By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
An $886,000 sprucing-up of River Road in Fair Haven has left a convenience store owner feeling mighty inconvenienced.
Krauszer’s owner Tony Akbar says the borough closed off one of the two curb cuts into his busy parking lot without telling him in advance.
New sidewalks and curbs the biggest part of the federal-stimulus-funded project, which also includes the pending installation of new streetlights and benches were laid where there previously had been two driveway accesses. Now, there is just one.
The new layout is confusing to customers and poses a legitimate safety risk, he says. Akbar said he’s seen the new pattern cause several close calls as motorists try to turn into and out of his lot.
“I’ve had people come in and tell me, ‘I almost hit somebody getting here,'” he said, adding that one driver lost a bumper in a minor accident a few days ago.
Akbar has brought his concerns to the council, but Mayor Mike Halfacre said the new layout is actually safer than the previous two-driveway system because there was no clear indicator which was an entrance or an exit.
The store’s location, on a heavily-traveled road, makes the driveway something of a hazard by nature, he added.
“That parking lot is a dangerous parking lot, and this is our attempt to focus it a little bit,” Halfacre said.
Since the work began on September 22, Akbar says his bottom line has taken a hit.
“Our business is 20- to 30-percent down from the day they started construction,” said Akbar.
If Akbar is losing business, Halfacre isn’t so sure it’s correlated to a new traffic pattern.
“I can’t imagine people are driving by it because a non-conforming, small entrance is closed up and now there’s a bigger one,” he said. “I understand that it’s a change, and we all know Fair Haven hates change, but in the long run it’s better.”
Akbar, who does not own the property, said he was never informed of the design plans. Halfacre said he wasn’t informed because he isn’t the property owner. All property owners were notified of the new design, he said.
Akbar said he would have preferred some sort of survey asking what the business community thought of the plan.
“I don’t know how you can not ask the businesses,” he said. “Right now this town needs business.”
“I talked to the borough,” he said. “They said there’s nothing I can do.”