Concerns over traffic changes during special events

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(Posted Oct. 12, 2022)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Road closures for special events and the resulting traffic pattern changes were a hot topic at Mount Sterling village council’s Oct. 10 meeting.

Council member Joyce Phillips said residents who live in the area near High and Market streets are concerned about traffic, especially large trucks, that is routed onto side streets when main roads are blocked for events such as the upcoming Haunted House on North London Street. She cited a village ordinance that restricts through-traffic of heavy-duty trucks on certain streets.

Residents have suggested alternatives to alleviate some of their concerns about safety and parking. Phillips passed along one resident’s suggestion that Mount Sterling Masonic Lodge 269, organizers of the Haunted House, shift the entrance for the attraction to the back of the lodge so that lines could form into the alley, rather than flowing into the street at the front of the lodge. Another suggestion is to host events at Veterans Field by the Mount Sterling Community Center. (The village does not own Veterans Field.)

Council member Andy Drake said he has talked to residents on High and Market streets about the issue.

“I also am hearing an awful lot (about this). I have no instant answer other than to say we have to figure something out, and we’ve got to do it probably sooner rather than later,” he said.

Drake noted that the village has worked on route ideas with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office over the years. Currently, traffic is routed one way onto some side streets during special events.

Council member David Timmons said the situation is a two-sided coin. On the one side, residents need their privacy and safety concerns met; on the other side, the events give people in the community, especially children, something fun to do, he said.

Council member Becky Martin belongs to the Mount Sterling Chamber of Commerce which organizes the three-day Summer Jam and half-day Christmas in the Village and is involved in organizing the half-day Street Market and three-day Haunted House–all annual events in the village. She said organizers of these events have tried different approaches through the years, striving for a balance between accommodating the needs of the events and the wants, concerns and safety of residents. She said organizers are open to tweaking things, to a point.

“If we start putting a lot of restrictions on these few events, these events will go away. I guarantee it,” Martin said. “They’re a lot of work, and everyone involved is all volunteers. The only reason that these events are happening are to benefit the community,” Martin said.

Phillips said the residents she represents are not asking the events to stop, but rather want restrictions in place when it comes to shutting down streets and rerouting traffic. She said there should be no exceptions to the ordinance that prohibits through-traffic of heavy-duty trucks on certain side streets.

“I am speaking on behalf of the people in the neighborhood it has affected. And this is very important to them,” Phillips said. “And I don’t take this lightly because we are here to represent the village residents.”

Martin said the village makes other exceptions, such as holding movie nights at Mason Park even though visitors are not permitted at the park after dusk.

“We change these rules and make exceptions so our community can have events and can have some entertainment,” she said.

Council member Rob Longcoy said the upcoming Haunted House is a “feel-good thing for the community” that both children and adults can enjoy. Without blocking the street, the event could not be presented to the extent it is now, he added.

Phillips replied, “We’re not saying not to have it. We’re saying we need to tweak it and take some of the traffic burden off the streets, because they are residents, too.”

Mayor Marci Darlington halted further discussion, suggesting that village officials, event organizers and concerned citizens meet at the start of next year to talk about the issue and potential solutions. She also said she would consult with other communities in Madison County to see what concerns they have fielded regarding special event traffic changes and the solutions they have found.

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