Ten years ago, when Matt and I arrived in Vermont, we thought long and hard about where we’d want to live. We spent a lot of time driving around different towns and back roads in Addison County, painting mental pictures of what it would be like to buy a house here, or there, or there.
In the end, we ended up buying a house on South Street. It’s a beautiful, quiet, residential street with a great sense of history. It has a neighborhood feel, but is within easy walking distance of Middlebury’s lively downtown. It has dogs and kids and old people and college people and town people and everyone else you can think of. We love our house, but the truth is that we probably would have pounced on anything that went up for sale on this street. South Street, along with neighboring Chipman Park and Green Mountain Place, means Vermont to us. (Hence the name of this blog…)
A lot has changed in the past nine years. We’re lucky to live within a stone’s throw of a dozen kids, and many families who have become good friends — often people we wouldn’t have met if it weren’t for the shady sidewalks that connect us. As parents, we’ve come to appreciate the short walk (or bike ride) to town more than we ever thought we would, and it’s nice to have the College just a few houses away in the other direction. We’re very lucky.
At the same time, the street has gotten busier. Much busier. The town’s decision to allow construction of a residential community on South Street Extension has meant more traffic than we used to see, and it’s moving a lot faster. I think many of the people zooming down South Street think of it as nothing more than an avenue to get to work, and treat it as such.
When the decision was made to move forward with construction, it was my understanding that part of the agreement included deliberate “traffic calming” devices on South Street. Neighbors (more diligent and possibly less naive than I) recently informed me that those traffic calming measures have been downgraded to white lines painted on the street. It’s a big disappointment, and in my opinion, a much less responsive and responsible decision on the part of the town of Middlebury. While I understand that there are concerns beyond just mine (ambulances, for example, need unfettered access) I can’t help feeling as if the town of Middlebury is ready to cede the nature of South Street as a neighborly, family street.
So to drivers: please, slow down. Slow down because the speed limit is 25, for one thing. And because this is an area teeming with small kids on wobbly bikes. And if not out of concern for the neighbors on South Street, slow down for the same reason that you stop at crosswalks and would never litter on Route 7. Slow down out of respect for the character of the community that you’re part of. I’ll drive slowly on your street, too.
To the town of Middlebury: please, reconsider. South Street isn’t just important to those of us who live here, it’s an important part of our town, and deserving of more consideration. Surely there must be a way to address this more effectively than painting extra white lines. I hope you will at least consider meeting with a neighbors group, if only to explain your plans and listen to our concerns before finalizing your decision.
And to my neighbors: Fred Dunnington is the town planner, and Dan Werner is the head of public works in Middlebury. Out of respect for their privacy, I won’t publish email addresses here, but I’m sure you can contact them through the town offices if you’d like to share your concerns about this issue. And feel free to pass this along to those who may share our concerns.
Additional note: Molly Costanza Robinson made the excellent point that it might be better to approach this with a unified voice rather than as scattered individuals. I agree, and if I hear any news about such an effort, I’ll post it here.