CHATHAM — A deadlocked board of selectmen Tuesday failed to endorse the continuation of the West Chatham Route 28 reconstruction project. The vote sends a fresh signal to state officials that the board is divided on the plan, but by itself, it does nothing to stop the project from going forward.
Chairman Jeffrey Dykens said board member Seth Taylor called on him to recuse himself from the vote because his wife operates a business in the area. Dykens, who supports the project, called Taylor's action “unconscionable” and illogical. “How do I have a conflict if I support changes to the roadway and those very improvements ruin my wife's business?” he asked. Dykens nonetheless recused himself, leaving the four remaining members to debate the matter.
Taylor argued that he does not oppose the project itself, but believes selectmen should have honored a 2013 town meeting article instructing the board to withdraw funding for the controversial roadway plan. Much discussion Tuesday centered on whether or not that vote was intended to be binding. Making an affirmative motion to support the project, Taylor and Selectman Amanda Love opposed the motion, with board members Cory Metters and Dean Nicastro supporting it. Having failed to win a majority, the motion failed on the 2-2 vote.
Taylor said he sought the vote in order to allow more public dialogue prior to key meetings of the Metropolitan Planning Organization on April 24 and May 22. The roadway project, which eliminates the center turning lane between Barn Hill and George Ryder Roads and includes roundabouts at both intersections, is completely designed and ready for funding by the state. Tuesday's meeting included lengthy public discussion about the merits and drawbacks of the plan.
Supporters of the roadway project argued that derailing the plan at this late stage could jeopardize Chatham's chances of obtaining funding for similar projects in the future. Taylor disagreed, saying Harwich selectmen rejected a completely designed reconstruction of Route 124 and it was withdrawn from the funding plan without any negative consequences for the town.