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Pittsford Y proposal comes down to cars


This is a corrected version of the story.

The high volume of traffic at Pittsford's Clover Street-Jefferson Road intersection is a sensitive issue for nearby residents.

The intersection, which brings together two heavily traveled state roads, was last in the public eye several years ago when the state Department of Transportation expanded the intersection to address its above-average rate of collisions. DOT representatives say that at least anecdotally, conditions have improved.

But the intersection and its heavy traffic volumes are getting attention once again, this time in the context of a proposed YMCA building. The YMCA of Greater Rochester wants to build a 90,000 square foot to 130,000 square foot facility on the northwest corner of the Jefferson-Clover intersection. The facility would be the new home for the Southeast YMCA, which is currently located on East Jefferson Road just outside of the Village of Pittsford.

The property is zoned to allow up to 180,000 square feet of office space, but YMCA representatives are asking the Town of Pittsford to add an allowed use.

YMCA officials declined comment on this story.

"We will refrain from providing any comment regarding this matter until the Pittsford Town Board acts on our application and our board of directors has an opportunity to review it and make a decision," wrote Jennifer Lesinski, the organization's vice president for marketing and mission advancement, in an e-mail last week.

The Town Board has delayed its vote on the Y's request. Board members wanted time to consider public comments, says Pittsford Supervisor Sandra Zutes, and to examine the project's potential impact on traffic.

While the site is located entirely within the town, Village of Pittsford officials are also concerned about the project's traffic implications. The Southeast YMCA draws users from Pittsford and the neighboring communities of Perinton and Brighton. A larger Y could draw people from a broader area, says Village of Pittsford Mayor Bob Corby, and that could bring more traffic through the village.

At least 15,000 vehicles pass through the Clover-Jefferson intersection daily. And SRF Associates, the firm the town hired to analyze the Y proposal's potential traffic impact, says that the facility would add traffic during morning and evening rush hours. And that could mean delays. For example, the study says the added traffic would probably cause increased delays at the northbound left-turn lane on Clover Street.

But the analysis also says that the Y would likely have less of an impact on traffic than if the property was used for an office park.

While the town has focused on the Clover-Jefferson intersection, Village of Pittsford officials worry that Y-related traffic could add to rush-hour congestion at the Jefferson Road-South Main Street intersection.

"It will certainly cause more backups during the rush hour, at least based on the information that I know as of today," Mayor Corby says.

The traffic jams at the intersection have been difficult for state and village officials to address, he says. And expanding the intersection is out of the question since it would mean demolishing houses that are part of a national historic district, Corby says.

The village studied traffic patterns at the intersection when the state Department of Transportation proposed the Jefferson-Clover expansion, Corby says, and the town's consultant has told village officials he'll do his own examination in association with this new project. Village officials are waiting to see that data and, depending on what it reveals, could pursue their own study, Corby says.

Corby raises another concern about the YMCA project; he says it seems to fall into the trend of "big-boxing everything." He says he wonders whether it may more sense for an organization like the YMCA, which is providing neighborhood services, to build smaller, regional facilities that are closer to the users.

In recent years, the YMCA of Greater Rochester built larger facilities in Penfield and Gates. And the larger facilities tend to draw from a broader area than the smaller ones, which are often more neighborhood-focused.

In October, Y officials told the Pittsford Town Board that they can't expand the current Southeast YMCA location because it's landlocked, according to minutes from that meeting. They said that the Southeast YMCA is the organization's smallest facility in the Rochester suburbs and that the new location would better meet residents' future needs.