution is do nothing in Unionville and Continue route 72 to connect with route 8 that would eliminate traffic through our town . when the state made up this interstate / expressway system they never took into consideration that people that live in the northwest corner needed a highway Now its biting them in the @ss (pardon my french) Most of the Cars that come through our town between the hours of 7 and 9 am and 4 and 6pm are from the northwest part of the state . ya get rid of them cars traffic will cease to exist
Sheryl Fuller March 09, 2012 at 10:35 PM
What I find disheartening is that Mr. Huelin has disparaged a group of people that banned together to have a unified voice. What is said here is that voicing opinions other than Mr. Huelin's is arrogance, anger, entitlement, political gamesmanship, insulting to the 24,000 other residents (why have we not heard from them, OR Mr. Huelin until now?, in the 11th hour), and that these people with voices are selfish, ignorant, apathetic and full of rage. Kaitlin - what about this individual insulting a group of people with all this name slinging? How about this?????? Thank you. Sheryl. PS - I am not a member of any group but find Mr. Huelin offensive.
Tim Sheldon March 09, 2012 at 11:06 PM
And if you think this wont work look at before the extended 72 in Plainville to Bristol Forestville Center was grid locked every night now that they finished the project no more traffic . I aint no rocket scientist nor do i play one on tv but that proves it worked
david kellenbach March 10, 2012 at 02:07 AM
FYI: Looked up Robert Huelin. Was a one-term first district member on council, then failed council candidate to get elected in second district Unionville, and now it appears is the current head of the democrat party in town. Political gamesmanship? Really? How about political cronyism on your part? Why did you not disclose who you really are?
Robert Huelin March 10, 2012 at 02:27 AM
I believe I disclosed exactly who I am--that is my name over my comments. And I spoke for myself and myself only. Attacking Charlie and John because they are going to extreme lengths to seek out public involvement is incredibly arrogant and short sighted. They are both trying very hard to do the right thing and the response here is disheartening and many of the comments are clearly politial attacks. Your assumption that nobody could possibly think as I do without a hidden agenda is reflective of the general tone and tenor of these comments.
Mark March 10, 2012 at 10:14 PM
I give the town officials a lot of credit for maintaining their composure the way they did throughout the meeting. I feel bad that they were subjected to that type of behavior. The personal attacks, screaming, yelling and rude conduct was inexcusable. Agree or disagree with what was presented, there is no justification for that hostile and vicious behavior. It makes the residents of Farmington look like a bunch of barbarians. Is that how civilized people make decisions? The ones that scream and yell the loudest win? What happened to thought out opinions which express one's point of view without attacking and insulting others?
Saul Freedman March 11, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Sheryl, democrats know better than the people. They want to take care of us cradle to grave, just look at our President.
JessAnthony March 11, 2012 at 04:45 PM
I absolutely agree. When can we starting thinking about the 21st Century and our kids? They need to safe place to ride their bikes or walk to school. With the mayhem in Unionville, I do not feel comfortable setting them free. We have a beautiful town and I just don't understand why we need to preserve these small business the way they are currently and have always been, instead of partnering with them to recreate them for a new generation of commerce. It is possible.
TDC March 13, 2012 at 12:46 AM
None one likes change but to continue doing or suggesting to do nothing will only hurt the town of Unionville in the end. Definition of insanity if to continue doing the same thing and expect different results. People need to get over it and let the town and state do what is the best for the towns traffic and safety of it's residents. Quite frankly the buildings that are in the way look like HELL anyways and many of the owners of these buildings are in favor of the relocation. How many of the votes on Thursday were from non residents? I spent 40 + years living in Unionville and got tired of the got to be better and have more than than the your neighbors mentally. I finally got sick of the stuffiness of Farmington/Unionville and moved to Burlington 13 years ago with it's hand full of traffic lights. Its a lot quieter and has down to earth people making the best of it. The traffic is not going to go away and someone is going to get hurt if nothing is done. I applaud the Save The Ville people but I never saw a petition for a Improve The Ville's safety and lets get what needs to be done,relocate New Britain Ave. Personally I avoid Unionville center and Rt 4 to Farmington like the plague but do spend a lot of time on River road and Rt 6. What are you going to do when River road needs to be improved again for traffic flow. With all the development going on there that can't be too far away.

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