The May 10 meeting of the North Syracuse Village Board of Trustees was unusually packed, but few of the residents in the crowd were there to speak about items on that night’s agenda. Instead, several residents from Palmer Drive wanted to voice their opinions about the removal of a stop sign on their street.
The board voted April 26 to remove a stop sign from the intersection of Palmer Drive and Reed Road and add a stop sign to the intersection of Millen Drive and Coolidge Drive to improve traffic flow.
“They were attempting to make it more consistent,” North Syracuse Police Chief Steve Rotunno said.
Mayor Gary Butterfield said a stop sign had been added to Palmer Drive several years ago when a day care center opened. The business closed after a year, but the stop sign remained. He said there were two or three stop signs on Palmer, which caused drivers to start and stop often. Many drivers cut through Millen to avoid the series of stop signs on Palmer, as the only stop sign on Millen before Route 11 is at the intersection of Helen Street.
“It was an attempt to clean things up,” Butterfield said May 10.
Several Palmer Drive residents signed a petition asking for the stop sign to be replaced, which they presented to the mayor at the May 10 meeting.
“The stop sign was removed on Palmer Drive unbeknownst to anybody that lived on that block. There was no discussion of this being removed,” said resident Gary Shelley.
Shelley said Palmer Drive residents have asked for speed patrols in the past, especially since schoolchildren get on and off the bus at the corner of Palmer and Reed.
“Since it’s been removed, traffic has actually picked up and is speeding again,” Shelley said. “I have grandchildren that live with me that get picked up in my driveway one house up from the corner. They don’t need cars speeding down the road any faster than they were.”
Joseph Cacciola, another resident, said Palmer Drive has “always been kind of a raceway.” Cacciola said people park on both sides of the road when there are events at the nearby North Syracuse Education Association, and he is concerned about car accidents during the winter.
Resident Anna Shelley said the street is less safe now that the stop sign is gone.
“God forbid if any of these kids are out there in the middle of that street crossing and somebody hits them, maims them for life or kills them,” she said. “This will be on all our consciences.”
Mayor Butterfield said that many neighborhoods complain about speeding cars, but according to both federal and state law, stop signs are for traffic control, not speed control.
“We don’t make the law for that,” Rotunno said.
“Excessive use of stop signs can lead to disregard for them. Many drivers will run a stop sign, or only come to a rolling stop. Stop signs should not be used for speed control. There is some evidence that frequent stop signs may actually increase traffic speed between the signs,” reads the Traffic Sign Handbook for Local Roads, published by the Cornell Local Roads Program in 2011.
“I know it’s not a speed control device,” Cacciola said, “but it certainly did work that way. … It’s definitely gotten worse since the stop sign was removed.”
Chief Rotunno said a recent patrol of Palmer Drive showed drivers going 30 mph, but he acknowledged that his officers are not patrolling Palmer Drive all the time. He suggested the residents contact the police department for his new neighborhood speed watch program in which an officer visits the neighborhood with a speed radar gun to show residents how fast cars are traveling. He said people often overestimate a passing car’s speed.
Village Attorney Scott Chatfield explained the process of creating a local law.
“We don’t just put up or take down stop signs. They have to go through a local law process that involves a public hearing notice,” Chatfield said. “A proposed law has to be submitted, a public hearing has to be held and the code is amended.”
Chatfield said the item had been on the village board’s agenda in April and that the April 26 public hearing had been advertised in the newspaper. If the village decided to replace the stop sign, the same process would take place.
“If the board determines that they would like to re-institute the stop sign at that intersection, it can’t happen right away,” he said. “We have to have a public hearing, we have to have notice in the official newspaper, I have to draft a local law, it has to be then adopted by the board.”
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.