NEWBURY — A decision to install stop signs on two spots along Old Pine Island Road and Seaview Lane without first holding a public hearing was simply a case of miscommunication, said police Chief Michael Reilly.
Reilly told selectmen on Tuesday that when the police and highway departments both initially heard from a resident back in June asking for stops signs at the intersections for safety reasons, his “gut reaction was that signs may be warranted.”
He responded to the resident via an email message saying he would speak to the highway superintendent about having signs erected. Reilly also sent a copy of his message to the highway department.
“My email was vague and I believe that the highway superintendent misunderstood my initial response as a request to erect the signs. As such, there was a breakdown in communication for which I take full responsibility,” Reilly said following the selectmen’s meeting.
The resident’s request was made on June 10 and the stop signs were erected a day or two later. Seaview Lane intersects Old Pine Island Road in two places and stop signs were initially installed at both locations.
“Within a day of that we began receiving resident complaints,” said Reilly.
Kathleen Pearson, who lives on Seaview Lane, said an informal survey of about 26 residents initially indicated that signage was unwanted and people were unhappy that this type of action was taken in their neighborhood without their input.
“Initially, we jumped the gun,” Reilly acknowledged. He agreed to remove the sign erected at the east entrance of the two roads, but held fast on the decision to maintain a stop sign at the other intersection, which he felt had poorer site line visibility in an area of the neighborhood that was more thickly populated
A resident who attended the selectmen’s meeting but did not identify himself questioned whether the area had enough vehicular traffic to warrant a stop sign. He worried it would create “a false sense of security” in drivers and other who traverse the intersection.
But Pearson said the roughly 26 neighbors she has contacted were OK with keeping the remaining stop sign in place.
Selectman David Mountain suggested holding a public session to give all residents a chance to weigh in on the matter. But Reilly said that once a stop sign is in place for several months, people get used to it being there, so it isn’t advisable to take it down.
The police chief stressed that normally when a request for a stop sign is made, the police department first assesses the intersection. If the assessment concludes signage is warranted, “we would kick it up to the town administrator to set up public hearings,” he said.
Only after the hearings take place and the residents have a chance to voice their opinions would he bring the recommendation to selectmen for further action, Reilly said.