Borough to try out Church Street changes


By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

A temporary outdoor dining area is shown in May in front of 66 Church on Church Street in Naugatuck. Borough officials are moving forward with plan to make this section of the street one-way to accommodate more outdoor dining. –ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — Borough officials are moving forward with a plan to make changes to a portion of Church Street — at least temporarily — in an effort to make the downtown area more vibrant.

The Board of Mayor and Burgesses on June 1 approved an interim plan to convert the section of Church Street between Rubber Avenue and Maple Street to a one-way street.

After the change, one-way traffic will flow from Maple Street toward Rubber Avenue.

The change is being made, in part, to allow for more outdoor seating for restaurants along the road. The borough has allowed restaurants to have temporary outdoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hope is to also increase foot traffic in the area and improve the atmosphere downtown.

“The idea here is to get a jump start, to get more excitement about downtown,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

Hess said officials plan to make the street one-way sometime this summer, though he didn’t have an exact time yet for the switch. He said officials are going to make the changes on a trial basis and adjust the plan, or reverse it, as necessary.

“We’re going to have to tweak this as we go,” Hess said.

Public Works Director James Stewart said the plan is to cover the traffic light at the intersection of Church Street and Maple Street and replace it with a stop sign.

The plan may also impact parking along the section of the street. The traffic lane needs to be at least 18 feet wide to accommodate a firetruck. So, angled parking is out since the road, which is 36 feet wide, isn’t wide enough for angled parking, outdoor dining areas and emergency vehicles, according to officials.

Officials floated the idea of paid parking but decided against it.

“I think people will be discouraged if they had to pay to park downtown,” Burgess Robert Neth said.

Officials intend to limit the time people can park on Church Street and in the municipal parking lot to two or three hours. Hess said officials will allow unrestricted free parking on Parcel B — the vacant lot at the corner of Maple Street and Old Firehouse Road — for people who work downtown to free up parking on Church Street for patrons.

The planned changes come as the borough prepares to make improvements downtown designed to make the area more accommodating for bicyclists and pedestrians. The borough has received a $399,735 state grant to improve sidewalks, add and replace signage, update pedestrian crosswalks, and bring some crosswalks into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act downtown. Other ideas include curb bump outs to help pedestrians, and adding new sidewalks and bicycle lanes.