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Unfinished business

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A week after the defeat of the Cliftondale Square Overlay Zoning District article, its creator has called on selectmen to address public safety issues and to keep Cliftondale revitalization a top priority

  Precinct 2 Town Meeting Member Joseph Vecchione this week called on selectmen to exercise their authority as traffic commissioners to address safety concerns in Cliftondale Square.

  “Based on the comments from several Board members on Monday, traffic, pedestrian safety, and traffic flow is the next obstacle to tackle,” Vecchione wrote in a four-page letter to selectmen, referring to last week’s Annual Town Meeting deliberations.

  “While I still hold that this should have been done concurrently with addressing the critical piece that is zoning and land use as our Master Plan and 40 years worth of studies clearly laid out, it’s up to you as traffic commissioners to proactively do something about that,” he said.

  Vecchione was the architect of the article that would have created a Cliftondale Square Overlay Zoning District. Town Meeting members supported the article by a 23-18 majority vote, but the measure failed to get the two-thirds supermajority required for passage.

  But in his letter dated May 17 – two days after the Town Meeting vote – Vecchione made recommendations on what selectmen can do to improve Cliftondale Square, many of them safety-related. Vecchione said selectmen should

  • Communicate with the MBTA to replace the decrepit and inaccessible bus enclosure adjacent to Jackson Street. He said the town should petition the state legislative delegation to obtain a new enclosure that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Press for the town manager, in collaboration with selectmen, the DPW and the Saugus Police Department, to develop a temporary pilot program to study how removing parking on one side of the street helps with both safety and traffic flow.
  • Create a signage plan to replace outdated or damaged signage and install new timed parking signage that is missing on Lincoln Avenue.
  • Stripe on-street parking to define what is a spot and what is not a spot.
  • Repair damaged and temporary telephone poles, clean up conduit and repair sidewalks throughout the area. People in wheelchairs struggle to navigate some of these sidewalks.
  • Provide increased public safety at targeted times.
  • Petition state legislation to acquire additional flashing crossing beacons in Cliftondale. There should be flashing beacons at heavily used intersections, including at Banana Splitz and from Blue Moon Smoke Shop, Vecchione said.
  • Use pre-existing traffic reports and make them more accessible to the public.

  “There are a lot of good points in here, and I think we should take them seriously,” Selectman Corinne Riley said of Vecchione’s report. Especially the safety issues, she stressed.

  Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Debra Panetta agreed that the report contained some good suggestions. The town needs to repair sidewalks and address the ADA compliance issues.

  Selectman Jeffrey Cicolini said he leaned toward supporting Vecchione’s article, noting “It was several steps in the right direction.”

  Cicolini said he thought that somebody should have offered an amendment to remove the controversial height requirement out of the zoning to make it more palatable.

  “Unfortunately, the people who own a lot of the storefronts aren’t investing. “We’re sort of stuck in status quo. I do hope this doesn’t go away. I do hope someone picks up the ball,” Cicolini said.

  Crabtree said he thought the report contained some good information.

  Crabtree said there was no guarantee that the article, if adopted, would affect the desired changes that would spur revitalization. “Zoning is an experiment,” Crabtree said.

  “To change the zoning in Cliftondale, you’re not going to know what happens,” he said.

  The town manager talked about the uniqueness of the town and its two centers of town (Cliftondale and Saugus Center) that are both vying for commercial business to stay relevant, in addition to Route 1.

  Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano called the Cliftondale article’s failure to win two-thirds majority support from Town Meeting “a major defeat for the town of Saugus.”

  “Nothing good comes out of doing nothing,” Cogliano said. “I will not let this article go by the wayside,” Cogliano vowed.

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