On Tuesday evening, Jan. 25, in the midst of a snowstorm, the Sands Point Board of Trustees held a public hearing on the DEIS, (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) regarding the traffic circulation and access to the Village Club of Sands Point. As proposed in the revision to the master plan, the board will make Thayer Lane, now a private driveway to the club, the main entrance and exit, make Astor Lane an exit, and make the present main gate at Astor/Harbor and Middle Neck Road an ancillary exit.
According to the revised master plan, the rationale behind making Thayer Lane the main entrance and exit is to eliminate village club traffic traversing the interior roads and golf course and to reduce traffic volume at the intersection of Astor/Harbor and Middle Neck Road, which is currently experiencing some peak hour capacity constraints and a relatively high accident rate.
Representing the Village Club's position for the proposed action was Joseph Staiger PE, PP of Atlantic Traffic and Design Engineers. With charts in hand, Mr. Staiger presented his view of having the 477 members access the club via Thayer Lane. Two hundred and fifty-six of the 477 are expected to enter Thayer Lane from the north, freeing up the concentration of traffic that would have resulted from an Astor Lane entrance that was originally proposed. Thayer Lane will be widened to 18 feet to accommodate the new traffic and will be paved to meet current road standards.
The rationale behind the Thayer Lane entrance was challenged by the majority of the area residents in attendance who braved freezing winds and what Sands Point Police termed "poor road conditions" to attend the hearing. More than 50 area residents attended to voice their concerns about the proposed Thayer Lane entrance.
Representing The Concerned Port Residents Committee was Steven Schneider, PE, of Schneider Associates. Mr. Schneider explained that traffic now regulated at a signalized intersection, Astor/Harbor and Middle Neck Road, will be moved to a non-signalized intersection, Thayer Lane, with the corresponding possibility for increased accidents. Mr. Schneider also explained that the existing traffic analysis was potentially flawed by merely taking statistics from police reports over a five-year period without investigating the nature of the accidents and their causes giving a possibly false picture of what is truly happening. Mr. Schneider also questioned the time period of the traffic flow analysis, which was done in May and October. Mr. Schneider argued that such a time period is too limited because peak traffic flow occurs in the summer months. He concluded that a complete traffic study analysis would demonstrate that more accidents will result by making Thayer Lane the club's entrance.
For over three hours, residents voiced their objections to the Thayer Road entrance. Mayor Wurzel, with the full board in attendance, assured the residents that consideration would be given to all comments.
Barry Jason opposed the creation of a new intersection at Thayer Lane, explaining that the dangerous intersection will be moved, but not corrected. He reiterated Mr. Schneider's concern that the new intersection will be more dangerous because there is no traffic signal.
Scott Warner asked that the board give further consideration to routing the traffic through the club. As a member of the club's golf committee, he noted that the golfers were never questioned about the proposed change. He stated that he would have no objection to having club traffic routed internally.
Frederick Hanpt articulated his frustration that he had only five minutes to challenge the conclusions of Mr. Staiger, who spoke for 30 minutes. Barbara Goldstein wondered "how the creation of a new intersection in a residential area where people walk their dogs is safer than what already exists at a signalized intersection."
Kevin Harrington, a resident of Middle Neck Road, asked for a more in depth analysis of the 57 reported accidents that have occurred. He believed that merely stating that 32 of the 57, or 56 percent of the accidents occurred at Astor/Harbor and Middle Neck Road does not necessarily mean that an entrance of Thayer Lane will be a safer intersection.
Robert D'Allesandro, representing the residents of The Terrace, asked the board to re-evaluate how the 57 accidents occurred. He stated that an in depth study would show that the accidents at Avenues A, B and C occurred while cars were turning into and out of those streets, and that the proposed Thayer Lane entrance, will create the same traffic problems presented by Avenues A, B, and C. In addition, in 1999, over 66 percent of the accidents on Middle Neck Road occurred at Avenues A, B, and C with only 33 percent at the intersection of Astor/Harbor and Middle Neck Road.
Mary O'Neil disputed the board's claim that "minor environmental impact will result" and noted that not one resident along Middle Neck Road was interviewed as part of the traffic study.
A 26-year resident of Middle Neck Road questioned the wisdom of creating another busy intersection on Middle Neck Road, that is so heavily traveled by school buses and promises to see more traffic with the expansion of the Sands Point Nursing Home.
Nearing midnight, Annette Oestreich, asked the board take a hard look at the thinking and opinions of concerned citizens in making their decision.
The public hearing was then closed. Anyone interested or concerned can send his or her written comments to the Village of Sands Point. Comments are due no later than Feb. 14. The board is already reviewing the 2 1/2 inches of correspondence that has been generated by the proposed entrance at Thayer Lane. The board will then make its decision.
The next scheduled board meeting will be on Monday, Feb. 28 at Village Hall of Sands Point at 8 p.m.