Bad feng shui? Amherst struggles with village traffic problems

AMHERST – Barely a selectmen’s meeting goes by without at least one resident complaining about Village District traffic.

And next year a rebuilt Manchester Road bridge will bring more traffic into the village, so the Board of Selectmen has decided to initiate a strategic planning process to look at traffic and other issues.

The bridge has been closed for two years. Some residents would like to see it closed permanently, telling selectmen the town center has been more conducive to walking and bike riding since it was closed.

The idea for a strategic plan came from Selectman Mike Akillian who worked out a proposal with the Nashua Regional Planning Commission.

A committee should be formed this summer with no more than 12 members, he said at the start of the July 14 meeting, and a NRPC team would work with them and public outreach should engages as many people as possible, starting with a town-wide survey.

There are “disparate conversations” going on about the Village, including on Facebook, he said, and a strategic plan would bring them together and engage citizens who would work with government officials.

“The Village is one of our most important assets and deserves strategic thinking,” he said, but there are risks with strategic planning.

“When there has been pent up angst over the years,” it can become a way for people to lobby for their own causes, and only people who have the welfare of the town in mind should be appointed,” he said.

Sue Clark, of Mack Hill Road, told selectmen that more police presence in the Village would help.

“You don’t see anyone speeding in Brookline,” she said, referring to what she called a zero tolerance policy in Brookline and for Main Street in Mont Vernon. She urged selectmen to do something before the bridge is back in service.

“Once the roads are open, the game is over,” she said.

Rand Peck, who said he used to live in Mont Vernon, and retired police chief Mark Schultz woul park his cruiser along Main Street and “it didn’t take long for speed to drop and it’s been that way since.

Board OKs bridge project

Selectmen voted unanimously last week to proceed with the bridge reconstruction project, and Department of Public Works Director Bruce Berry explained the bridge approval process. A bill authorizing the state to reimburse Amherst and other towns for most of the costs has been signed by the governor and will become law on July 29, he said.

The town’s engineering firm recommended they solicit bids in November or later to get the best price, so a spring date to begin construction seems likely.

Linda Kaiser’s property abuts the bridge and she has been attending virtually all the selectmen’s meetings, telling the board repeatedly she is frustrated with the lack of attention to traffic issues, and she was back on July 14.

Amherst architect Rolf Biggers was there too, saying he is encouraged by the strategic planning initiative.

He said the traffic problems might be solved by simple traffic calming devices.

Biggers, whose firm designed the renovations to Amherst Town Hall, said Kaiser has valid concerns.

“Even bringing back Linda’s geese would help,” he said, slowing traffic and keeping a rural feel to the area.

Kaiser’s geese were a familiar site about 10 years ago before the town passed an ordinance requiring geese, chickens and other domestic animals to be penned in. “I saw a lot more smiles than irritation” when the geese were on the road, he said.

“What we have now is bad feng shui,” referring to the Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing human existence with the surrounding environment.