A plan for a roundabout at a five-way intersection in downtown Ossining is facing pushback from some business owners and the chamber of commerce.
Earlier this month, village trustees approved a $500,000 bond to finance the construction of a roundabout at the intersection of Spring, Main, Brandreth streets and Central Avenue. The roundabout would replace the traditional intersection and traffic signals.
Construction is set to begin this summer, according to Mayor Victoria Gearity.
Gearity said improvements to the intersection are “long overdue” and cited a number of benefits a roundabout would provide over a conventional intersection. She said it would eliminate long-term expenses related to traffic light upgrades and provide safer traffic flow for cars and crosswalks for pedestrians. A roundabout would also create opportunities to expand seating and open space in the heart of the village’s downtown, she said.
But opponents of the roundabout, including the Greater Ossining Chamber of Commerce, believe it would have a negative impact on the village.
“We’re really concerned about the effect a roundabout will have on the shopping district and really on economic development,” said Gayle Marchica, president of the chamber.
In response to a recently passed resolution, the chamber is collecting signatures in hopes of forcing a public vote on the proposed taxpayer-funded bond.
“We kind of got backed into a corner on this,” said John Girolamo, public relations director for the chamber. “This is the only way to stop it. We don’t want a referendum. We don’t want to spend the money on that, but it has to happen.”
In order to force a public referendum, the petition must gain 2,146 signatures — or 20 percent of the village’s registered voters — by the end of February.
“If this is what the public wants, then let the public decide,” Marchica said.
Gearity said that while she appreciates citizen engagement and passion, a referendum could cost the village thousands of dollars.
“The referendum might sound attractive to some, but it will cost additional taxpayer dollars,” the mayor said. “If the result of the referendum is to defund the project, it means there will be no upgrade to that intersection this summer at all and likely, we will be stuck with a substandard intersection for a couple of years.”
Marchica claimed that a roundabout is in conflict with the village’s comprehensive plan, which was designed to foster business growth and economic development downtown.
“Business owners like it when traffic stops,” Marchica said. “We don’t want to be so friendly about car traffic, we want people traffic.”
Marchica also cited pedestrian safety and traffic concerns, especially for large trailers and fire trucks entering the roundabout, in the chamber’s opposition to the roundabout.
However, Gearity said the roundabout’s design will ensure “ample room” for all large vehicles and trucks with trailers.
The $500,000 bond’s approval follows a 3-2 vote by the village’s board of trustees in November to move forward with construction of the roundabout.
“I’m not against the roundabout per se, I’m against the process by which the decision has been made,” said Kaja Gam, owner of Kaja Gam Design at 127 Main St. “This should have been part of the comprehensive plan, which it hasn’t been, and we have some real concerns that it will be fragmenting downtown.”
The roundabout’s potential effect on parking is chief among the concerns of Val Tana, co-owner of VaZa Salon at 137 Main St.
“It’s going to be cutting out parking right in front of our businesses,” Tana said. “Also, along with many other businesses downtown, we’re not for it because we want to make sure that people who come to Ossining actually come here and don’t drive past it.”
Gearity said that while the roundabout’s design will alter the parking layout in downtown Ossining, the result will be a net increase in available spots.
Another concern regarding the roundabout is its estimated cost. Some business owners and residents believe the $500,000 price tag, which the village received from an outside consultant, seems far too low to cover the construction.
“I think it’s totally unrealistic,” Gam said. “I don’t think the village has done enough research and study to really warrant us to take out a $500,000 bond.”
Interim Village Manager Paul Fraioli said at the Feb. 1 board meeting that if costs related to the roundabout exceeded the bond amount, the village would look to other revenue streams to cover those costs.
Construction is expected to last around four months, which some believe could have an adverse effect on businesses.
“For us in our infancy, four months could destroy us,” said Kathryn Corena, owner of First Village Coffee, which opened its doors at 123 Main St. in September. “Two weeks could destroy us. It’s that tenuous in the beginning.”
Still, Corena said she does not believe village officials would enter into a decision to construct a roundabout lightly.
“I see merit on both sides,” she said. “It’s going to be a disruption. It’s going to be a pain for my customers to get here, but it could be a very long-term gain, so I don’t want to be shortsighted.”