The Board of Selectmen has taken the first step in helping Westonites to step out onto sidewalks.
At a special meeting Monday night, Sept. 24, the board authorized First Selectman Gayle Weinstein to apply for a grant for construction of sidewalks through the state’s Main Street Investment Fund Program.
The sidewalk project being proposed has a total estimated cost of $244,538. The town is applying for a grant of $217,538 because the grant does not cover soft costs, such as police coverage for traffic control during construction. Therefore, if the grant is approved, the town would still need to appropriate approximately $27,000.
Ms. Weinstein said the hope is to install sidewalks along School Road (connecting the few that are already there in front of the middle school, the high school, and the intermediate school to each other and along the rest of the road), and to connect these to new ones on Route 57/Weston Road in front of Weston Center and the Onion Barn and east up Norfield Road to the town hall/library complex.
“It would be nice to make town hall part of the community,” Ms. Weinstein said Monday morning. Sidewalks would make the gazebo and town green near town hall more accessible and more frequently used by encouraging people to walk there from Weston Center, Ms. Weinstein said.
In addition, it would allow town hall and library employees easier access to businesses at Weston Center, she said.
The sidewalks on School Road would not only improve safety there, Ms. Weinstein said, but “the schools are the town’s largest employer. Sidewalks will help encourage school employees as well as students, who have an open campus, to make their way safely to the town center where they can frequent the businesses there,” Ms. Weinstein said.
Ms. Weinstein pointed out that the idea of sidewalks in the center of town is not a new one. The town has been exploring funding sources for the project since long before she took office, she noted.
Adopting parts of town plan
In order to bolster the town’s application for the Main Street Investment Fund Program grant, the Board of Selectmen on Monday adopted a resolution officially supporting the sections of the 2010 Town Plan of Conservation and Development that relate to the town’s economic center and pedestrian facilities.
The town plan, which was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission in June 2010, but never officially adopted by the Board of Selectmen, sets out the policies, goals, and standards for the physical and economic development of Weston.
The section on pedestrian facilities (page 29 of the town plan, which is available on the town website, westonct.gov) recommends studying the feasibility of installing walking and biking paths that connect key locations in the center of town, and then moving forward with construction if it’s found to be “physically and economically feasible and [if it] enhances the quality of life in Weston.”
The other section of the town plan the selectmen officially adopted Monday is Economic Development, Section B: The Center of Weston (pages 12-17).
In this section, P&Z discusses the public feedback it received that favored some commercial development in the town center, as long as it is not “detrimental to the rural/residential character of Weston.”
The town plan explores the economic and community advantages of developing the area across the street from the Weston Shopping Center, especially the town-owned land that currently houses the school bus depot and the Onion Barn area. Sidewalks and crosswalks connecting the shopping center to the bus depot/Onion Barn area would be an integral part of this idea.
Ms. Weinstein said the sidewalk grant application will likely be submitted by the end of this week. If approved, the sidewalk project would then need to go through the Planning and Zoning Commission’s 8-24 approval process.