SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — A number of Springfield residents are pushing back against the town’s effort to rename town streets, with homeowners saying they feel “blindsided” by the process and question the necessity of the changes.
The Springfield Selectboard and Springfield Planning Commission are currently in the process to rename a list of identified town roads and property addresses that violate state and federal standards for emergency responses, a system known as Enhanced 911 or E-911.
Many residents who attended a planning commission meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 6, said they misunderstood the meeting’s intent, which residents thought was to seek input about whether or not to rename their street.
“I thought I was going to a meeting to give input,” according to Mary Trask, who lives on Summer Hill Street. “But when I got there, we were told that Summer Hill Street was going to cease to exist and that we had no input.”
A recent review of Springfield street names and numberings identified about 30 categorical areas in which Springfield’s namings deviate from the state’s E-911 rules, according to town officials. Such violations could potentially confuse emergency dispatchers or responders when responding to a situation.
Trask’s street, Summer Hill Street, is among the many examples of town roads that share similar sounding names with others. Examples include Summer Street and Summer Hill Street; Hillside Road, Hillcrest Road, Hill Place, and Hilltop Drive; and Birch Court, Birchwood Drive, White Birch Drive, and White Street.
Similar sounding names could become problematic if part of the name gets dropped during the emergency call, explained Springfield Planning Commission Vice Chair Steven Kraft.
“Let’s say somebody here has a heart attack,” Kraft told residents last week. “And they say the word ‘Summer.’ So the ambulance goes down Summer Street because the dispatcher didn’t hear Summer Hill Street.”
Trask contended that Summer Hill Street’s name should take priority over others due to its historical significance. The street name is more than a century old and contains such landmarks as the Summer Hill Cemetery.
Tyler Hermanson, an official from the Vermont E-911 Advisory Board, said the town could consider retaining the name “Summer Hill” provided that “Street” is dropped to distance the name from Summer Street.
Hermanson, who fielded questions during the planning commision meeting, also recommended consulting the town fire and police chiefs about a historical precedent of confusion regarding the two streets.
Summer Hill Street faces a second issue in which the road uncharacteristically continues onto a perpendicular, intersecting street, which typically constitutes a different street. The planning commission is considering a recommendation to make that extension of Summer Hill Street part of the adjoining Woodbury Street.
Trask delivered a petition to the town selectboard on Monday, signed by seven of Summer Hill Street’s eight homeowners, objecting to the renaming of Summer Hill Street.
The selectboard, who authorized the renaming and renumbering plan in June, casts the final decision for street names but receives the recommendations from the planning commission.
The Springfield Planning Commission decided last week to resume the discussion of Summer Hill Street to its next scheduled meeting.
Regardless of the outcome of Summer Hill Street, at least two homes on Summer Hill Street will have to change their addresses to Woodbury Road, according to Hermanson. State guidelines require that changes in street names only occur at an intersection with another road, which would establish the dividing point at the Dell Road intersection.
Several residents at last week’s planning commision meeting criticized the board’s process, saying that town officials should be more attune to the needs and sensitivity of the homeowners during this transition.
“It’s so much work for us, as well as costly,” said a resident of Highland Road, who did not identify her name. “If you are to change the road, [the homeowners] have to change everything, from our mailing addresses to our wills. So I’m frustrated with the process as a homeowner, even though I understand the reasons for change.”