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Clarence seeks safety changes for dangerous intersection

The Clarence Town Board is urging the county to consider more safety remedies for the notorious intersection of County and Strickler roads.

The Town Board on Wednesday called for county highway and public works officials to immediately begin a study of upgrades. The town does not have authority over the intersection because they are county roads; it can only advocate for changes.

Town Councilman Bernard J. Kolber, who sponsored the resolution, said he hoped stop signs could be put up on County at Strickler as at least an interim step. The resolution mentioned traffic lights and lowering the speed limit as other possible ideas.

Kolber estimated it was the third time he has advanced a request to the county to make the intersection safer.

"I don't want to be looking at it after the fact when somebody else gets killed over there saying, 'Oh, we should have done something back when,' " he said.

The intersection has been the scene of some high-profile accidents over the years, including one in 2009 in which four teenagers were killed. A school bus was involved in a crash at the intersection last year; no serious injuries were reported.

Two more recent accidents there have drawn renewed attention to the site.

Traffic on Strickler at the intersection is controlled by stop signs, but cars traveling on County pass through unimpeded, with a 55-mph speed limit.

Town and county officials will meet with a county official and a representative of an engineering/surveying firm Thursday to talk about safety issues on County Road, including the intersection, said Town Supervisor David C. Hartzell Jr.

The county last year erected larger stop signs on Strickler, but some town residents want more extensive changes. The county's public works commissioner, John Loffredo, recently said he is open to the idea of a blinking traffic signal at the intersection but said he would need the town to pass a resolution to put the idea into motion. Even then, Loffredo said, it could take a minimum of two years to get a light installed.

In other town business:

*A Transit Road site is being considered for a facility that would consist of a showroom for "high-end vehicles," a rental car operation and a collision repair shop. The project, which would be built on vacant land north of Highland Farms Drive, needs a special exception use permit. The Town Board sent the request to the Planning Board for review.

Corey A. Auerbach, an attorney with Damon Morey, said the applicant did not yet wish to be identified.

Auerbach said the facility would be laid out so that unsightly damaged vehicles would not be parked along Transit; they would instead be moved to the back. He also said a "national car rental chain" was interested in being part of the project but did not identify it.

*The Town Board held its annual public hearing on its master plan, to gather ideas for possible changes to the document. No decisions were made; the hearing marks only the start of an extended review process for potential amendments.

The proposal that generated the most debate was Stephen Development's request to rezone property behind a now-closed motel property that Stephen owns on Main Street, across from Clarence High School.

Stephen would like to see the back portion rezoned to allow for future development of individual family-style apartment units, consisting of 800 square feet, similar to those across from Dash's Market. The apartments would be attractive to young single professionals, said Douglas Klotzbach of K2 Architecture.

But a few residents spoke out against enabling the units to be developed, citing reasons such as eliminating a wooded area, increased traffic, the impact on the school system and the effect on nearby neighborhoods.

"It certainly is not in keeping with the character of Clarence," said Cynthia Cominsky.