Scooter MacMillan, Editor
Signs, signs, so much talk about signs.
But unlike the ubiquitous signs described in the Five Man Electrical Band’s 1970 international hit “Signs,” the Charlotte Selectboard’s sign discussions on Monday, March 14, were about signs that will not be “blockin’ out the scenery” or “breakin’” anyone’s mind.
In fact, the board discussed trail signs that would help open the scenery to people enjoying the town’s trails, signs intended to make traffic in front of Charlotte Central School safer and signs that might open people’s minds by helping them find the library.
But before the selectboard got to sign discussions, the board, which was limited to three members for most of this meeting with Louise McCarren absent and chair Jim Faulkner unavailable for a while, spent a good bit of time discussing trails — where they will go and how much to spend on them.
Ultimately, board members Frank Tenney, Matt Krasnow and Lewis Mudge voted to approve spending on design work for the last about 800 feet of construction of the current plan for the Village Loop Trail. When this work is finished, the trail will run from Route 7 to Ferry Road, although hopes are for it to be extended later.
Spending on the trail design the board approved is limited to $3,200 if it turns out an area near Ferry Road is just damp and $7,600 if it turns out that area is actual wetland.
Determining whether the trail construction will require a more expensive wetlands boardwalk or if it can be built up with such things as gravel will have to wait until May after the area has dried out and plants have started to grow before experts can make a wetlands delineation, trail committee chair Bill Regan said.
After the section has been designed, it will take a few weeks to seek bids on the construction. If it sails through the selectboard approval process with a minimum of stormy seas, the trail committee’s hope is for the 1.8-mile Village Loop Trail to be completed by late summer so bike riders and walkers could enjoy it’s full length before winter.
The Village Loop Trail runs from Route 7 from a parking area just south of Charlotte Crossings in the field where the old flea market was. The trail runs west and crosses Greenbush Road just south of the Old Lantern Inn and in a short distance heads north. When the last section is completed the trail will connect to Ferry Road near the old Charlotte Family Health Center, about a quarter of a mile west of West Charlotte Village.
In a discussion after the meeting, Regan said the trail committee’s goal is to eventually have the Village Loop and the Town Link trails actually run into the village.
Larry Sommers of the trails committee presented a plan for a system of signs for Charlotte’s color-coded to indicate primary versus secondary trails.
For example, Sommers said, hiking to the top of Pease Mountain can be confusing with alternative trails splitting off the main trail. So, the trail committee proposed that primary trail signs across the town be a specific common color — gold yellow backgrounds.
“If you’re a first-time user and you want to know the best way to get to the top of Pease Mountain, use these paths,” Sommers said.
Besides the Pease Mountain Trail, other primary town trails that will be indicated by gold yellow backgrounds include the Village Loop and Plouffe Lane trails. An exception is the Town Link Trail whose sign backgrounds will be blue.
Secondary or alternate trails that intersect primary trails will have a white background.
The trails committee also proposed common designs for signs to indicate such things as parking instructions, trailhead locations and points of interest.
The trail committee’s goal is to get bids for constructing an inventory of signs that will designate all the things that need to be indicated about town trails consistently.
Trailhead signs will be brown wooden signs with white letters routed into the wood.
The three selectboard members in attendance all voted to approve the town trail design proposal.
School speed limit signs
Maura Wygmans said Hinesburg Road in front of Charlotte Central School is a major route for people commuting to work and the high school. She feels the combination of the 30 mph speed limit there with more parents taking their students to school because of COVID concerns and changes to bus routes is a dangerous situation.
“It is a bit of a blind driveway, pulling out of the main entrance at Charlotte Central School. When cars are approaching from the west, it’s quite difficult to see the cars coming,” Wygmans said.
She noted that the roads at Hinesburg Community School and Shelburne Community School both have a 25-mph speed limit.
Besides reducing the speed limit, Wygmans would like to see more speed limit signs at Charlotte’s school, particularly a blinking sign that displays the speed cars are traveling — like the sign at Shelburne’s school.
“I completely agree,” Mudge said. “I pick up my kids a lot, too. I’ve actually said it here before: I’m surprised there has been an accident yet since COVID, with the amount of traffic we get out there.”
Mudge said it doesn’t make any sense that the speed limit in the village is 25 mph and 30 mph by the school.
Krasnow said the road is a thoroughfare for east-west travel from Hinesburg to New York state. He argued for blinking signs that would lower the speed limit during morning school drop off and afternoon pickup times rather than reducing the speed limit all the time.
There are significant infrastructure issues, Krasnow said. “Well before COVID, it was almost impossible to get an ambulance through there at pickup or drop off time.”
At those times the road is down to a single lane and it’s a very hazardous situation that just signs won’t fix, he said. “I think widening the road there is going to be a necessary long-term plan that the town has got to think about investing in so that we can have a turn lane, so that we can have a pull-off lane.”
The board decided to investigate the issue.
The selectboard’s sign considerations were not at an end.
The Charlotte Library presented a request for signs on both sides of the library on Ferry Road directing drivers to the bibliophiles’ nirvana.
Members of the selectboard said new signs have been ordered for the Town Hall and they would like for the library signs to match that design, so the decision was put on hold in order to look into that.
Faulkner who had joined the meeting said the town has ordered attractive, 3D signs for the Town Hall that are not “run of the mill.”