WESTFIELD — Thanks to the efforts of one young Westfield resident, a traffic circle on Route 28 will officially be renamed in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The governing body unanimously voted to approve the name change during its first regular in-person meeting of the year, held Tuesday at the town hall.
The process to rename the circle began in December of last year, when 9-year-old Washington Elementary School student Priyanka Hargreaves approached her neighbor, Mayor Shelley Brindle, with the idea to honor the renowned civil rights leader at the local level.
“I asked Mayor Shelley and the MLK Association to name a place after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so we as a community will be reminded of how to be kind and respectful to each other every day. I know this is only a small step towards ending racism, but I‘m glad we’re doing this as a community,” said Priyanka, speaking during Tuesday night’s meeting.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this resolution,” Mayor Brindle said. “I think I can speak for the council when I say that I think it further demonstrates Westfield’s commitment to inclusively.”
The council also introduced three ordinances that would designate several local properties (23 Stoneleigh Park, 112 Ferris Place and the Westfield train station coffee kiosk) as official historic landmarks.
The home at 23 Stoneleigh Park, also known as the Jed Foster House, was built in or around 1905. The property, which is owned by Westfield Planning Board member Anastasia Harrison and her husband, Robert, is one of 30 single-family homes that were built as part of one of Westfield’s first planned residential developments.
According to a report by the Westfield Historic Preservation Commission, “the building and the surrounding neighborhood persist to be mostly unchanged since its construction, representing a still extant era of residential development in a park-like setting that remains relatively preserved in Westfield.”
Councilman David Contract noted that the Stoneleigh designation only applies to the specific residence at 23 Stoneleigh Park and does not pertain to any other neighboring homes in the development.
A second designation went to a small coffee kiosk that has been providing Westfield commuters with their daily doses of caffeine and local news since 1893. The diminutive structure, located in the south-side parking lot of the Westfield train station, was recently updated at the town’s expense to include heat and running water. The kiosk was recently leased to Boxcar Transit, a multi-faceted transportation company based in Chatham. The kiosk, which shut down in 2016, has been re-opened and is ready for business.
The home at 112 Ferris Place, also known as the Mills-Ferris Pearsall House, dates back to around 1750 and is likely one of the oldest surviving structures of its kind in the area. Property owner James Ward intends to preserve the Gothic Revival home as a cultural center that will eventually be incorporated into a larger, mixed-use residential development project.
The Prospect and Ferris project, which calls for the installation of a four-story building that would consist of up to 64 housing units, retail space and an underground parking garage, continues to provoke mixed reactions from local residents who fear that the development will add undue stress to the area’s already-strained infrastructure.
“I appreciate the mayor and council’s vision for a more vibrant downtown area. I’m not opposed at all to apartments on this site, but I have grave concerns about a project of this scale and density on these narrow streets that are already way too congested,” said Prospect Street resident Susan Furhman, who also expressed concerns that the project’s proposed “green roof” will not adequately mitigate the development’s overall environmental impact.
Resident Greg Kasko, meanwhile, said that while he had fond memories of riding his bicycle around Westfield as a kid, he is hesitant to allow his daughters to do the same due to traffic and safety concerns on the town’s busy streets.
“We’re expecting a traffic study for this building, but towns don’t always do what traffic studies recommend,” said Mr. Kasko. “Please, do your homework and make the right decision.”
“Safety is a top priority for us, period, full stop,” Mayor Brindle said in response. “If we remotely felt that things were going to be made less safe, we wouldn’t support it. You need to know that.”
The final reading of the three historical designation ordinances will be conducted during the next regular meeting of the mayor and council.
The council also voted Tuesday to approve an amendment to the town code that would allow for the installation and management of certain cell-phone equipment in the town’s rights-of-way.
The ordinance (2022-04) lays out a set of regulations and standards for the “permitting, development, siting, installation, design, operation, and maintenance of Small Wireless Facilities within the public rights-of-way in the Town of Westfield.”