Concerned about traffic in an already busy area, residents urged members of the Blair Planning Commission Tuesday to reconsider plans for a new street being proposed as part of a replat application for residential lots in the Arbor Heights Addition
The application submitted by J. Nielsen Construction of Blair, proposes the replat of what is now one large lot into five lots, ranging in size from 18,491 square feet to 29,004 square feet.
According to plans presented to the planning commission by Assistant City Administrator Phil Green, a new public street — Arbor Drive — connecting Arbor Circle at 20th Avenue Circle with 18th Avenue, would also be constructed. Access to the house would be off of the street, Green said. There will be no access allowed onto Arbor Circle or 18th Avenue from the houses or any accessory buildings.
The new intersection would be about 200-feet south of the current Arbor Circle and 18th Avenue intersection, Green said. Because 18th Avenue is a collector street and goes to Arbor Park Intermediate School, planning commission chairman Bob Boettcher asked if there were any restrictions for distance between intersections.
Green said he, Public Works Director Al Schoemaker and City Administrator Rod Storm didn't recall any restrictions as they looked at the application.
"That is something we can evaluate prior to the presentation to the council," Green said.
That stipulation was among the items included in the planning commission's recommendation to approve the replat application.
In making an amendment to the original motion to approve the plan as presented, member Joe Peleska asked that city staff research to make sure the distance is within code. He also recommended stop signs be placed at both the 18th Avenue and Arbor Drive intersection and Arbor Drive and Arbor Circle intersections and that no parking be allowed on both sides of 18th Avenue. Currently parking is allowed on one side of the street.
The motion to approve the replat application, with Peleska's amendment, was approved on a 5-1 vote. Darrel Boesiger said he voted against the motion because he didn't want to see a 24-hour no parking restriction. Commission member Doug Cook was absent.
Green suggested that the council could consider no parking during certain times of the day, for example, school drop off and pick up times.
The planning commission's recommendation did not change the make up of the new Arbor Drive despite discussion and suggestions from some commission members and neighbors that the street either be a cul-de-sac or a dead end street, rather than a through street, for safety reasons.
During the public hearing on the application, Boettcher asked the developer's representative if that would be possible.
"We did look at it," Doug Kellner of Thompson, Dreesen and Dorner, Inc. said. "But, the site is such an odd-shaped site that we are not really able to get the lots to go around it and keep the size to them. Also, it slopes downhill so, we'd have down hill cul-de-sacs, so all that water would drain and then you'd have issues with the houses. This alignment allows water to get away and not create a problem with the houses."
Neighbors, however, said having it as a through street would be unsafe.
Connie Abbott, who lives on Arbor Circle, was concerned about the traffic.
"Children in this day and age can't walk to school, so mom and dad have to take them, so it's almost virtually impossible to get onto 18th Avenue during the months of August through May between 7:45 and 8:30 (a.m.) and again in the evenings."
Abbott and others were also concerned that traffic which now turns off of 20th Avenue Circle onto Arbor Circle and then onto 18th Avenue will now use the new Arbor Drive instead.
"I have lived there for 21 years and I have seen traffic come down when people are picking up kids from school," said Linda Harkey, who lives on Arbor Circle. "It's really bad and the curve in that street doesn't help when kids are trying to cross the streets. It's a bad situation."
Residents Loren and Mary Beth Cohrs echoed Harkey's concerns and suggested stop signs and no parking in the area be considered.
Boettcher asked if there was a way the city could post a "Not a through street sign" to keep people from using Arbor Drive as a through street, even if it wasn't a dead end or cul-de-sac.
"I understand what residents are saying and understand the developer as well," Boettcher said. "Because we are talking about five houses, the amount of increased traffic from those five homes isn't that great, but if you have people coming down 20th Avenue Circle, it does become a traffic issue."
Green said he understood those issues.
"But, the reality is, once it's a public street, it's a public street," he said. "If it's a cul-de-sac, then obviously you can notify people. It is a courtesy and that they can do. But, to have a public street and tell them only some people can use it and others can't doesn't usually work."
Commission member Milt Heinrich asked Green why the street can't be a dead end.
Green said from an emergency and snow removal standpoint, it makes it hard because there's not room to turn around using the public street and when you are backing up into private driveways, which is sometimes done in other cities, issues arise if damage is done. A cul-de-sac alleviates issues with turning around in someone's driveway, Green said.
Commission member Andrew Schank suggested a partial cul-de-sac be considered. He indicated he knows of one street that has that set up.
"In view of this conversation, that might be a nice compromise," Schank said.
Green, however, said there are concerns from fire and public works personnel about those types or roads — which he said are sometimes called a half-wing or P-shape — as well.
The planning commission's recommendation to approve the replat application, with the amendments, will be considered by the Blair City Council at its meeting on Tuesday. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Blair City Hall's Council Chambers, 218 South 16th St.