Streetscape design talk ruffles feathers on Batavia council

Posted7/11/2013 5:58 PM

Discussion this week about possible changes in the downtown streetscape project brought to light again the sometimes-bumpy transition of a Batavia city council where almost half the members are new.

Tuesday dealt with whether to revisit issues that were decided by the previous council.

The council talked about spending $25,000 to have the Houston Street streetscape redesigned, with an eye to cutting some of the projected cost, before seeking a construction manager this fall. The city plans to rebuild Houston from Batavia Avenue to Island Avenue in 2014.

After hearing from staff members that there probably isn't much too be saved if the council wants to stay true to the goals of the streetscape project, Alderman Michael O'Brien grew a bit exasperated.

"Let's just go with it and be done," he said. O'Brien was on the advisory committee that came up with the streetscape design.

"We can't revisit every old vote just because there are new people," Alderman Lisa Clark added.

"Going backward once in a while isn't necessarily a bad thing," responded new Alderman Steve Vasilion. He said the people he spoke with while running for office this spring had a lot of questions and criticism about the streetscape project. He has questions about the project, and said he could defend it to constituents better if his questions were answered.

Freshman Alderman Nick Cerone said he didn't like the design, including the loss of some parking spaces.

"I think there are more issues that I don't like and would like to weigh in on as an alderman," he said.

And they had support from veteran Alderman Susan Stark. The streetscape "is being built under the current city council, so it is fair to have the current council weigh in," she said. Stark has criticized some aspects of the streetscape work, including the arch and large planters on North River Street. She voted against the arch, and refers to the River Street lighting design as "frying pans on poles."

"Twenty-five thousand to include (the) six of us is money well spent," said new Alderman Kyle Hohmann.

The council agreed to have a refresher session open to all aldermen, where the whole scope and intent of the streetscape project will be reviewed. Alderman Dave Brown also pointed out there are documents and meeting reports on the city website. Besides Houston Street, work is planned for Water Street, First Street and Shumway Avenue.

Besides decorative work, the street will be rebuilt. The city also wants to make a bike path in the area safer for both bicyclists and pedestrians.

O'Brien also took issue with the focus on the newness of the aldermen. "Quit saying 'Six new aldermen.' Just say 'The aldermen,' which is what they are," he requested, to avoid division.

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