PLAINVILLE - The Town of Plainville faced several issues in 2017, from hard water to a proposed dog park and plans to close the Plainville Gap in the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail.
Near the start of the year, Town Manager Robert E. Lee began receiving complaints from residents about an unusual taste or odor to their water. There were also others who were complaining of water causing damage to their plumbing. He urged residents to contact him if they, too, were experiencing an issue and received more than 100 responses. After this, Lee contacted the Valley Water Company, which provides Plainville’s water, and the Department of Public Health and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. They then conducted testing at 18 municipal buildings and 14 homes in different parts of town.
The tests concluded that the Valley Water Company’s water, which comes from underground rather than a reservoir, met state and federal standards but was considered “very hard.” Hard water may cause a metallic taste or odor due to the presence of naturally occurring calcium and magnesium.
Public health section chief Tom Chyra said hard water can lead to scale formation inside pipes and fixtures, and can cause dishwashers and laundry machines to wear out prematurely. White residue may also appear on shower walls, dishes and glassware. According to the World Health Organization, hard water has no negative health impact. Calcium and magnesium are both essential parts of the human diet, and the amount found in the samples would only add a small amount to what people get in a typical diet.
The next step is for Valley Water to evaluate techniques for softening water supplies while keeping customers informed.
Plainville dog park
In August, during the town’s annual Balloon Festival, the Dog Park Committee collected more than 300 petition signatures from residents in favor of having it. The petition called on residents to support creating a one-acre, off-leash dog park located at the end of Norton Place Extension. This is where the town had purchased and demolished 22 homes due to the area being designated as a flood plain.
The stated goal of the Dog Park Committee, which was formed last February, is to create a park where “well-behaved dogs can exercise and romp in an enclosed, safe, clean and monitored area.” The proposed park has two sections, one for larger dogs, and the other for smaller or more timid dogs.
The petition listed the advantages of the site as it being owned by the town, having a minimal development cost, cul-de-sac parking, being remote from traffic and distractions, having available water, and making “optimal use” of a flood plain area. It argued that having a dog park in town will allow dogs to exercise and socialize safely, promote responsible dog ownership and that it would make the dogs less skittish and aggressive by giving them social opportunities.
The petition also argues that research shows that crime is reduced in neighborhoods with dog parks.
However, some neighbors of the proposed park were unhappy with the plans. Danielle and Ray Roux said in September that they live next door to the proposed park and their home is visible through the trees surrounding it. Blocking this view with a fence, they said, is “not nearly enough” to mitigate their concerns with privacy and noise.
A public hearing will be held on the proposed dog park Jan. 2 at 7 p.m., at the Plainville Municipal Center.
Another issue that has raised the concerns of some residents is the proposal to close the Plainville Gap in the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail bike path. A steering committee, which includes town leaders, met regularly to discuss proposed routes and arrived at a preliminary preferred alignment, also known as Alignment C.
Initially, Alignment C was proposed to connect to Tomasso Nature Park and Perron Road, but that is no longer the case. The route is now intended to travel down the western edge of Carling Technologies’ property. The changes were made after resident feedback, and are intended to reduce right-of-way issues and environmental impact. The current Alignment C trail is 5.3 miles long, running from Pierce Street to Norton Park. It ranges from 10 to 12 feet wide and isw 98 percent off-road.
Some residents who oppose the trail have cited concerns about loss of privacy, a potential loss of property values, potential environmental impacts, impacts to a historic Mule Haul Trail and worries that it could bring increased crime. At a recent Town Council meeting, the town manager read a letter by Planning and Economic Development Director Mark Devoe, in which he rebutted these concerns point by point.
Devoe said that while there may be some environmental impact, the design would “make every effort to mitigate them along every foot of the proposed trail.” The town and state are not exempt from environmental regulations.
As for floodplain impacts, Devoe said the trail would be considered a recreational platform and not a building and would therefore be permitted within floodplains when designed and engineered correctly.
Devoe also said he contacted the State Historic Preservation Office regarding the old Mule Haul Trail that runs behind homes on Hollyberry Lane. The office said there were no significant concerns raised about the current trail proposal. The goal of the Steering Committee, he said, is to preserve the trail. Other multi-use trail designs have been able to do so with historic amenities in other communities.
Devoe stated in his memo that the first and foremost concern of the trail design is safety.
“Appropriate design can make an effective and sometimes stark improvement to the appearance of the street,” said Town Manager Robert E. Lee. “Further, with respect to Pierce Street, Town of Plainville representatives have repeatedly stated that there are no plans to make this road into a one- way street.”
Finally, Devoe stressed that the current trail plan is conceptual only. He said the concerns that have been raised are “premature” and that the final design will be chosen “based upon how it best marries safety with aesthetics.” It is the purpose of the design phase, not the current planning phase, to ensure that measures to mitigate or remove impacts are implemented.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.