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Bedford Town Board Seeks a Safer Cherry Street

By RICH MONETTI

On Wednesday, August 5th, the Bedford Town Board held the first of its two monthly meetings at the Town Hall. Adapting changes to the local Film Ordinance Law and addressing the issue of traffic safety on Cherry Street were the major issues discussed.

But the gathering began with a presentation by Patty Warble, Executive Director of the Drug Abuse Prevention Council in Bedford. Hoping to extend their collaboration with the town, Warble expressed the importance of intervening very early on. “I liken it to throwing pebbles in a lake – you don’t know where the ripples will go, but they definitely go somewhere,” said Warble.

At the same time, Warble clarified the need for continued support from the town in hopes of offering effective programs for Bedford’s youth. “They have to be professional presentations because kids are more sophisticated, and that’s expensive,” said Warble.

The justification for Bedford’s continued funding of the program was summed up by the Supervisor in a simple indicator. “Your program has been replicated in schools all over Westchester County,” said Chris Burdick.

The docket then turned to the procedures filmmakers must satisfy when they want to shoot on location in Bedford. “The film ordinance is too cumbersome so we want to be able to react on a faster basis and not lose out on the income and business,” said Town Clerk Boo Fumagalli.

As is, all requests must go before the board. The proposed amendment puts the request before the town clerk who can approve on the spot. “If it’s clear that no permit is required, that’s a type one approval,” said Supervisor Burdick.

At the next level of possible disruption to the community, the clerk can still bypass the board and go directly to the Building, Highway or Police Departments to make a decision based on their clarifications.  Otherwise, the clerk can refer to the town board if disruptions such as afterhours shooting, exterior filming, proximity to the community, and the amount of vehicles involved become obtrusive.

A rejection by the clerk can also be appealed to the town board, and the amendment also gives the building inspector power to hold the applicant to the specs provided for by the permit. The Board then set the permit fee for TV commercials and short films to $3,500, feature films and TV shows to $5,000, $100 for PSAs and no charge for student projects.
Once passed, the board switched gears onto the more real life issue of speed and safety on Cherry Street.  Often serving as a short cut to the Saw Mill for rush hour traffic, the residential street also has students walking to Katonah Elementary School every morning.

Up for consideration was the depth of traffic study to address the situation. $7000 would pay for the school crossing at Valley Road, while the cost would run into the tens of thousands to study the entire street.

The public discussion proceeded along the lines of making the Valley Road study a phase one step in the face of the fast approaching school year. But Board Member Peter Chryssos still questioned the direction of the conversation.  “I’m wondering if the study is too narrow in scope, because one change can impact the next,” said Chryssos.

Speaking directly to this idea is the uphill climb off the Route 35 entrance that almost automatically has drivers speeding down the decline. So a discussion of a stop sign has long been part of the conversation.

That was the foundation of all the issues for David Parry, founder of A Safer Cherry Street. “Until we address the fire hose of traffic aimed at Cherry Street at rush hour, we’re really not addressing the problem,” said Parry.

Nonetheless, Janet Anderson of Cherry Street questioned the need for any study when the fixes seem like common sense. “Other than the state regulation requiring study whenever stop signs are proposed,” said Board Member Chryssos, “Lawyers are part of the law of unintended consequences. Certain situations seems intuitive but are not when they end up in court.”

Even so, the conversation drifted back to the expediency of Valley Road with proposals of Cobblestoned crosswalks, a fog line and plastic pylons. Chryssos suggestion was much more hands on and easiest to implement. “Let’s put a crossing guard there when school begins,” said Chryssos.

The banter back and forth eventually narrowed to the supervisor’s statement of the obvious need to do something quickly. As such, Burdick put forth a motion to ensue with a study at the intersection of Cherry Street and Valley Road.
Passing 3-2 with board members Corcoran and Gabrielson deferring, there was definitely an ending consensus that seeks a second phase once the first is completed.   

 

Rich Monetti has been a freelance writer since 2003. He lives in Westchester County.

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