By Amy Patton
Hoping for a measure by the Southampton Town Board to remove funding previously earmarked for a major traffic calming project on Noyac Road, a group of concerned residents were instead served up a plan of compromise by the Southampton Town Board on Tuesday.
And more than a few in attendance weren’t too happy about it.
The board agreed to what it called a “memorializing” resolution. It would, in part, urge the Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor to consider “phasing in” safety improvements on the busy section of Noyac Road that fronts Cromer’s Market and the Whalebone General Store in the Pine Neck neighborhood in Noyac.
In 2011, Southampton Town’s budget allocated $450,000 in funds for the highway department to direct a complete reconstruction of that section of Noyac Road which abuts the two commercially-zoned properties of the popular store and market. It included a plan to divert traffic onto Bay Avenue and Elm Street, and, in addition, called for the widening of Noyac Road and the installation of a raised center median.
Since the project was initially proposed, many locals have bristled at what they consider an unwanted and drastic solution to the traffic problems, speeding and congestion in the area.
Noyac Civic Council (NCC) member Chuck Neuman, the self-described “president emeritus” of the organization, said he had problems with the board’s “fuzzy logic” regarding traffic remediation.
“We ask you to please stop paying lip service to this and take some action,” said Neuman.
One thing the board and members of the NCC did agree upon is Noyac Road is currently a safety hazard. The subject had councilwoman Bridget Fleming — who lives in Pine Neck — characterizing the stretch as “fatally dangerous” several times during the meeting.
“With this memorializing resolution, we are sending a very clear message to both our highway superintendent and this community,” said Supervisor Throne-Holst.
A “phased-in” approach to the situation, she said, would consider front-line traffic calming measures such as rumble strips, restriping, increased signage and stepped-up police patrolling in the area; without allowing for a complete reconstruction of the roadway.
The supervisor stressed completely removing the town budget money slated for what is titled as the “Noyac Road Realignment Project,” is not the right solution for both the town and the Noyac community.
“By defunding this plan,” Throne-Holst said, “it would take away the ability to have further conversations with the highway department about the matter. That would just ensure that other projects in the area don’t get done.”
She did urge patience to those in attendance at the meeting, adding that the highway department is currently “extremely busy” working to clean up and repair some of the town’s roads, many of which were severely impacted by damage from Superstorm Sandy and last weekend’s blizzard.
Those in the affected community, though, expressed disappointment about what they considered to be a watered-down compromise offered by the board.
The Whalebone’s co-owner Linda Heine also expressed concern about the “breakdown’ in communication between the NCC and the town’s highway department head Gregor.
“I’m hoping that we can all work together on this,” she said. “Everyone is aware of the safety hazards there and we all want change. Change is good. But a change of this magnitude is not good for a community as small as Noyac.”
Throne-Holst and other board members acknowledged that communication needs to be improved between Gregor and the people who will potentially be impacted by any road project in the area.
“[With this resolution], we’re sending a very clear message to our highway superintendent and our community,” said Supervisor Throne-Holst.
But, the supervisor added, “This is as much as we can do today. My hope is that we can come to some understanding on this matter. Your objections, be assured, have been heard loud and clear.”