In a unanimous vote, the Canton Zoning Commission approved an amendment to the plans to install a sidewalk on Lawton Road. The sidewalk, part of a development project that revolves around a new CVS store on the corner of Lawton and Route 44, will now be modified to include a bike path.
Konover Development Corp. has offered to include a multi-use path at no cost to Canton residents. This bicycle-acessible path will extend the existing Farmington River Rail Trail about 400 feet.
"We're willing to accomodate it," said Stan Glantz, Konover's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer last week.
The approved the idea at their July 11 meeting by a vote of 4-1.
Town Planner Neil Pade spoke to the commission in detail about the plan on Wednesday evening. "This is the last segment of the Farmington River Rail Trail," he said. "There are a lot of challenges trying to connect this last piece to make it a unique, 28-mile loop."
The selectmen had expressed concern over how bicyclists would cross Route 44 safely. Pade came to the commission prepared to show that four crosswalks could be installed on Route 44, Lovely Street and Lawton Road so that cyclists would be safe to cross. "Push a button and all the traffic stops," said Pade.
Having dealt with that issue, Pade addressed the second concern on the commission's mind: landscaping. With the addition of the multi-use path, which increases the width of the path by three feet or more, some landscaping would have to be eliminated. Pade said that 82 plants, in fact, would have to be removed, leaving the plan with still well over 1,200 new landscaping items.
"I really think it's a masterpiece," said Pade. "It's a really well thought out landscaping design."
When the time came for the public to speak, everyone was in support of the change and the wisdom behind accepting a free offer like this one from Konover. "We've been behind this project from day one," said Kevin Jackson, chairman of the Economic Development Agency. "We see nothing but up-side."
"This brings us one pedal stop closer to connecting Canton with the bicycle-friendly town of Simsbury," said Jan Tanner from Benidorm Bikes.
Commission Chair pressed Pade to tell him how long Canton would have to wait to complete the trail if the town did not take this offer. "I don't expect it would happen in the next five years," said Pade.
Jackson said discussions are still being conducted with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to see if the trail could be extended onto their property at a later date. He and others would also like to see The Shoppes offer a parking site for cyclists.