A Less Congested, More Scenic Downtown Mahopac?

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Parallel parking, a more prominent crosswalk and lake views are part of the plan for the revitalization of Route 6N in the hamlet of Mahopac, along with the addition of a commuter parking lot and waterfront park at the Swan Cove site near the intersection of Route 6.

Town lawmakers, planning and recreation personnel, volunteers and other stakeholders hosted a public scoping session Dec. 5 at Town Hall for area residents, business owners and others to learn more about the project.

“Once the scope is created, there are certain things that are going to be absolute; other things will be added alternates when we go out to bid for design,” said Town Supervisor Ken Schmitt. “We want to hear from you tonight… We’re going to have more meetings like this. This is the kick off.”

According to the plan, the diagonal parking along Route 6N will be eliminated and replaced with parallel parking. Town Councilman Mike Barile said there are currently 43 diagonal spaces, which will change to 20 vertical spots. In addition, about 10 more parking spaces will be added along Cherry Lane – which will become a one-way road.

“So, the downtown is only going to lose about 13 spot,” said Barile. However, he said the new parking lot will have “a minimum” of 90 spots. “So there will be a net pickup of 80-plus spots,” he said.

It has not been determined which direction traffic will be routed on Cherry Lane.

Also part of the plan is eliminating the two crosswalks on Route 6N – by Kobu Asian Bistro and by Trustco Bank – which will be replaced with one more prominent crosswalk somewhere in the middle. The crosswalk by Crossroads Deli, near the intersection of Route 6, will remain.

One big component of the plan is improving the intersection of Routes 6 and 6N, in which the traffic light will be moved closer to the center of the hamlet.

“This an approved (Department of Transportation) plan,” said Barile. “It’s in construction. It’s a year and a half away, so we’re hoping everything comes together at exactly the same time.”

The only entrance and exit to Tompkins Mahopac bank, as well as the new parking lot and park, will be controlled by that light. There will be one way in and one way out, according to Schmitt.

The drive-thru for the bank will remain.

While the parking lot and the buildout of the park will be included in the scope of the project when a request for proposals goes out, additional features such as a boardwalk, spray park, and other “bonus” items would go out to bid separately, said the supervisor.

Schmitt said the project will also address drainage coming off the roadway, as well as “mucking out” the silty area between the current Chamber Park and the site of the new park, to create an inlet that will be connected by a pedestrian bridge. The fountain will be removed, and aerators will be used to keep the water moving.

Barile said the inlet would be the perfect spot for ice skating. “We’re just hoping for different things to do with that once it gets cleaned up,” he said.

Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee Chairman David Furfaro said he is hoping the park will provide a “green, flat canvas” to continue hosting concerts and movies, as well as a farmers’ market, and other events.

Addressing the concerns of nearby residents who asked about increased noise and light pollution and traffic at the park, Furfaro said the plan is not to overpopulate the lake, or the downtown.

“The needs of the neighborhood, the needs of the community all have to be balanced,” he said. “We’re talking very schematically right now.”

Barile added that there will not be multiple docks for boat anchoring. Rather, the plan is to have one dock to allow for half-hour or one-hour boat parking.

There may also be a launch for kayaks and other “carry-in, carry-out” watercraft. There will not be a launch for any motorized watercraft, said lawmakers.

Mahopac Point resident Michael Zimmer said the health of the lake is a concern, as the introduction of invasive species is starting to choke off the lake. He said carp have been added to the lake to eat unwanted grass and weeds, and muskrats have been introduced to eat zebra mussels.

“The lake doesn’t become so attractive 10 years down the road if we’re not concerned and paying attention to the health of the lake, which seems to be the center of the community,” he said.

Carmel resident Jean Hopper asked town officials to keep the original vision of the site in mind.

“When this was first proposed it was more of a passive park, with parking, just a pretty area to have a nice lake view – a little path, a few benches,” she said. “I think we can’t overthink this… This is not 10 acres. This is a very small, small area.”

Barile agreed, saying: “The park aspect is a bonus to the primary purpose of revitalizing downtown Mahopac and the parking.”

Town Councilwoman Suzanne McDonough noted that residents who live above the storefronts on Route 6N may use the parking lot, to which lawmakers have not determined whether that would be allowed or prohibited.

At this point, they are also unsure whether overnight parking will be allowed.

“What we’re going to encourage – and almost force the merchants to do – is have their employees park in the municipal parking lot during the day and not in the parking spaces in town, because that’s part of the problem,” said Schmitt. “So that the employees should be parking in the municipal parking lot to let customers park on the street.”

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