Temporary signs coming in ‘a week or so’

By Shaun Moriarty
Citizen Chronicle Writer
shaun@thecitizenchronicle.com

CHARLTON — In an effort to curb dangerous traffic patterns, Selectmen unanimously voted to give police the authority to enforce a right-turn only sign located on private property outside Tree House Brewery.

Town Administrator Robin Craver informed Selectmen on Tuesday night that because the sign is located on private property, police have been unable to prevent vehicles from going across the eastbound lane of Route 20 with a left-hand turn out of the brewery’s driveway. Tree House Brewery Company, located at 129 Sturbridge Road, requested Selectmen approve a regulation that would permit the Charlton Police Department to enforce violators.

Kim Golinski, office manager for Tree House, told Selectmen the brewery has done its part by placing a right-turn only sign at the exit of its driveway, accompanied by traffic cones, but ultimately the police department’s hands are tied due to regulation.

“There’s not much we can do at the top of the driveway with the traffic flow, so one of the requests is to make that sign enforceable, which makes our police department able to actually ticket people who do take lefts,” Golinski said. “This would give the police department a lot of weight.”

Craver said the request would be a temporary fix, noting the brewery is working with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation “for a safer and more permanent plan for traffic.” That plan involved two solar-powered electronic message boards placed behind guardrails to advise drivers of turning traffic ahead. One sign would be placed near McGee Buick GMC, facing westbound traffic, while a sign for eastbound traffic would be located near Hilltop Garage.

“These aren’t regular signs, these are very expensive,” explained Selectman John McGrath. “They’re doing what they really need to do to make it safe out there.”

In a follow-up interview with The Citizen Chronicle, Golinski said the message boards would be active starting 30 minutes before the brewery opens for business, and would not be turned off until 30 minutes after it has closed for the night. Golinski said the message boards could be employed as soon as “a week or so,” but noted that it is dependent on the weather, Dig Safe, and other regulations.

“We should have the temporary safety measures in place once the weather cooperates,” she said.

McGrath detailed some of the steps necessary before these signs can be utilized.

“Before the state does allow anything to go over a guard rail, first they have to make sure they own the property, second they want to see the line of sight, and third they want to make sure the people can understand it as they’re traveling at 75 miles per hour or so,” he said.

More permanent solutions are in the works, officials affirmed, but that will take time as studies will be conducted before any permanent signage or alterations to the traffic pattern can happen. Golinski noted the Department of Transportation has the final say on these matters, “not the Town nor Tree House.”

Town officials credited the brewery for its efforts to rectify traffic problems that have surfaced since it officially opened in July. Tree House Brewery Company is housed in a 55,000-square foot building, which includes 6,000 square feet of retail space. The brewery is open Wednesday through Sunday.

Selectmen Chairman Joe Szafarowicz called the company “a wonderful community partner,” thanking them for being proactive.

Craver added: “Tree House Brewery Company is being very cooperative with the issues raised regarding the traffic concerns and I feel this would be another step in the right direction to deflect the dangerous traffic issues.”

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