More drivers might soon pump their brakes as they travel through Westhampton Beach as the village weighs its options for expanding the school zone on Mill Road, near the elementary and middle schools, to also include Lilac Road—which runs in front of the high school—as well as parts of Oneck Lane.
The move is spurred by an inquiry about where the school zone actually begins after the village posted a sign near the intersection of Lilac and Mill roads, only to later take it down. Westhampton Beach Police Lieutenant Trevor Gonce said his subsequent investigation revealed that the actual speed-reduction zone does not begin until farther west on Mill Road than originally thought. It turns out that the school zone begins not at the intersection of Lilac Road but nearly 480 feet east of Oneck Lane, and ends just east of the Westhampton Post Office.
While the 20-mph school zone also extends south on Oneck Lane, near the entrance to the Westhampton Beach Elementary School, before terminating at Bishop Lane, the zone does not continue north along the road. That means that even though there are signs along that stretch of Oneck Lane, between Mill Road and Montauk Highway, declaring it a “school zone,” the posted speed limit is still 30 mph. The northern section of the road overlooks the district’s football field.
Additionally, no part of Lilac Road, which runs in front of the high school and also connects Montauk Highway with Mill Road, is part of the current school zone; the speed limit is 30 mph along that road as well.
Even though the speed zone sign in question has been since taken down, members of the Village Board at last month’s work session decided to explore options for possibly extending the zone along Mill Road so that it ends on Lilac Road. At the same meeting, they also discussed the possibility of expanding the school zone so that it also includes all of Lilac Road, terminating at Montauk Highway.
Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Maria Moore said the village planned on hiring Dunn Engineering in Westhampton Beach to conduct a study of this and other potential changes, but the firm advised the Village Board that it could create a school zone wherever it pleased and, therefore, a study wouldn’t be necessary.
The village code calls for a 15-mph speed limit within the school zone as opposed to the 20-mph zone now called for by the signs along Mill Road, Lt. Gonce said. The school zone is marked by a sign with flashing yellow lights on the westbound side of Mill Road, next to the middle school and 476 feet from Oneck Lane.
Lt. Gonce said village code allows for a school zone to extend 1,320 feet, or a quarter of a mile, from any school entrance so the zone could be extended to Lilac Road without changing the code. Based on that standard, the school zone on Oneck Lane, which currently begins near the Bishop Lane intersection, could be extended to White Oak Lane, but that decision would have to be made by Southampton Town as Oneck Lane is the borderline between the Village of Westhampton Beach and the hamlet of Westhampton.
Under town code, there are two school zones associated with the Westhampton Beach School District—the one on Oneck Lane that goes from Bishop Lane to Mill Road and a second that starts on Mill Road, between Baycrest Avenue and Leland Drive, and continues east to the village line. Both are 20-mph zones.
Technically, the stretch of Montauk Highway that borders the high school property to the north would fall within the quarter-mile radius, but Suffolk County is in control of the speed limit on that road, Ms. Moore said. Lt. Gonce added that because there’s no school entrance along that stretch of road, it might be tricky to convert the 40-mph stretch into a school zone.
“We have nothing on Lilac or Oneck on the books, or Montauk,” Lt. Gonce told the board during the work session. “So, that’s something that you can discuss and again you could put in, because I have a copy of the New York State Vehicle Traffic Law that says you can put school zones wherever you want.”
Lt. Gonce suggested the village alter its code, particularly the section dealing with speed limits as it makes no mention of school zones. Village Trustee Hank Tucker said he was in favor of addressing school traffic on Lilac, which he noted has been a problem for residents of that street, although he pointed out that whatever changes are made should be accompanied by additional signs to warn drivers about changing speed limits.
“It seems like you would wanna have the sign prior to getting in the school zone as opposed to doing whatever the speed limit is then, all of a sudden, there’s a sign and it’s, like, too late by the time you step on the brake,” Mr. Tucker said during the work session.
Westhampton Beach Schools Superintendent Michael Radday said Tuesday that he has not had formal talks with the village about expanding the school zone, though he is open to the idea.
“I think student safety is always a priority and we’re happy to work with the village in pursuit of that,” Mr. Radday said. “If the move was beneficial to student safety, we’d be in support of it.”
As of this week, the Village Board had not made any determinations about changing the schools zone, Village Clerk Elizabeth Lindtvit said, adding that the topic remains under consideration.
After remaining in storage for the past two years, the Westhampton Beach ice rink could make its return to the village this winter.
Ms. Moore brought up the idea of setting up the rink in Glover Park during last month’s work session and suggested putting out a request for bids for someone to operate an ice skate rental stand or kiosk during the winter. Previously, the temporary rink had been set up near the village marina.
The mayor said she thinks the Glover Park lot near Main Street would be a good spot for the rink because it is centrally located and will remain vacant at least until next year when she hopes to develop the space into a formal park.
“We’re hoping to break ground [on the park] in the spring,” she said. “It’s just laying vacant, so why not do it there? We haven’t made a final decision, but I would like to see that happen.”
Westhampton Beach Public Works Superintendent John Kearns said Glover Park could be problematic due to poor water drainage and because of a lack of lighting, which he said could be addressed by bringing in a portable light source for night skating. Ms. Moore said the municipal parking lot on Mill Road, where the Westhampton Beach Farmers Market is set up during the spring and summer, is another option that should be considered.
The rink was purchased by the village in 2010 and set up that year, as well as in 2011, near the village marina at the end of Library Avenue. Damage from Hurricane Sandy stopped the village from installing it in 2012 and it remained in storage last year as well due to continued construction.
“Since we have it, we should use it,” Ms. Moore said.
Mayor To Hold Meeting
Westhamptonbeach.org, the village government’s website, now features a new tab to keep residents up to date on the latest developments with the Guldi house on Griffing Avenue.
In response to multiple complaints about the house from residents of Griffing Avenue and other nearby streets, the village added the informational tab last week. Similar to the one on the website regarding eruv litigation in the village, the Guldi house tab has a chronological list of filings related to the case starting with the village’s petition to tear the house down from November 2013 and ending with a July 31 letter from the property owner—jailed former Suffolk County Legislator George Guldi—requesting that the New York State Supreme Court reconsider its ruling that granted the village permission to tear down the abandoned, fire-damaged house.
Ms. Moore said residents can now refer to the website to track progress on the structure, which burned in 2008 and has been in foreclosure since 2010.
Mr. Moore also will be holding a meet-and-greet for local business owners and landlords in the village to discuss issues pertaining to the business community, something she has vowed to do since the onset of her campaign earlier this year.
The meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 14, in Westhampton Beach Village Hall on Mill Road.