Hostility, Huge Turnout Mark Unionville Traffic Meeting

More than 200 people appeared to vote on and argue about solutions to village congestion.

The Unionville Traffic Committee welcomed more than 200 people to what may be its last meeting at the Community and Senior Center Thursday night.

Cars filled the complex’s parking lots and lined New Britain Avenue; some residents left because they couldn’t find a place to park. The meeting was the committee’s most widely attended after the town used the Everbridge notification system to contact residents.

The crowd came to hear and vote on six options for improving Unionville traffic, centered around the South Main Street-New Britain Avenue intersection, which committee members said is the lynchpin of village congestion. Committee spokesman, town councilor and lifetime Unionville resident John Vibert presented the options, which he said were crafted from public input given at charettes held in November 2010 and suggestions from the Save the Ville group that protested the committee’s proposed New Britain Avenue relocation plan.

“We’re here to listen,” Vibert said. “We’re not here to make decisions around plans tonight but to get your input.”

The committee, which was charged by the Town Council with gathering public input around solutions to the village’s traffic problems, had already received and vetted several hundred suggestions. At the council table in February, members moved to bring the committee’s work to a close, saying that the body would likely be unable to get residents to agree to a plan and that the discussion had narrowed into a debate with a small group of residents. Thursday’s meeting was intended to draw from the larger community and see if residents both of Unionville and Farmington could get behind a plan.


Vibert presented a range of options from doing nothing to replacing the Unionville bridge with a larger, three-lane bridge, though the first, he said, would leave the village facing a 1.3 percent yearly increase in traffic and the latter is unlikely to gain Department of Transportation approval.

Plans between incrementally increased in scope, impact and benefit, Vibert said. He weighed the plans effectiveness against a list of nine causes of congestion identified by residents at the charettes.

The second alternative was to widen South Main Street from the bridge to New Britain Avenue, creating a left-turn lane for southbound traffic; update traffic signal equipment and reconfigure the corners at Railroad Avenue so school buses would be able to turn down that road instead of blocking the intersection.

That plan would force removal of LA Styles Salon, he said.

Option 3 built on 2 by widening South Main Street from the bridge to New Britain Avenue, creating a dedicated turn lane for traffic coming down the hill and turning onto Railroad Avenue. That option also would reroute Rails to Trails down Railroad Avenue to eliminate safety concerns. Liquor Square would be removed.

Option 4 would widen South Main Street from the bridge to Depot Place, creating left-turn lanes for both south and northbound traffic. The plan would impact LA Styles Salon and Liquor Square.

The fifth option was the , which committee members say addresses all of the nine problems. Some in the crowd were surprised to see the plan, which was by a 4-3 Town Council vote in November 2011 and was the next month after the Save the Ville group gathered decrying the plan.

One Save the Ville member said former Town Council Chairman Mike Clark had assured the group the plan was dead and would no longer be considered. Another accused Vibert of overriding the sentiment of 1,700 people.

"The plan is still a viable alternative," Vibert responded. "What we're trying to do is present a full spectrum of options."

But from there the discussion disintegrated, with residents shouting, engaging in side conversations and talking over each other. Many stepped up to offer more ideas on how to fix traffic, though the committee had distributed a list of 88 ideas that had been considered and had addressed why a roundabout at Route 177 and Route 4 had been dismissed.

Vibert politely allowed audience members to comment, ask questions and even come up to a projected map for more than an hour.

Toward the end, Jay Sullivan, a New Horizons resident, thanked Vibert and Councilor Charlie Keniston for serving on the committee.

"I want to thank you and Charlie for putting up with this tonight," he said. "I hope that everyone here, though we disagree with each other, recognizes you have stepped up and done your public service, so thank you."

As the discussion began to devolve, people started leaving, grabbing ballots on the way out the door. Officials confirmed that some people filled out and submitted stacks of ballots before members realized the problem and began monitoring the process.

A hand vote showed the most support for Alternative 4, with slightly fewer hands raised for doing nothing and Alternative 3. The wider bridge received a few votes.

Next steps

The committee will tabulate ballot results and meet again Wednesday morning. If the group sees support for one option, it will recommend it to the Town Council later this month.

"It was unfortunate that several people standing in the back of the room were taking multiple ballots, filling them out and turning them in," Keniston said after the meeting. "The one word I heard here tonight was 'rude, rude rude.' There was a lack of respect to give speakers the chance to be heard."

He did say he was pleased with the turnout, as did Vibert, who was still smiling at the end of the night.

"The turnout was tremendous. We had a lot of honest expression of opinion and we didn’t hear a lot of different ideas,” Vibert said. “However, I didn’t sense a strong consensus for any of the alternatives so it’s hard to imagine moving forward.”

Robert Huelin March 10, 2012 at 02:27 AM
I believe I disclosed exactly who I am--that is my name over my comments. And I spoke for myself and myself only. Attacking Charlie and John because they are going to extreme lengths to seek out public involvement is incredibly arrogant and short sighted. They are both trying very hard to do the right thing and the response here is disheartening and many of the comments are clearly politial attacks. Your assumption that nobody could possibly think as I do without a hidden agenda is reflective of the general tone and tenor of these comments.
Mark March 10, 2012 at 10:14 PM
I give the town officials a lot of credit for maintaining their composure the way they did throughout the meeting. I feel bad that they were subjected to that type of behavior. The personal attacks, screaming, yelling and rude conduct was inexcusable. Agree or disagree with what was presented, there is no justification for that hostile and vicious behavior. It makes the residents of Farmington look like a bunch of barbarians. Is that how civilized people make decisions? The ones that scream and yell the loudest win? What happened to thought out opinions which express one's point of view without attacking and insulting others?
Saul Freedman March 11, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Sheryl, democrats know better than the people. They want to take care of us cradle to grave, just look at our President.
JessAnthony March 11, 2012 at 04:45 PM
I absolutely agree. When can we starting thinking about the 21st Century and our kids? They need to safe place to ride their bikes or walk to school. With the mayhem in Unionville, I do not feel comfortable setting them free. We have a beautiful town and I just don't understand why we need to preserve these small business the way they are currently and have always been, instead of partnering with them to recreate them for a new generation of commerce. It is possible.
TDC March 13, 2012 at 12:46 AM
None one likes change but to continue doing or suggesting to do nothing will only hurt the town of Unionville in the end. Definition of insanity if to continue doing the same thing and expect different results. People need to get over it and let the town and state do what is the best for the towns traffic and safety of it's residents. Quite frankly the buildings that are in the way look like HELL anyways and many of the owners of these buildings are in favor of the relocation. How many of the votes on Thursday were from non residents? I spent 40 + years living in Unionville and got tired of the got to be better and have more than than the your neighbors mentally. I finally got sick of the stuffiness of Farmington/Unionville and moved to Burlington 13 years ago with it's hand full of traffic lights. Its a lot quieter and has down to earth people making the best of it. The traffic is not going to go away and someone is going to get hurt if nothing is done. I applaud the Save The Ville people but I never saw a petition for a Improve The Ville's safety and lets get what needs to be done,relocate New Britain Ave. Personally I avoid Unionville center and Rt 4 to Farmington like the plague but do spend a lot of time on River road and Rt 6. What are you going to do when River road needs to be improved again for traffic flow. With all the development going on there that can't be too far away.


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