Spring Park began looking into the redevelopment of West Arm Road West in May this year. No work, even maintenance road work apart from pothole fillings, has been done in the area since its original construction in 1968. If it were a new development, its narrow streets and tight entry through the piers of the Seton Channel Bridge wouldn’t pass muster with the fire marshal.
In fact, if the neighborhood’s current residents wanted to renovate on a scale large enough to require a building permit, Mound Fire Department’s Ben Foster said they likely wouldn’t be able to because of the way the fire code is written to grandfather in existing developments even as new construction must stand up to more limiting regulation.
The city has looked into improving access to West Arm West on multiple occasions prior to this spring, even as far back as 1969, just one year after crewmen laid it down. But the same sticking point that guttered that proposal also guttered the petitions from residents that came in during the 1980s and stymied the Fire Department’s repeated requests over the years for improved access to the road.
And that sticking point hasn’t gone away, as councilmembers made clear during their Aug. 19 work session: The property owner won’t sell.
But breaking up the property just east of the Minnetonka Drive In and laying down an access road from Shoreline Drive to West Arm Road West is the preferred option. The other option the city is weighing would be the removal of the center pier under Seton Channel Bridge, which spans the lone entry point onto the road, which deadends in a cul de sac.
The removal of the pier, though more cost prohibitive than adding an access road, is the less savory option because of the tangles that come with it. The bridge is owned by Hennepin County, not Spring Park, and is leased to Three Rivers Park District as part of the Dakota Regional Trail. In 2006, when the city last entertained the idea of knocking out the pier, the county said no. Removing the center pier is also a debated point among residents of West Arm Road who see its removal as a ticket for cars to speed into the neighborhood.
Removing the pier would also only marginally resolve the access issue. Although the road would gain a much-needed 6 inches in width, the vertical requirement for fire access, at 13 and a half feet, matches exactly the clearance under the bridge, meaning that snow and ice must be removed down to the level of scratching the pavement with each snowfall.
Foster said there hasn’t yet been a fire that went un-doused but that West Arm West is the “only place in our service area this could be an issue.” Mound Fire covers not just Spring Park and Mound, but parts of Minnetrista and St. Bonifacius, as well.
“Frankly, it’s borderline unsafe now,” said Mayor Jerry Rockvam during a work session with city councilmembers to discuss the project,
When the city completed the redevelopment along West Arm Road East, that road was extended southward, and a similar fattening to the south of West Arm Road West is a possibility. The road, next to but not connected to West Arm East, was originally designed as a 25-foot, two lane road but final plans narrowed it to the minimum-allowed 10 feet per lane; a string of mailboxes and a grouping of electrical poles installed later have narrowed it further.
The full West Arm West project also calls for rehabilitating the sanitary sewer and water main along the north side. A risk assessment of the current infrastructure showed big consequences, monetarily and environmentally, if the system were to fail, a likelihood that grows with each passing year. Like the road itself, the system in West Arm West is more than 50 years old.
The entire West Arm West project has an estimated $1.08 million cost, with $98,200 proposed to be assessed over 10 years. A public hearing on the project is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 16, with a tentative go-ahead on construction set for May.