Darien BOS considers Hoyt Street lighting as residents lobby for sidewalks
The Board of Selectmen deferred a vote to approve new lighting fixtures along Hoyt Street after residents raised concerns about light flooding their properties and continued to push for sidewalks or a footpath.
The issue over installing sidewalks on Hoyt Street has been a hotly debated topic for years as residents lobbied government officials to take action. A number of commuters walk on Hoyt Street to get to Talmadge Hill Station. They have raised concerns about the lack of space to walk along the road and the speed at which vehicles are driving.
Public Works Director Bob Steeger outlined two possible plans for installing additional light fixtures along Hoyt Street to improve visibility for pedestrians and vehicles.
"The first scenario is what happens if we leave all existing 70-watt fixtures and add additional 150-watt fixtures on poles without light fixtures. Most of the gaps are illuminated," he said. "Another scenario would be what would happen if we mixed fixture sizes to put the best one in each location. We would have a mixture of 70-, 100- and 150-watt fixtures."
One of the benefits of installing new light fixtures and changing fixture sizes was the low cost of the project. Steeger said he met with representatives from Connecticut Light & Power and the company would be able to install and change fixtures at no cost to the town.
"CL&P will replace or upgrade any lights on any poles we are paying the charges for which is all of the poles along that stretch of road. They will also change out existing lights and change them free of cost. We just pay the monthly rate. I will have to call to find out what that is," Steeger said.
Currently, Steeger estimated the town paid about $70,000 and did not anticipate the additional fixtures to significantly increase costs.
However, despite some progress being made to address safety concerns along Hoyt Street, a few residents feel like not enough has been done.
Holly Schulz, who lives on Hoyt Street and has advocated for sidewalks for years, felt installing more lighting along the road would not address the issue of safety.
"I don't think lighting up Hoyt Street will make neighbors very happy. I have a street light in front of my house and its not at the wattage being talked about. I think you will seriously affect the character of the neighborhood," she said.
One of Schulz's concerns is the town is addressing safety issues for pedestrians on Hoyt Street in a piecemeal fashion instead of approaching it from an overall design perspective.
"Is there any place in town with that wattage where we could see what it would look like? If you can then I won't stand in your way. What if it just turns it into a brightly lit highway that people can speed even more on. Give us a walking path. That's all we've ever asked for," Schulz said.
"I have grave concerns about safety on the street. I have seen more people driving at high speeds while talking on cell phones," he said. "It is without fail a road that I see people continually speeding on. A lot of people on the road don't live here. It's a very dangerous road because you can get a lot of speed."
Firmin said he spoke with neighbors about the issue of installing sidewalks and all of them were in favor of having sidewalks installed. He asked the BOS to address the issue before somebody gets hurt.
David Kahn, who lives on Barringer Road and also serves as chairman for the public works committee, said it is only a matter of time before someone gets hurt while walking on Hoyt Street.
"I'm convinced that someone is going to get hurt on this street unless sidewalks or a walking path is installed. A lot of commuters and neighbors encourage me to keep fighting," he said. "People have universally concluded this is a very dangerous place to walk. Only solution so far is to add additional lighting which in my opinion is entirely inadequate. Lighting would be nice but it doesn't fundamentally change anything."
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said she did not believe the new lighting would significantly impact neighbors and that the lighting plans were not taking the place of discussions about installing sidewalks.
"We're trying to be responsive to your requests that you bring before us every week. This is an important and quick way to add some small measure of safety. This is not in place of a sidewalk discussion," she said.
The BOS deferred voting on approval of a lighting plan until further information could be obtained about the potential impact on neighbors.