PLATTSBURGH — Of the Cogan Avenue residents who spoke in City Hall Thursday night, the general consensus seemed to be, "leave our street alone."
The City of Plattsburgh Common Council invited the strip's homeowners in to discuss its potential 2020 rebuild, which was to come with a nearing waterline reconstruction project.
The work, to incorporate paving and begin as early as late spring, would include 1,700 feet of roadway between Cogan's intersections with Cornelia Street and Park Avenue West.
Three ADA-compliant options were presented at a recent council session and had included changes like the removal of on-street parking, as well as added curbing and/or sidewalks.
Most of Thursday's speakers were in favor of a repaved street, now littered with potholes, but found any added changes unnecessary.
"I think the street, as it is right now, works very well," Cogan Avenue resident Phil Erickson told the council. "I would hate to see that change and compromise some of the flexibility and freedom that we have on the street.
"I would really hate to see any further changes aside from improving the condition of the roadway."
As the city has said, and as many residents pointed out Thursday evening, work on Cogan Avenue has been discussed for some time.
Street reconstruction made it into the city's 2020 plan and they had set aside $300,000 for the project.
Back in November, the Common Council OK'd a $116,000 engineering deal with Plattsburgh-based firm C&S Engineers Inc. for costs associated with generating the street's design plans.
City Engineering Technician Andrew Durrin recently presented the firm's options for the site, noting that, as it was, Cogan Avenue had on-street parking, no sidewalks, minimal curbing and a short white line on the road's west end for bikers and/or walkers.
"With only having (the line) on one side of the road, you're forcing pedestrians to have their back to traffic," Durrin had said. "Another issue is people are parking inside of that pathway, so it causes pedestrians to be forced out into the roadway.
"Both of these are liability issues for, not just the city, but also the design engineer."
To cutback on the liability issues and achieve ADA compliance, C&S generated three possible designs for Cogan Avenue, including one that would add curbing, extend the walker/biker lane and put that same striping on the opposite side of the street, too.
Without a physical barrier to block pedestrians from automobiles, the city would need to suspend on-street parking for the project's section of the street to keep walkers safely on the side of the roadway.
The second option, to cost an additional $40,000 more, would continue streetside parking on one side of Cogan Avenue, while constructing a curb, four-foot grass island and five-foot sidewalk on its other side.
The final option suggested sidewalks and parking lanes on both sides of Cogan Avenue, adding an additional $75,000 to $85,000 to the project.
ALL IN FAVOR
Upon hearing of the possible changes in her ward, City Councilor Elizabeth Gibbs (D-Ward 3) took to the street to speak with some residents there.
After visiting 30 homes, the councilor said she received feedback from a little more than half.
"Of those 17 homes, 13 people were highly in favor of only option one," Gibbs said, adding that a few residents had wanted sidewalks. "Some people were hoping to ditch the project altogether."
Option one, though the favored scenario, had its cons, too, like the elimination of on-street parking.
Residents spoke in favor of street parking, saying they had grown accustomed to it during family gatherings and holidays like Halloween.
Scenarios two and three, however, were even harder for the Cogan Avenue residents to swallow.
Per city code, up to 15 feet past the roadway's curb-line was technically city property, though most residents have treated the lawn and driveway space as their own.
"When you start getting into adding sidewalks," Durrin had told the council, "you're going to be putting those further out of the right-of-way, which is going to eat up what people perceive as their yard and their driveway."
Not only would the change bring walking pedestrians closer to the front doors of Cogan Avenue homes, but would require those homeowners, per city law, to maintain the walkway, including clearing it of snow and ice in the winter.
UNPALATABLE & EMOTIONAL
Retired City Police Lt. Scott Beebie spoke at the Thursday night session on behalf of his parents, who he said have lived on the street since 1986.
"They've kept everything nice and neat and tidy," Beebie said. "To have the prospect of losing 10 to 15 feet is unpalatable and emotional for them.
My father and mother would prefer, as prior speakers, to fix the infrastructure, fix the drainage without any additional curbing or sidewalks," he continued.
"The decision to put sidewalks on the east side of the street would affect anywhere from 13 to 14 homes, it would take out 20 to 25 trees, personal landscaping and 50 percent of all of the driveways."
Other speakers, including longtime resident Harry Durgan, noted Cogan Avenue's history.
"If you look at your records, since 1990 when we moved in there, including Halloween night, no children have been hurt by cars," Durgan said.
"There have been more accidents of people on their feet and bicycles and cars, because of the pothole problem."
Keeping the feedback in mind, Gibbs said she was leaning towards the first option.
"Sidewalks would be ultimately more safe — people would be off the road — but the impact to the homes is the part where I feel would be a pretty large detriment to the people living there," she said.
"My recommendation is that we put curbs only and that there is paint striping on the street for pedestrians and ADA compliance.
I realize that it will impact people who are used to parking on the street, but it means there will have to be a shift in how people plan their parking."
HIT THE BREAKS
Many residents asked the Common Council to find a way to fix the street's potholes and waterlines, without making the additional changes.
"All I want to do is maintain what we have there," Durgan said. "It works. What we have works. We don't want change on our end of the street."
Some others felt it too much too late to be asking for community input, including Cogan Avenue resident Thomas O'Keefe.
"I ask you now to hit the breaks on this," he said.
The council has yet to vote on the project.
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