A Miske Meadows development is about to get a lot bigger.
The Elk River City Council approved several measures during its regular meeting on Jan. 16 that would increase the total number of residential units in the Miske Meadows and River Park area to nearly 500. The units would be wide, single-family homes.
The council approved a preliminary plat in 2016, which has since been updated multiple times. The most recent update adds 34 acres to the subdivision and proposes an east to west road network connection.
At the Jan. 16 meeting, the council unanimously approved a rezoning, a conditional use permit and a preliminary plat that would allow for the development.
However, some residents have expressed concern that the development could add traffic to an already dangerous intersection — Twin Lakes Road and Lincoln Street. Four motorists have been killed in car crashes in the last five years where the roadway curves in the vicinity of Cleveland Street.
“My concerns are that we’ll increase the risk and possibly cause a lot more accidents to occur,” Elk River resident Randy Barney said during the meeting. “I’m not sure how many studies have been done, but I do know in the last couple years we’ve seen some bad accidents on that bend up there by the school and I’m just concerned that it will continue to escalate.”
A traffic study was done to compare usage of the road now to 2004. The study found that overall, there was a decrease in the number of trips on the road, though traffic during peak hours had increased. Volumes had increased less than anticipated, according to conclusions of the study.
“You look in the newspaper and it just seems like every other month there’s either a fatality … or an accident ... on that corner,” Elk River resident Bert Bongard said, admitting he was exaggerating some. “The bottom line is something has to be done here. I don’t believe that study. I’m going to tell you right now, I think that study is just garbage. I implore the council to do something, please.”
Residents had also spoken at the planning commission public hearing regarding the road. The road does belong to Sherburne County and therefore any improvements must be done by the county.
“From what I’ve been told, the county is trying to get federal money to make that corner a roundabout,” Elk River Mayor John Dietz said.
While roundabouts are more likely to cause accidents than say, a four-way stop, the accidents tend to be less severe due to reduced speed, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. There had been no multi-vehicle fatalities in a roundabout in Minnesota as of October 2017.
The city will continue to work with the county regarding improvements on the intersection, including asking the county to temporarily put in signs warning drivers of the curve before a permanent solution could be done.
“We all, collectively, on the council will continue to work with the county knowing the severity of traffic incidents that happen there,” Ward 2 Council Member Matt Westgaard said.