I've read some recent postings on this Web site that refer to the City's proposed Downtown Streetscape Planning Study, and I'm particularly concerned about some of the characterizations of that plan by James Tranchemontagne.
In particular, I disagree with his assertion that the Downtown Streetscape Planning Study is the "new Urban Renewal," as well as his argument that the Downtown Streetscape Planning Study will put "over 400 cars a day" into Ward 4 neighborhoods.
Mr. Tranchemontagne is a candidate for the Ward 4 seat in the City Council, and I am sure that the discerning readers of this blog will read his comments in that context. However, I do want to take the opportunity to educate readers about the plan.
First of all, I would urge all Westbrook residents to read the Downtown Streetscape Planning Study. It reflects a tremendous amount of work and contains a wealth of information. Thirteen volunteer committee members (including a resident of Brown Street) worked with City Staff and consultants to develop the plan. The Village Review Overlay Zone Committee (which also includes a Brown Street resident) voted unanimously to support it. You may agree or disagree with some or all of the plan, but it is thought-provoking and at the very least should generate conversation and debate about how we can improve our city center. Downtown revitalization efforts need to remain a focal point of the city's economic development activities.
The City Council will be conducting a public hearing on this plan on November 2 in Room 114. It will be on the agenda of the regular City Council meeting beginning at 7 pm. As a City Councilor, I would welcome any and all public input. I am inclined to support the plan, but want to hear what the public has to say.
It is hard to imagine how anyone who has read the plan can fairly compare it to the urban renewal activities of the 1970s. In fact, the purpose of the Downtown Streetscape Planning Study is, in many respects, to correct the mistakes made during urban renewal. The purpose of the plan is (as stated):
- To promote a safe, beautiful, and economically sustainable downtown, through a well-designed streetscape which includes all components of the street, sidewalks, and building facades.
- To improve the pedestrian experience in the business core of downtown, while improving the ability of cars to circulate in, around, and through downtown.
- To promote the downtown as the heart of the community for residents and visitors.
- To provide guidance to residents, landowners, business owners and decision makers as to the preferred build-out of the streetscape in the downtown business core.
I am confident that all of the incumbent councilors, especially City Councilor Aube, would be troubled if there was evidence that implementation of the plan would meaningfully increase traffic in Ward 4.
- Drew Gattine
Related: Election '09: James Tranchemontagne on the Issues (October 27, 2009)
Related: Election '09: Why I Am Running for the City Council (October 20, 2009)