Residents along Sandpiper Avenue asked the Royal Palm Beach Village Council last month to quickly implement its traffic-calming policy on the residential street.
Traffic calming on Sandpiper Avenue, which has come up several times over the past year, was discussed as a non-agenda item at the Thursday, July 20 council meeting.
“We went through an exhaustive effort to create a policy in this village on how to appropriately address this problem,” Mayor Fred Pinto said. “The whole objective is to make you go the [speed] limit you’re supposed to go.”
At least one resident was concerned that speed humps, which are a key part of the proposed Sandpiper plan, could actually create new problems for residents and potentially for law enforcement when traveling down the street. This question has come up before, and there appears to be a divide between Sandpiper residents who want speed humps and those who do not.
“We cleared this with our firefighters, and that was not an issue for them,” Pinto said. “They told us they had no issues or problems accommodating the design that we offered.”
Pinto said one of the most important aspects of the new traffic-calming policy is to gather resident input into the process of solving traffic issues in residential areas.
“We wanted to create a process where we would not ask the citizens to make a decision about something that’s going to happen in their neighborhood in the blind,” Pinto said. “We said we would go through the analysis and the process of doing a specific design, and then tell the people in that neighborhood, ‘Here is specifically what we are proposing for your neighborhood.’”
Some residents on Sandpiper conducted a survey to gather data on who wants the village to implement its traffic-calming policy and who doesn’t. Resident Shawna Fryer spoke at the July 20 meeting.
“We walked door-to-door, starting Sunday until last night. As of 5 p.m. today, 79 voted yes, which is about 54 percent of Sandpiper, in that segment, all agreed,” Fryer said.
Part of the survey was in order to find out if the majority of residents were going to vote yes to the mail ballot that the village previously sent out to Sandpiper residents on the traffic-calming policy. Fryer was concerned that the certified mail sent out by the village went to the homeowner, and not the renter currently residing in the home.
“One of them was seasonal and two were vacations. Seven renters didn’t respond,” Fryer said. “The first house on Sandpiper from Royal Palm [Beach Blvd.] said that the placement of the speed humps are farther down the road, and it wouldn’t even affect him, so there’s no point in voting.”
Pinto asked Fryer if that resident received the certified letter, and Fryer confirmed he did.
“He should vote if he got the letter,” Pinto said. “I commend you on your efforts to go out and talk to your neighbors to get them to be proactive on this.”
The deadline for being postmarked in order for a resident’s vote to count toward the Sandpiper Avenue traffic-calming measures balloting was 5 p.m. on Thursday, July 20.
Final approval by Sandpiper residents needed to come in at 60 percent for the vote to pass.
At the council meeting, which was held shortly after the voting deadline, Pinto resisted calls for an early release of the raw numbers, saying they would need to wait to receive mail that was potentially postmarked by the deadline but had not yet arrived. He also said that if there are vacancies, then those homes may not be factored into the base, urging the residents that there still needs to be time for a review of the number of votes received.
“We do have what we call a remediation process to address the situation where we sent out the registered letter, and it was supposed to go to the owner, but the owner is not living there, and a renter is living there,” Pinto said. “Ultimately, that renter should vote on this. Or the owner can vote remotely, and they should get input from the renter.”
Sandpiper resident Tim Woodcock said that speed humps are a solution to the traffic problem in the area.
“I know we are a few votes short, but I’m hoping that maybe they do come in,” Woodcock said. “I did some work, too. The houses that I went to between 137 and 150 [Sandpiper], 90 percent of them said yes. Forty percent of the people didn’t send the cards in because they either lost them, or they didn’t know what it was all about. They threw them away.”
Sandpiper resident Carl Sejba noted that there is a language barrier for some of the residents living along Sandpiper.
“They didn’t understand what they had,” Sejba said. “There were four people I talked to who said they were going to vote, but with the language barrier, I don’t know if they fully understood.”
Sejba noted that previously, the council discussed not counting non-voters in the final tally.
Pinto confirmed that he was clear on that from a previous council meeting.
“You have 79 people saying yes and 11 saying no,” Sejba said. “So, obviously you have the majority who care. They want it.”
Pinto said that the council members heard all the public comments regarding traffic calming on Sandpiper and other areas in the village. He said the goal is to provide something that is permanent, in order to create a change in behavior among drivers in the area.
“This is our first venture on this process that we created to do the analysis and do the design and then make that presentation,” Pinto said. “This is a new policy. So, I’d very much like to see this have a successful conclusion.”
The village published its final tally on the Sandpiper Avenue project Tuesday, Aug. 8.
The resident vote came in at 57.7 percent in favor of the traffic-calming policy designed by the village, four votes shy of the 60 percent majority needed to implement the policy.
However, given the close vote, Village Engineer Chris Marsh said that the council will reconsider the issue at its next meeting.
“The village manger [Ray Liggins] intends on bringing the item up on Aug. 17 in his reports,” Marsh told the Town-Crier this week.