ST. ALBANS CITY — The untimely death of Nancy Willett inspired Pomerleau Real Estate to redesign the St. Albans Shopping Center parking lot, a plan the city development review board heard Monday evening.

A still unidentified driver struck Willett, a 75-year-old St. Albans resident, as she crossed the shopping center’s parking lot on Dec. 6, 2018.

Police transported Willett to two medical centers before she passed from critical head injuries.

Steve Ploesser, Pomerleau Real Estate’s construction manager, told the DRB last night, “We don’t take these things for granted.”

The Burlington-based real estate company owns and manages the North Main Street shopping center as St. Albans Shopping Center Inc.

Ploesser told the DRB Ernie Pomerleau, the company’s CEO, monitored online Front Porch Forum posts after the shopping center accident.

“We heard the community,” Ploesser told the board. “We heard the people.”

Ploesser said Pomerleau then reached out to the city’s mayor and police department for more information about the nature of the accident.

From there, Pomerleau hired the Essex-based civil engineering firm Lamoureux and Dickinson to study the shopping center’s traffic.

Based on that study, the St. Albans Shopping Center Inc. proposed amendments to the shopping center’s site plan, amendments Ploesser said puts the parking lot’s layout closer to the way it stood in the early 1990s. 

The revised site plan essentially shifts the parking spaces closer to U.S. Route 7 and North Main Street, creating a wider pedestrian crossing than the current nine-foot buffer between the topmost parking stalls and the concrete in front of shopping center businesses.

For additional pedestrian safety, the shopping center plans to create a five-foot-wide sidewalk in front of Rite Aid.

Ploesser said the hired civil engineers determined there will still be “more than enough room” for two-way traffic after the sidewalk’s construction.

The parking lot won’t lose any of its 286 parking spaces, and will actually gain one Americans with Disabilities Act parking space, making a total of 15 ADA spaces.

The plan adds several stop bars, those solid white lines at the end of lanes denoting where drivers must stop. And it moves the existing stop bar under the traffic light up, preventing cars from blocking the crosswalk there while they wait for red lights.

“It’s going to make it more pedestrian friendly through the lot,” Ploesser said.

Ploesser said engineers couldn’t find a way to install stop signs without obstructing traffic, but that the lot will have signs reminding drivers to yield to pedestrians.

Ploesser said the shopping center’s developers coordinated with the city fire and police departments in designing their plan.

There’s already one hang-up with the plan. City land development regulations require design advisory board approval before the DRB can rule on a proposal, and the shopping center proposal hasn’t yet gone before the city DAB.

Dave Southwick, the city’s property services administrator, took the blame. Southwick said he didn’t inform Ploesser the project needed DAB approval prior to the DRB’s consideration.

Ploesser went forward with presenting the plaza plan to the DRB last night, but acknowledged the DRB would recess its hearing until the project received DAB approval.

“Whatever we got to do,” Ploesser said. “We’re just trying to hit the paving season this year.” 

He stressed the plans call for no excavating or digging, and to neither add nor remove impervious surface. 

“It’s just stripes and stop bars,” Ploesser said.

Historically, Ploesser said, “We haven’t done a lot to this plaza … other than try to keep the tenants in there.”

He called the planned amendments “more of a good Samaritan thing on the part of the Pomerleau family.”

The DAB has not posted an agenda for its next meeting, but the board meets the fourth Monday of each month, meaning the board’s next meeting is June 24 at 6:30 p.m.

Stay informed. Subscribe to the Messenger.