Street could go one of two ways

Safety officials, neighbors at odds

By Charlie Russo, Globe Correspondent (February 18, 2007)

Is it better to be connected? That’s the question being asked in Medfield after a developer proposed two layouts for a new development.

Scott Colwell has presented proposals to the town’s Planning Board that would allow him to build more homes on Quarry Road. In one, he would simply build an extra-long cul-de-sac at the end of the road; in the other, he would connect the road with Morse Drive, linking the Woodcliff Estates and Pine Needle Park neighborhoods.

Colwell said he prefers the cul-de-sac plan, but he has submitted the “cut-through” plan as an alternative, which he said is a requirement in requests for road extensions.

Town Administrator Michael Sullivan said he and most department heads, including the police and fire chiefs and the head of the Department of Public Works, favor the cut-through plan, mainly because it would provide emergency vehicles with alternative routes to reach people in the two neighborhoods.

Residents are worried, however, that shortcut-seekers would drive through Pine Needle Park and Woodcliff Estates, which are north and east of the town center, respectively, to bypass the center and its stoplights.

“Most people think this would be a very attractive cut-through. . . . I’m very concerned that we would see a lot of traffic,” said Christian Donner, a Pine Needle Park resident.

Planning Board members also indicated through an unofficial poll taken at a recent public hearing that they unanimously oppose the cut-through plan. The Board of Health must review the developer’s proposals before the Planning Board renders its final decision. The next Planning Board meeting is Feb. 26.

“I feel that creating a through street does give the potential for a safety hazard,” said Planning Board member George Lester. “These are small residential streets; they weren’t designed to be a through way.”

But a second group of residents, whose streets are already used as shortcuts to bypass the town center, support the idea of a cut-through as a way to spread the traffic burden.

Maureen Hufnagle, a Brook Street resident, said opening up the road would be “in the best interest of the community. . . . We’ve just seen a huge increase in traffic in the 15 years we’ve lived here.”

Roads that would have linked the two neighborhoods have been proposed before and rejected. Past agreements between Colwell, who has built dozens of homes in the area, and the town specifically banned him from building a road that would link Quarry Road to Erik Road, which is also in Pine Needle Park.

Colwell recently purchased a home on Morse Drive that would allow a connection to an extended Quarry Road. Some, like Donner, are hoping that the earlier bans set a precedent that could be enforced now.

As a result of the earlier bans, neighborhood roads were engineered to handle only the cars of nearby residents, not for the additional traffic that a cut-through would attract, Lester said.

“The town had the opportunity twice in the past to proceed on a plan that would have connected Woodcliff Estates and Pine Needle Park but chose not to for reasons of public safety, since these were residential streets,” Lester said.

Colwell, who has built 79 homes in the Woodcliff Estates neighborhood over the last two decades, said he wants to build the cul-de-sac to honor a promise he made to residents that he would not build a cut-through.

The cul-de-sac plan would allow Colwell to build 10 new homes, while the cut-through would allow him to build 13.

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.