Access issue prompts resident's complaint to mayor
A fire closed Gibson Road on Thursday when buses were trying to pick up schoolchildren.
By JEANNE STARMACK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- The Westbury Park development off Gibson Road has only one access, and the city of Canfield, says its mayor, should not have to pay for another.
That, replied a resident to Mayor William Kay at a Regional Chamber breakfast meeting in Canfield on Friday, is unacceptable.
Prompting the resident's complaint was the closing of Gibson Road on Thursday after an early-morning house fire there.
The road was blocked by firetrucks from about 3:40 a.m. until 6 a.m., Cardinal Joint Fire District Chief Robert Tieche confirmed later Friday. He said that one lane reopened to let cars in and out, but because the road is narrow, school buses could not go in.
The road did not completely reopen until late morning. Schools Superintendent Dante Zambrini said, however, that parents were able to drive their children to school.
It becomes a safety issue, the resident argued with Kay at the meeting, with no other way in or out of Westbury.
Westbury is actually in Canfield Township. But the resident was taking the city to task because the development lies directly north of a city subdivision called Stonebridge, and the present city council has halted the previous council's steps to extend a road from Stonebridge into Westbury. Extending that road, Timber Run Drive, would give Westbury residents another way out of their subdivision onto main roads.
The previous council had instructed city manager Charles Tieche last November to prepare specifications and get bids to build the extension. Even though subdivision roads are a developer's responsibility, the city has the authority to extend the road, Tieche said then.
The present council was seated in January, with three new members. In February, it rescinded the motion that instructed Tieche to prepare specs and get bids.
The reason, Kay explained Friday, is that council believes the city's taxpayers should not have to foot the bill.
"We feel that's the developer's responsibility. The city is not a bank," he said.
Although the 200-foot extension is Stonebridge developer ASM Investments Inc.'s responsibility, it is under no obligation to have the road built by a certain time, city manager Tieche said later.
Tieche said Westbury is not alone in being a subdivision with only one access.
"In an emergency, can it be a problem? Absolutely," he said.
"We've had phone calls from residents in Westbury, and their primary issue was safety," he said.
But, he said, if those residents knew there was only one way in and out when they bought their lots, why is the city responsible?
Developer considering it
Tieche said anyone could build the extension if it's done to city council's specifications, and that in fact, Westbury's developer, TC Quality Homes, has looked into doing so. He said he met with TC Quality partner Chris Abraham on Thursday about that possibility. He said Abraham is concerned about recovering his cost if he pays to extend the road, and the city's attorney is researching that issue.
"Can he recover the money, and if so, from who?" Tieche said. "Can you assess property owners? Are Westbury property owners benefiting? Are Stonebridge's?"
Tieche said that if the city fronted the cost of the extension and recovered the money at some future time, the question becomes one of fairness to city residents. He said the city faces the same issues Abraham faces on recouping the money.
Tieche said some Stonebridge residents have also indicated they don't want the extension because it will bring more traffic through their subdivision, which can also be a safety issue.
"So no matter what we do, we'll be wrong," he said.