A proposal to install flashing warning lights at a pedestrian crosswalk on White Avenue may have been given new life at last week’s Winthrop Town Council meeting.
At the meeting, council member Joseph O’Driscoll revived the issue of safety at the crossing, which is part of the Susie Stephens recreational trail and is adjacent to Little Star Montessori School.
O’Driscoll said the crossing has a potential blind spot because of foliage that blocks drivers’ vision. He said that “something needs to be done” to ensure pedestrian safety, and suggested the town consider crossing flags like those available at crosswalks on Highway 20 in Twisp.
“There have been some close calls,” O’Driscoll said.
The crosswalk is painted on the pavement and has standard pedestrian warning signs for traffic in both directions.
Council member Ben Nelson recalled that a proposal for flashing lights at the crosswalk was considered and rejected in 2017. “We had many discussions about a creative solution, but nothing came of it,” Nelson said.
After first deciding to install flashing lights at the crosswalk in June 2017, the council reversed that decision a month later.
Pushback on the flashing lights proposal came from the Westernization Design Review Board (WDRB) and others because it would be inconsistent with overall Westernization guidelines.
Nelson supported the flashing lights idea in 2017, and expressed frustration last week that the issue had not been more directly addressed then.
“We backed out of that solution, foolishly,” Nelson said, adding that “we need to talk about it again” — with the expectation of the same objections that were raised last year.
“I do think there is a creative solution,” Nelson said. O’Driscoll also suggested that the possibility of flashing lights be revisited. “We’ve made [the crossing] busy and we’re going to have a problem,” he said.
Mayor Sally Ranzau said she would consult with the town’s public works director, Jeff Sarvis, and with Town Planner Rocklynn Culp about possible changes at the crosswalk. In the meantime, she said, the offending foliage will be trimmed.
Ranzau also alluded to what some council members and other observers characterized as “blackmail” during the crosswalk discussions in 2017. At that time, some downtown business and property owners objected to the flashing lights, and said they would withdraw support for the proposed Riverwalk Trail through downtown if flashing lights were installed at the crosswalk.
The Susie Stephens Trail will be immediately adjacent to a proposed new Winthrop public library site (see story, page A1), meaning the White Avenue crosswalk could likely expect more pedestrian use in the future.
The White Avenue crosswalk is also in the W-3 zoning district, which has been the object of much discussion about application of the town’s Westernization code to buildings in that area. The Town Council will soon be considering proposed language for revisions to the town’s Westernization code as it applies to W-3 commercial zoning.
Council member Kirsten Vanderhalf, who was part of an ad hoc committee appointed by the council to review the Westernization ordinance’s regulations for solar arrays in the W-3 district, said at last week’s meeting that the proposed language will be available for review at the Dec. 5 council meeting.
In other business at last week’s meeting:
• The council adopted the maximum 1 percent increase in the town’s property tax and emergency medical services levies for the 2019 budget. The 2018 property tax levy of $181,815 will be increased by $1,818; and the 2018 emergency medical services levy of $52,832 will be increased by $528.
A final hearing the town’s proposed 2019 budget will be held on Nov. 21, starting at 6:05 p.m. in the Hen House room at the Winthrop Barn.
• The council renewed the town’s contract with the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force. Winthrop will contribute $2,300 toward the task force’s operations.
• A 1991 Dodge Dakota truck was surplused and the town will solicit bids. No minimum bid was set.
• Ranzau reported that she had spoken with a potential fourth member of the Westernization Design Review Board, but that person had declined. The WDRB membership currently stands at three, but four members are needed for a quorum. The Winthrop Planning Commission is currently handling WDRB business. Ranzau said the WDRB’s members have been meeting to discuss Westernization issues, but can’t take official action until the group has a quorum.