Justin Bennett (against wall, speaking), a member of the board of directors for The Bay School, lobbies the Blue Hill Selectmen Friday to approve a sidewalk on South Street near the school and the new Blue Hill Co-op. To his right is Marcia Diamond, the school’s principal. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY JENNIFER OSBORN

Blue Hill reverses course on crosswalk

BLUE HILL — After much discussion on Friday, the selectmen agreed to reverse course on an Aug. 31 decision opposing a crosswalk for South Street at the new Blue Hill Co-op.

Ground breaking for the new Co-op occurred earlier this month. The new store, which will be next to Mainescape Garden Center, will be located across from The Bay School.

Selectmen Jim Schatz, Vaughn Leach and Ellen Best initially resisted a crosswalk because they understood speed bumps might be part of the project.

“The pushback was speed bumps,” Schatz said. “We thought the [Bay] school in particular wanted speed bumps.”

Schatz said when the board realized the school and the co-op “were comfortable” with crosswalks and signs, the board decided to back the idea.

The board had taken a number of complaints from residents opposed to speed bumps, Schatz said.

On Wednesday, Co-op General Manager Kevin Gadsby said his organization has been intentional in creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment on South Street.

“With roughly 130 students between the Bay School and the Harbor School directly across the street from the new Co-op, it made reasonable sense to find a way for students, faculty and their families to cross the street, safely as it is anticipated that the new Co-op will be a draw for them and others.”

Several representatives of The Bay School and the Blue Hill Co-op met with board members after their regular Friday meeting.

“This is the time to get it set up correctly at the outset,” said Bay School Board member Justin Bennett. “You have pedestrian traffic right away when that co-op is up and running.”

Bay School Principal Marcia Diamond said students are already crossing the road.

Many of the school’s 102 students have permission to walk from campus after school, she said. Many cross South Street to take a Blue Hill Heritage Trust trail that links South Street with Parker Point Road downtown.

“There’s already a safety issue that we know about,” Diamond said. “Let’s slow the traffic down now before the Co-op is open.”

Former Bay School parent and co-op member Rick Traub told the board the area already has a “big amount of foot traffic.” The Bay School’s Emlen Hall is used year-round for special events and the Winter Market at Mainescape generates foot traffic.

Parking is also an issue for community events in the area.

Planning Board Chairman Scott Miller said, “In my mind, I recognize it’s a danger, but I don’t blame the DOT or the town. I focus more on the individual property owners.” They should be either limiting attendance or providing more parking or getting people to carpool, Miller said. Events are supposed to have adequate onsite parking.

Selectman Best said if the town gets a grant for sidewalks, there won’t be any room to park.

“I’m just saying this is something to be aware of because there isn’t going to be any parking on South Street,” she said.

Also, according to Maine Department of Transportation engineer Bruce Mattson, parking isn’t allowed within 20 feet of a crosswalk.

Mattson said installing crosswalks is a municipal decision.

The Co-op is required to put up a “beacon” that will have a button for pedestrians to press that causes yellow lights to flash, the engineer said.

“It just gives motorists a warning that people are crossing,” Mattson said. “State law says that if someone is in a crosswalk, you must yield.”

The new Co-op is slated for a soft opening in June 2019.

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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