SOUTHINGTON — The Town Council approved fines for drivers who block marked intersections and the first area targeted will be on Spring Street in front of the new Plan b restaurant’s driveway.
The “don’t block the box” ordinance was approved in a unanimous vote at Monday night’s council meeting. Under the new town law, drivers stopped in the painted areas of an intersection could be fined, although police will likely start with warnings.
Cars waiting in line to get on Queen Street can clog Spring Street all the way to the BJ's Wholesale Club, according to local business owners and town officials. Plan b owners are concerned the congestion will make it difficult for customers to pull into the restaurant.
Pamela DePaolo, owner of DePaolo Furniture on Center Street, supported the ordinance and suggested cameras to enforce it. She hoped the council would consider painting boxes at downtown intersections.
“Most intersections that can be blocked are blocked by inconsiderate drivers,” DePaolo said during the council meeting. “People need to be more considerate... If they can’t do it on their own...the law’s going to have to get involved.”
Stephen Kalkowski, a police commission member, wrote a letter in support of the ordinance but added the town should have already built a right turn only lane on Spring Street to prevent the backup.
“I am disappointed that we are allowing Plan b to open before we have a right turn only lane on Spring Street,” Kalkowski wrote.
As part of the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval for BJ’s Wholesale Club, the town required the property owners to build the right turn only lane before developing another site on the property. Town Manager Mark Sciota, the former town attorney, said the second development that would trigger the construction of the right turn only lane hasn’t happened.
“The town can’t wait,” Sciota said.
The owner of the Plan b parcel gave the town easements to build the turning lane for free, Sciota said. He is proposing the work be done in spring.
“I have a lot of confidence this is going to be done in a meaningful way and very quickly,” said Councilor Paul Chaplinsky.
After posting the ordinance, a 20-day period must pass before it can be enforced. Deputy Police Chief William Palmieri said the department will start with education and warnings.
“On day 21, our officers are not going to start going out and issuing tickets,” he said.