All's Quiet Before Meeting On Proposed Route 30 Bypass But Officials Doubt Citizens Will Pass Up Chance To Protest

November 07, 1990|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

MANCHESTER - If hundreds of town residents are planning to storm Manchester Elementary School tomorrow night to fight a proposed Route 30 bypass, you'd never know it.

Unlike in May -- when about 200 residents packed the school gymnasium to angrily oppose the bypass -- there are no petition drives, no placards, no handbills. In fact, town and county officials say, there have been no complaints yet on the latest draft of the town's comprehensive plan.

But they don't think for a minute that it means people in this town of 2,700 are done complaining.

"I don't think that everyone out there has vented their anger," said Scott Fischer, the county planner who wrote and revised the 86-page plan.

"I don't know whether people will be more determined than ever this time or if they'll be quieter."

The last time Fischer and other county and town planning officials got together with residents was for the two-hour May meeting, a meeting often interrupted by shouting, name-calling and lengthy testimony on the bypass proposal.

The Manchester bypass is by far the most controversial aspect of the town's proposed master plan. And the most recent draft of the plan is little changed from the one presented to residents in May.

Since that first May meeting, Fischer and the County Planning and Zoning Commission have made slight adjustments to the bypass route, have re-evaluated the number of people expected to live in this 225-year-old town and have added an explanation of how the plan will affect landowners.

If Fischer isn't quite able to read the town's mood on the latest round in the bypass fight, neither is a leader of the Citizens Against Manchester Bypass, a fledgling citizens group formed last summer.

"I'm a little disappointed with the lack of support we've gotten," said Pam Taylor, a Schalk One Road resident who started the group. "We put out about 500 fliers, but we haven't gotten much of a response."

Part of the reason, she thinks, is the realization that a bypass, if it is approved, is perhaps more than a decade or two away. "I called the state highway people," she said. "And they told me that we are so far down the list that we really don't need to worry about it right now."

Last month, the State Highway Administration indefinitely froze money earmarked for the nearby Hampstead bypass to Route 30, a roadway that was to be under construction in less than two years.

Fischer and other planning officials have said that if a bypass here is ever going to get built, approving it -- along with the whole master plan -- is crucial.

"We have to keep some land open for whenever the state decides to build one," Fischer said.

The master plan is more than just another road, however. In its pages are zoning recommendations, sewage treatment needs, public school construction estimates and a host of other information designed to give the town and the county a blueprint for development of the Manchester area.

In the works since 1987, the master plan has faced at least nine workshops and a public hearing. The plan must be approved by both the County Commissioners and the Town Council.

Mayor Elmer C. Lippy Jr., a proponent of the current master plan, said tomorrow's 7 p.m. meeting could end up like the last one, even though the early signs of a mass turnout are not there.

"I think, as usual, anything that affects the community brings people out," he said.

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