- Written by Shane Donnelly and Justin Picard
Q: Can you comment on the recent events involving John Valuzzo?
A: I met John Valuzzo once or twice…It’s an unfortunate situation. When there are two people with guns in a confrontation, the outcome will not be good…the officer responded to a call about an argument, and a man brandishing a gun (which he had a permit for). The officers responded in the way they’re trained to. If someone points a gun at you, that’s what happens.
Q: Why doesn’t Ridgefield have blight laws?
A: We are looking at a property maintenance ordinance. It’s not as easy as just passing another law. The state statute is very explicit in protecting people’s property rights. We cannot go into homes unless there is a definite sign of rodents or structural damage.
Once people become aware that there is a blight ordinance – as New Canaan has informed us – you will start getting all kinds of complaints (i.e., “so-and-so needs to mow his lawn, so-and-so needs to have their house painted, etc.”). Because of this, the process is a little more difficult than just passing an ordinance. We are looking into it and continue to assess the possibility.
I did bring it to the board a few years ago, and they were kind of ‘luke-warm’ about it. Generally speaking, we do not like to pass more and more and more ordinances. There are certain constitutional rights that you have as a property owner, so we have to be cognizant of that as we move forward.
Q: Will we ever see wider shoulders or bike lanes added to main roads?
A: Having wider shoulders on main roads is an issue with the state of Connecticut. All of our main roads here – Main Street, Barry Avenue, etc. – are all state highways. The state highway has a minimum road width of 12 feet. Within these parameters, there are shoulders on the space available. The problem is that on narrower roads these shoulders begin to diminish.
What we are doing with respect to cycling: We are currently working on building a pedestrian bridge between the 9/11 monument and Route 35 over the water. From that point, a sidewalk will continue all the way up to Copps Hill. We may do it as asphalt just to get it in, as it is much less expensive than concrete.
We are also planning an update to a plan that was created in 2004 – a bicycle pass. What I hope to is apply and be awarded money for a boardwalk that will parallel the entire length of the bypass road. It’ll continue around in front of R.O.A.R. and the recycling center – that whole area. It would travel right behind Goodwill, and go up a hill into the Rail Trail, which would go all the way down to Branchville.
It’s going to take time because these projects require a lot of money. It is estimated at costing $1.6 million to do that. So, we have to do it piecemeal. I think the pedestrian bridge is a great start. We will have, at least, a sidewalk all the way up from Park and Rec to Copps Hill. It will be bicycle friendly and will be 8-10 feet wide.
Q: Is there any progress towards establishing a median on Route 7?
A: No. In 1999, I asked for a meeting with the then mayor of the city of Danbury, and with all the state representatives from our respective areas to discuss the fact that if the improvements that were then scheduled for the old Route 7 were to be made, they should be made with a median. We needed to be sure that it would be built with safety in mind. I got a lesson in politics. I went up to Danbury for the meeting and was quickly told that in no way would any changes be made to the plans for that road, because ‘we waited long enough to get it built and will do nothing to further delay it.’
The scheduled project didn’t start until almost 10 years later. There was plenty of time to redesign that road to include concrete barriers. Unfortunately, I don’t see the state doing anything at this point in time. It is just a closed door whenever I go there. I would advise, to anyone who uses that road, to stay in the right lane.
Q: Will roads that are in desperate need of repair see repairs anytime soon?
A: I would have to look at the schedule – we pave roads every year, spending $1.3-$1.5 million. One thing that has happened recently: The State of Connecticut changed the formula for asphalt. They have increased the percentage of recycled material that you have to use. As a result, what we find – and you’ll see this around tow – is a problem called scabbing.
People will think they’re potholes – they’re not. The layer serving as the foundation is perfectly in place, but sections of the newest layers just erode and peel off. This should never happen. Most of the issues with our roads today are because of that problem. We have complained to the state, and hopefully they are considering the percentage and type of recycled materials used in asphalt. All of our current roads are scheduled for re-paving; the question is which do we do when.
A pavement management study indicated that the program we are doing right now is working. The main problem is, of course, when Mother Nature damages the roads. The Board of Finance has determined that what we are currently doing is that with our current spending on roads, we will be in good shape. If anyone has a concern with their road specifically, they should call the Highway Department.
Q: What is your take on the current state of business on Main Street?
A: There’s good news and bad news; when the Gap left, The Conservatory moved in. People need to understand that even if the stock market is doing well, it doesn’t mean that all is well. There is 5-5.5% unemployment here in Ridgefield when it’s normally 2%. Furthermore, if you want Main Street to thrive then shop there. If you shop locally, you’ll have a thriving downtown. Don’t go to the mall or any outlets, go here, and then we will have a strong, vibrant Main Street. We need your help.
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