The fate of the historic Jesse Olney House remains unknown, but one thing is now certain – the Southington YMCA will be expanding its campus in preparation for the future.
The YMCA on Tuesday took a major step toward expansion as the non-profit organization received approval from the Southington Planning and Zoning Commission for a site plan that will bring all activity to one campus with an all-purpose gymnasium, women’s center and additional parking.
It’s a big first step said Stephen Giudice, principal with Harry E. Cole & Sons, but not all of the commissions members believe the plan is ready to move forward.
Commissioners Kevin Conroy and Jim Sinclair each voted against the site plan, stating that allowing curb cuts at the site of the former TD Bank building would compound traffic problems that already exist along North Main Street from Hobart Street to High Street.
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“Keeping these in place, even while putting up do not enter signs, is inviting people who backed up leaving YMCA to try and get out at that location,” said Conroy, who has a background in traffic engineering. “To have these people crossing (North Main Street), interrupting traffic between two intersections; why are we insisting on allowing these considerable safety concerns for that kind of access?”
The concerns were raised as Giudice presented a plan that would allow for curb cuts at the former TD Bank property to remain. The entrance and exit would be used exclusively for the YMCA’s Women Center, which will move to the site of the former bank once construction is complete.
The project as a whole is designed to bring all aspects of the YMCA to one campus, as well as expanding parking to accommodate the fitness center’s most active business hours.
Under the plan, expansion would include a 10,000 square foot addition for a brand new all-purpose gymnasium, renovation of the TD Bank building as the YMCA Women’s Center and expansion of parking to 277 spaces if the house is demolished and 265 if the Olney House remains.
Two weeks ago, the commission approved a special exception allowing for development of a larger campus. Tuesday’s meeting addressed the final site plans for the expansion.
Sinclair said he supports the organization’s effort to expand, but shares concerns that the current proposal would cause considerable increases in problems and bring additional accidents and traffic jams to an area already plagued with problems.
“I applaud the YMCA for their efforts and for needing to expand, but I think this plan is making a situation that is already bad just that much worse,” Sinclair said.
But in the end, the commission did not share Conroy and Sinclair’s concerns. Commission Vice Chairman Paul Chaplinsky presented an alternate compromise for the site, asking the YMCA to provide “Do Not Enter” signs to prevent those using the main parking lot at the YMCA from attempting to exit through the Women’s Center lot.
The plan would allow motorists to enter the YMCA from North Main Street through the existing curb cut at the bank and access the main lot as well. Once entering the main lot, however, the cars would be restricted from returning to the Women’s Center lot.
“It’s a compromise that we hadn’t thought of, but I believe it will be effective in addressing the concerns,” Myers said. “We will be restricting access from High Street to right out only, so we believe this plan will only serve to help prevent traffic from being any worse.”
Although the expansion plan has now gained all the local approvals it needs, the plan must still go before the state’s Traffic Commission and Department of Transportation.
As for the fate of the Olney House? Well that remains in the hands on the court system.
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