Thursday, May 25, 2017
By James Lomuscio
There was little sign of support today at the Westport Board of Selectmen to approve a $50,000 study to improve signage in the town, also known as “wayfinding.”
The board declined to act on the study costing $50,000 after there was no second to First Selectman Jim Marpe’s motion to approve the agreement.
“Then we rethink it,” Marpe said of the request made by Melissa Kane, co-chair of the Downtown Plan Implementation Committee on behalf of the Downtown Westport Master Plan.
The Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting had approved the appropriation in December and January.
From the start, Kane’s pitch for the approval of an agreement between the town and West Chester, Pennsylvania-based Found Design, LLC, doing business at MERJE, met opposition.
Selectwoman Helen Garten raised concerns about the wayfinding plan being townwide instead of being confined to the downtown.
“I’m not quite sure we need to go to one brand around Westport,” said Garten. “If this remained as a downtown project, I would be looking at it differently.”
She also said she wished “we could do this in a more simpler fashion.”
Cathy Walsh, chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) objected to the agreement, saying, “We’ve been bypassed and it does not sit well with me.”
Saying she was speaking as a private citizen, she suggested the plan “go back to the drawing board.”
Fellow P&Z member Chip Stephens said the focus should be on traffic “and getting people around,” not on “promotion marketing.”
Downtown resident Morley Boyd said “the thought of more signs is distressing” and added that people these days look at their phone for directions.
After the concerns raised by the public—and Kane’s disclosure that the actual implementation of signs to specific destinations would cost about $300,000 in addition to the initial $50,000—Selectman Avi Kaner also gave pause.
“I’m not comfortable with $350,000,” said Kaner, who asked that there be “a cheaper way to achieve this goal.”
According to Kane, the signs would reduce motor vehicle congestion by encouraging more pedestrian traffic to specific areas and shops downtown and around town.
The signage would also direct motorists to parking areas unfamiliar to a number of motorists, also reducing congestion.
The goal of the project, as outlined to the town funding bodies, is to “identify, design, fabricate and install a consistent signage and wayfinding system.”
Since wayfinding signage would direct visitors to the town’s commercial areas, Marpe expressed support for the appropriation, saying he was “concerned about our economic vitality.”
“We need the economic vitality,” he said.
Posted 05/25/17 at 12:16 PM Permalink