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Roycroft section of Main St. still at issue

Just what will actually happen to the stretch of East Aurora's Main Street in front of the Roycroft Campus during the street's reconstruction resembles an endless game of chess.

Last year, village leaders informally backed a plan heralded by Roycroft Campus Corp. that would move the sidewalk to the north side of the Roycroft wall and narrow the street. Now they are faced with voting on the matter as opposition swirls in the community over just what the state should do on the section of Main running between North Grove and Walnut streets.

"I don't like the idea of taking parking spots away from local businesses," Trustee Pete Mercurio said Monday, noting he was still undecided on the issue. "What does Lewiston have? Water. Ellicottville? Skiing. Williamsville has nothing. East Aurora has the Roycroft. That should be the centerpiece of East Aurora."

Something that appeared to have been decided last year now remains just as unsettled as when it began. If the original plan remains, the overriding issue is a projected loss of 19 parking spaces for nearby businesses along that stretch.

"Overwhelmingly, most people are opposed because of the loss of parking," Trustee Ernest Scheer said. "I'm in favor of restoring the wall, but I don't know that we can afford to lose the parking. If the Roycroft Campus becomes as popular as we think it will, then there's new public parking on the campus that will be full. Then where do we park?"

The original plan, which has been altered to shift the location of crosswalks, still is favored by the Roycroft group and a small majority of the Main Street Reconstruction Task Force and those who think that it would be more historically correct to move the sidewalk to the north side or street side of the wall -- and would better tie in with a broad restoration of the campus now under way.

Opponents, however, have criticized it for narrowing the street by 7 to 8 feet, and particularly out of concern for the impact on area businesses. School Board officials also have cited safety concerns, since children would be closer to the street itself.

The village had backed the Roycroft group's proposal for the reconstruction of the deteriorating Roycroft wall in front of Town Hall that is to be done by the state.

But with concerns of the business community still running strong, some village trustees have backed away from their informal endorsement of it last year.

The Village Board now plans to formally vote on the matter during its Jan. 22 meeting, but if it votes down the original plan, it must offer an alternative option to state transportation officials trying to finalize the reconstruction plans.

The state has crafted a compromise design that would keep the sidewalk behind the rebuilt wall, offer a long curb extension and keep some of the street parking. The latest wrinkle came when the Aurora Town Board last week sent letters to the village and state supporting a plan that would allow parking to remain on that part of Main. The town's action irritated Mayor David J. DiPietro.

"It baffles me why the town is queueing in on this, because they're due to be leaving [Town Hall] any day," DiPietro said, referring to the long-talked-about sale of Town Hall to the Margaret Wendt Foundation.


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