Facing robust opposition from Old Church Lane residents, the Lewisboro Town Board has dropped, at least for now, any plans to pave over that mile-long stretch of dirt road.
The board, which had already approved borrowing as much as a half-million dollars for the job, agreed last week to forgo the paving this year.
Scrapping the initiative was a setback for Supervisor Peter Parsons, who had labeled the South Salem road “a disaster” and made its rehabilitation a key project in his capital improvement budget. But board members’ enthusiasm waned after contentious, back-to-back meetings this month and Parsons concluded that the town would “delay any decision [on the road] until next year.”
The people who live along the rustic byway filled town hall on Feb. 11 and again on Feb. 24, dismissing Parsons’ stated concerns about the roadway’s costly and recurring drainage fixes and the damage it inflicts on vehicles such as school buses.
“There are alternatives, and good alternatives, to paving that road,” one resident, Dr. James Jones, told the board at last week’s meeting. “Paving is not the answer to the drainage issues that you have.”
After the boisterous Feb. 11 meeting, which included a public hearing on borrowing for the project, Parsons had considered three approaches to dealing with the road: not paving it, “paving the entirety of that road” or a “middle way...unlikely to satisfy anybody.”
That compromise solution, tackling “the most difficult parts of that road” in terms of maintenance, called for “taking the three quarters of a mile nearest the Pound Ridge border and paving that stretch.”
While most residents who spoke at the Feb. 24 meeting opposed any paving, some, like Luis G. Formoso, supported any measures that would address the road’s drainage woes.
“I can’t use my garage for its intended purpose, to park cars,” he told the board. “That’s ridiculous.”
Formoso offered to help pay to solve the drainage problem.
“If borrowing this money and using some of it to fix this has to happen, if I have to spend money out of my pocket...then so be it.
But right now I can’t even spend money on my two cars and my driveway to fix the problem because that’s just washed away. I got quotes of $30,000 to do something—and all that’s going to do is divert it from coming into my garage.”
Another of the road’s residents, Marjorie Samuels, was less enthusiastic about paying for a fix.
“I would just like to know what this is going to cost me,” she said. “Anything?”
Parsons has estimated the town would spend about $370,000 to pave the entire 1.3 miles of Old Church Lane and make other repairs, including to its faulty drainage. Others, including Highway Superintendent Peter Ripperger, however, have put the cost at closer to $500,000. So at its Feb. 11 meeting the Town Board authorized borrowing of up to the higher number, with the understanding that it could seek less than that amount or not borrow at all.
Parsons told Samuels her taxes would pay a share of retiring the bond’s cost. “But we believe that will be less than what you’re currently paying—well, not you, what the town is currently paying—for maintaining the road as it is,” he said.
“I just want to know,” she said, “that it’s not going to cost me any more than what I am paying now.”
Samuels went on to say she was “concerned that I may have to sell my house at some point down the road, and I am very distressed to hear that the property values are going down in our area. I would feel that by paving that road it’s going to erode the property value even more.”
Parsons told her, “I’ve got no crystal ball, and I don’t know.”
The supervisor cited numerous complaints by school officials and others about the road’s condition, saying, “I get phone calls, phone calls, phone calls.”
But critics in the crowd challenged him to “quantify” the calls and Jones insisted that “a majority of the residents on the road...do not want this paved. But we continue to hear about your phone calls, phone calls, phone calls.”