Trail talk generates heat at Council meeting

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

The ongoing and often heated conversation surrounding the Rails to Trails project returned to the stage at the Dec. 4 Town Council meeting.

Director of Planning and Economic Development, Mark DeVoe, submitted a response to statements made by resident Katherine LaBella per her request from the previous council meeting on Nov. 20. The statement was read aloud by Town Manager Robert Lee.

On Nov. 20, LaBella approached the council during public comments and stated the trail would be in conflict with the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, and would impact the historic Mule Haul Trail, open space, areas of natural beauty, and other historic features.

DeVoe said a thoughtful trail can actually enhance both public and natural spaces, and can highlight areas where scenic overlooks and nature can be enjoyed without causing harmful adverse impacts. “Historic features can be showcased and protected for generations in lieu of allowing them to continue to slowly decay,” wrote DeVoe.

DeVoe said neighborhoods can be improved through safety enhancements, aesthetic improvements, and traffic calming, “a common sibling to trail design.”

The detailed response notes that the design will make every effort to mitigate the impacts along every foot of the proposed trail. “The law requires that measures be taken to use all reasonable and prudent measures to avoid impact, and where impacts cannot be avoided, to minimize those impacts to the greatest extent feasible.”

LaBella’s statement specifically referred to Pierce Street, which the proposed trail would run alongside. She stated it would compromise the safety of Pierce Street residents. To this, DeVoe said, “The first and foremost consideration of the trail design is safety. Trails have been designed and constructed in neighborhoods. Appropriate design can make an effective and sometimes stark improvement to the appearance of the street.”

DeVoe’s statement in full can be found in the meeting’s minutes on the town’s website, www.plainvillect.com.

Nevertheless, a number of residents spoke in opposition to the proposed trail during public communications on Dec. 4.

Roberta Lauria, who has voiced her opinion in past meetings, took the podium and said to the council, “What do you want from the residents to help you understand the importance of our opposition?”

Lou Frangos called the trail, “idiotic and invasive.”

Marilyn Shorette said the trail would be a liability, and would require maintenance and upkeep of the town. She suggested it travel down Farmington Avenue as to not “affect anyone’s space.”

Council members listened to the remarks of residents, but did not directly respond. Chair Kathy Pugliese noted that the council still does not have all of the information needed to choose one side or the other.

The trail is either completed or in the construction phase from New Haven up to Northampton, Mass., albeit a gap remains between Southington and Plainville.

Comments? Email scyr@SouthingtonObserver. com.