Broad Street a poor choice for new charter school

Broad Street a poor choice for new charter school

Since I will not be able to attend the meeting on Aug. 21, as one who has had either a part- or full-time residence on Chase Street for over 70 years, I am writing to comment on the nightmare that the town of Cumberland is proposing to inflict on this neighborhood.

While the addition of a second academy to the one already existing on Broad Street is laudable and even desirable, does anyone really believe that the proposed location would be an economic asset to this neighborhood or even a safe one for residents and visitors, i.e., the people who come to the Town Hall each day to do business or the 405 projected students and their unsuspecting parents? Does anyone really believe that counting "230 street spaces" (Valley Breeze, p. 33) or the 19,500 cars traveling on Broad Street on any given work day, precisely during the hours that would be needed by the school, gives the full picture of the hazardous congestion already existing in this neighborhood?

Chase Street is also the bike path, well used and enjoyed by bicyclists for three seasons each year. It is not, however, an altogether safe route for either bikers or the residents of the area. For instance, if either a van or truck parks on either side of my driveway, as often happens, I can not see what or who is on the street side of those vehicles as I exit from the driveway, which is why I literally inch out with my foot already on the brake. Even so I have already had two close calls, as previously invisible bike riders suddenly appeared directly in front of me. Those two and I were lucky, not so the rider who was hit by a car further up on the next block May 3.

Meeting Street is not only the bike path but a truck route, with large trailers going back and forth to those mills all day long, five days a week. Will those trucks still be able to negotiate wide turns into the mill yards with cars parked along the street at some of the highest traffic hours?

The bike path is only a problem three of the four seasons of the year, but then comes winter. Does anyone remember last February or the almost weekly snowstorms of three winters ago, with 3- or 4-foot high snow mounds on both sides of these narrow streets and piled so high at the street corners that drivers could not see over or around them and took their lives in their hands as they attempted to make turns there?

The town now proposes to add cars on both sides of the streets evidently, far enough away from those snow mounds presumably so that people, among them all those young children, can get in and out of them, thus narrowing the street even further. How will this affect truck traffic or even emergency vehicles, that, God forbid, may have to be called to deal with potentially more frequent accidents that could well result from those small children and their parents attempting to reach their cars as other parents pull out into the line of traffic.

Accidents are in fact the other issue that is not addressed by counting the "available parking spaces." For those who live here, a sudden loud bang combined with the sound of crunching metal is not at all unfamiliar. The corner of Broad and Mill streets, the corner where Town Hall sits, has seen many accidents, as drivers jockey to make the hazardous turn onto or from Mill Street, again many of them in large trucks and during those highly traveled hours that would coincide with school openings and closings. Has anyone who drives through this neighborhood on weekdays not seen, time and again, cars backed up four or five deep right in front of the proposed school site in order to accommodate that turn onto Mill Street and perhaps noticed how hard it is for residents to exit the other side streets because of this? And let us not forget the pedestrians, those who must cross Broad Street in that same spot as they go to and from the Town Hall to the parking lot across the street.

What I have just described is the situation that already exists in this neighborhood. Does anyone really believe that adding all those school buses and "140 more parent trips, morning and afternoon" (Valley Breeze), will be anything but a nightmare for those of us who live here or even for the two or three local businesses that might presumably sell five or six extra cups of coffee to frazzled parents?

To end on a more positive note, let me suggest a possible alternative. Three blocks or so from the proposed site, on a back street, is a location that might very well meet the needs of a new school: the property once occupied by The Fair. Aside from Bill's Auto Parts, there is very little going on in that area. Instead of changing zoning to accommodate the ill-conceived and irresponsible plan that has been put before us, wouldn't it make more sense to revise that plan and relocate the school to a safer and more appropriate zone?

Alice R. Clemente


Editor's note: Mayor McKee says the charter school was unable to agree on a purchase price for The Fair property. He noted he is, however, hoping to see the property developed privately and calls it "important to the revitalization of the Broad Street area."