Sturbridge Selectman Election Debate

On April 4, 2014, I attended the debate between two candidates for the one year term for the  Sturbridge Town Board of Selectmen.  There is one issue that I found indicative of an aspect of the debate that I will cover in this post.

The issue was about the wisdom of going ahead with the Sturbridge Commercial Tourist District Improvement Plan. There was a presentation of the plan at  Community Meeting Three on December 4, 2013.

At the debate there was doubt expressed about the feasibility of upgrading one section of the downtown to fit two 8 foot sidewalks, two bike lanes, two automobile lanes, and a median. I went back to the Meeting Three document linked above to get a better understanding.

I found that the section with 8 foot sidewalks did not include a median. This is a drawing of how the street would be laid out.

Planned Street Layout

The issue was how all this was going to be crammed into the space that was there. Obviously there was going to be a lot of land taken from the existing businesses.

Well, let’s look at how obvious this is. I didn’t want to spoil the surprise by displaying the answers until you had a chance to think about the question. Clicking on the items below, will end the suspense, and show you what I was able to find.

If you open up the picture of the street as it is, do you think there is an obvious problem?

View of Existing Street

Google Street ViewExisting street Layout

Well, it looks like it might fit in what is already there.

Rather than going to the location and trying to pace off the distance from the outer edge of one sidewalk to the outer edge of the other sidewalk, I tried to find some kind of diagram where I could make an approximate measurement.

Existing Plot Plan with approximate street width measurement

GIS Street Measurement

I used the measurement tool of the application that gave me the plot plan for this section of Sturbridge. You will see a line drawn across Main Street between Hinman Street and Arnold Rd. It says 49.97 feet. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I vaguely recall that at the meeting’s Q & A session, it was explained that the plan was laid out on the existing street dimensions. So my measurements seem to me to be plausible.

I found this issue to be indicative of the attitudes of some in the audience and one of the candidates. The assumption is that if the current people involved in government would only study these issues, they would make better judgments. In the cases where I knew anything about it, it turns out that the people currently active in local government had already studied the issues in great detail. The results of the studies have been presented to all the citizens who could spare the time to attend the meetings that were held for them. As I have shown here, the material is available on-line (perhaps the town could do a better job of making it easier to find. I found it because I had a pretty good idea what I was looking for, but it did take some effort to find it.)

There will always be people who assume the information is hidden even though they have not made any effort to find the information. (I know first hand, because I do that myself sometimes.) The people who make the information available get frustrated with how much effort they put out to make the information available and yet people still complain.

I have tried to act as the go-between. I present the information that people think is unavailable by putting it on my blog as many times as I can. I tell the people who try to get the information out, that they should put their feelings aside when people still don’t know about their efforts. The information providers should use every opportunity to tell people the things that the providers think they have gone out of their way to provide.

There is no better time to tell something to someone than when they want to hear it.

There are hurt feelings on both sides, but it would be good if at least one side could ignore all this and keep trying – no matter how demeaning it appears to be from their own point of view. (These feelings on both sides are not limited to Sturbridge. I find instances of it in many places. I experienced it in my professional career. Does RTFM ring a bell? As a provider of many an FM, I knew that RTFM was a completely silly attitude.)

April 7, 2014

I asked for some input on this post, and I got some good feedback.

The link to the Commercial Tourist District Revitalization Plan is on the Town Of Sturbridge home page in the current issues section.

Link On Town Home Page

My problem is that I had forgotten the name of the project. Since I use searches to find things, it took me a while to figure out the proper phrase to search for.

On the Sturbridge Commercial Tourism District web site they have an overlay map that shows the concept plan within the limits of what is existing.

Overlay map

I was not clear on what I inartfully described as hurt feelings on the part of the proponents of the plan. I commented to one proponent at the meeting that we had missed an opportunity to tell people at the debate that there was a plan that they could look at to see if the criticisms heard at the debate were merited or not. This was not meant to be an attack on the people who favored the proposal, but only a suggestion that despite what the opposition does we should just treat every public occasion where the topic comes up as an opportunity to make sure people know that there is a well documented answer to all the questions. The feedback I got on this blog post is that I should be positive about the plan and not say negative things about the proponents of the plan. I try my best, but sometimes my best is not good enough.

The people who are against the revitalization plan (and I don’t know how many there are) may have their reasons which I probably don’t fully understand. All that I ask is that people look at the plan itself, and factor this information into your decision. Don’t just assume that people who are proposing we take action to solve a problem have not thought through their proposal with great care and effort. You can be skeptical, but please don’t be dismissive.

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