AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Friday, August 29, 2014
Feehan Driveway, Neighborhoods, and City Officials
This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Friday,
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
we all have the right to decide how many cars can drive by our homes?
was just wondering, because the situation in Attleboro between Bishop Feehan
High School and their neighbors on Harvard Street has me a bit confused.Some would maintain that is not an unusual
state for me, but I digress.
now most of you probably know of this battle.It has been the subject of many news stories and a few opinion
columns.If you don’t have a connection
to the school or the Harvard Street neighborhood, you might not even care.
for those who missed it, the private Catholic high school has been located for
many decades in a heavily residential neighborhood.Currently the only viable entrance and exit
to the school is from the parking lot to Holcott Drive, then onto busy North
Main Street (Rt. 152).Traffic jams are
common when school starts and when it ends.
is an access gate that leads from the end of Harvard Street onto North
Avenue.That gate was last briefly used
some 13 years ago before Feehan shut it down due to protests from Harvard
Street neighbors and city officials.
the student population has greatly increased, and the school wants to exercise
its legal right to open and utilize their driveway and the public road.They cite safety as their major concern,
which is also the primary reason homeowners on the road give while seeking to
surprisingly, Bishop Feehan’s attorney says the educational institution has the
right to use the gate.A bit more
surprisingly, two different lawyers for the city have agreed.
the neighbors on Harvard Street (and others) seem to think they have a right to
just say “no”.They have support from
Mayor Dumas and City Council Transportation and Traffic Committee Chairman
Walter Thibodeau, who have threatened to pursue legal action and even abandon part
of the roadway to prevent the opening.
has offered to restrict the hours the gate is open to just ten per week, two
hours per weekday during the school year.But that has not slowed opposition one bit.
city council has already voted 5-3 to authorize the mayor to have plans drawn
up that would discontinue the northern end of the road to keep Feehan from
opening the gate – even though their own lawyers have warned this could give
the school legal grounds to sue for damages.The Mayor has threatened to use “all legal options”.Thibodeau declared the proposal “dead on
arrival” before the council even discussed it.
a moment, let’s forget about whether using Harvard Street is really a safety
issue.Let’s put aside whether it makes
traffic around the school safer or not.Never mind right now whether the politicians are pandering or
protecting.I have a completely
are the homeowners on Harvard Street more important than those on Holcott
what’s the deal?There doesn’t appear to
be much difference between the physical characteristics of the two roads.One is not a wide super-highway and the other
a narrow dirt country lane.They are
both streets with good, hard-working citizens and taxpayers inhabiting the
homes along them.And this is not a ban on
big trucks we are talking about here.
the Holcott Drive neighborhood suddenly decided the traffic
from Feehan made them unsafe, would the city council and the mayor back them
too?Would Bishop Feehan students have
to be flown in by helicopter?
Holcott Drive residents planted some shrubs in front of the driveway entrance
there, would that be seen as some heroic sign of protest or an illegal
impediment to private property?
Harvard Street neighborhood wanting to protect their homes and families is
perfectly understandable.But wouldn’t
removing some of the traffic from Holcott Drive make that road safer?Is one neighborhood being sacrificed for the
haven’t studied the traffic situation enough to know if opening the gate is the
right plan.Neither has the city
council.Maybe there should be a bit
more study and conversation before decisions are made.
maybe city officials should explain just which neighborhoods deserve special
attention, and which ones don’t.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
longtime local official.He can be
emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at