At its Jan. 5 meeting, the Hanover City Council discussed potentially conducting a regional road access study near the proposed Mercantile Pass project, and reviewed its snowplow policy and ordinance in the residential and park spheres.
COUNTY ROADS ACCESS STUDY
After having a developer withdraw their application for the properties east of County Road 123 and north/south of County Road 19, the council considered the need to conduct an access study in order to move forward. The developer in question withdrew its application after having their proposal — which called for two roundabouts and an access point to County Road 123 — denied by Hennepin County.
According to City Administrator Brian Hagen, the developer felt that full access was crucial to the project and could not be compromised as per county suggestion. According to Hagen, at best the county agreed to allow a right-in, right-out access onto County Road 19, with full access to County Road 123.
“We thought it was headed in a really great direction, but it turned quickly,” he said.
Hagen thus suggested that the city conduct a larger, regional study and establish a road layout plan to then send to Hennepin County for unofficial approval. The council, particularly councilor Ken Warpula, expressed concerns over funding such a study due to the fact that the county in is control.
“That regional study could be as big as it needs to be,” said Hagen. “We’d really look to Hennepin County to give us further guidance.”
At a minimum, Hagen and city administration thought this would include the Mercantile Pass areas, in addition to surrounding residential lots. City Engineer Nick Preisler stepped in to further explain why such a study may be necessary.
“Hennepin County does have the ultimate say. [And] hopefully, we will have a document that Hennepin County actually approves of,” he said. “They might not be willing to put their stamp or signature on it, but what we would want to do is lay out the access points, and then the individual developer can decide what that access is.”
According to Preisler, “It wasn’t the roundabout that spooked the county, it was where the roundabout was.”
The council generally agreed that a study would be helpful in avoiding a similar situation from occurring again, with councilor MaryAnn Hallstein speaking to the discouraging nature of starting over.
“Is it more or less feasible for that property to be something else? We just did our comprehensive plan, we did all of these other pieces, it feels very frustrating when you get to that point and they are like, ‘Oh … No.’ And I think everybody on council has to be feeling this,” she said. “I thought that we were all on the same page, I thought we all had communicated well, I thought we were moving forward.”
“If it can’t be a commercial property, we as a city need to know that in order to move forward,” she said. “[And] if it doesn’t get to be anything but farmland because that’s what they’ve decided is safest because St. Michael got to develop faster than we did, I will feel pretty frustrated.”
After discussion, the council agreed that their priority with this property should be to identify an accession solution that is widely attractive for different developers, and to contact the county and see what information and planning they need to feel comfortable moving forward.
SNOWPLOW - RESIDENTIAL
A local resident was in attendance, and asked for the floor to discuss a recent snowplow incident involving his vehicle. On Dec. 24, the resident walked outside to find their truck being loaded to tow, as the Public Works department needed to clear the roadway in order to adequately plow the neighborhood.
The resident thought that his truck should not have been towed in the first place, and also opened up a larger conversation surrounding the city’s ordinance on snowplows and parking.
He argued that the current ordinance is overly vague and should be amended.
“I am aware of snow emergencies and we need to have the streets plowed, but I wouldn’t be in favor of this broad language where the Public Works can just have vehicles towed when it’s half an inch, or an inch, or a dusting of snow,” he said. “People could be caught off guard who aren’t trying to keep their vehicles out on the street for very long, not trying to break the law, or not be mindful of Public Works.”
The resident also noted that he was upset with how his truck was handled.
Councilor Hallstein proceeded to ask the resident questions about the situation — how long his vehicle was left outside, his understanding of the ordinance, and the like — and a larger conversation soon erupted. Confusion over what times, during which seasons and under which weather circumstances people are expected to move their vehicles from the street were all addressed.
Public Works Supervisor Jason Doboszenski answered many questions — both specific to this snow event and more generally about his command over the snowplow crew.
“That night we had seven cars out in the street, more than usual, and we had to keep coming back to clear them,” he said. “There were only two I called in on, because when I stop with the plow, I have a lot of flashing lights on. People come to their doors before I can even get out and take a picture of the license plate.”
“They come running out and say ‘I’m gonna move it, I’m gonna move it!’ and then they do.”
Doboszenski noted that he tries to be understanding and accommodating to residents, but that he also has a job to be done.
“It is not something we want to do, we don’t want to run into this, we don’t want to make the residents mad,” he said. “But I still have to take the complaints from other residents, your neighbors.”
Doboszenski also addressed the fact that making decisions of when and where to plow are often based on the greater weather conditions and other scientific factors, and aren’t simply up to Public Works’ leisurely discretion.
“It’s not just [a matter of] go out there and throw anything at it,” he said. “We try and stay proactive. I’d rather have one guy complaining about his truck being towed, versus 30 people complaining that we weren’t out there cleaning the streets.”
Upon discussion, the council decided that City Administrator Hagen will look into re-wording the ordinance to be more clear, without restricting Public Works in its operations.
Councilor Warpula also took the time to acknowledge his appreciation for Doboszenski and his team.
“Our Public Works do a great job,” he said. “You could hear it in Jason’s voice how much he cares about not having people being towed. He knocks on doors, he flashes lights, he sits out there waiting. Listen — they go above and beyond, we all know they do.”
SNOWPLOW POLICY - HANOVER BRIDGE
After the previous snowplow-related discussion, the council started to move on in the meeting, but councilor Jim Zajicek reminded them that he wanted to discuss snow removal at the Hanover Historical Bridge.
“There’s only two access points across the river for anybody on foot, and we as a city council determined last year that we wanted to redirect pedestrians away from the dedicated pedestrian trail and the dedicated pedestrian historic bridge to go around, cross over County Road 19 — where there is no crosswalk — meander down the shoulder of the road to County Road 123 — where there is no crosswalk — to a sidewalk that now has not been cleared, and to a bridge that hadn’t been cleared for eight days,” he said.
“And I went and stood on that bridge today, and I took a picture of my feet where the snow was cleared. There is room for one person to walk on that bridge.”
“That bridge needs to be cleared full and wide to the railing, for safety reasons,” he continued. “How is it we can redirect people around, and not take care of that sidewalk, and not plow out that bridge in reasonable time?”
At a December meeting, councilor Hallstein and former councilor Doug Hammerseng suggested the city discourages winter-time use of the trail near the bridge altogether due to safety concerns. Councilor Zajicek doesn’t believe this upholds the city’s and Three Rivers Park District’s commitment to accessibility and year-round recreation, though.
“Don’t you think that a city that cares about our streets so much, our trails so much, like we just talked about how we do such a fantastic job, that we should have at least one clear path going across the river that the pedestrians can use safely?” he said. “Maybe I’m way out there crazy guy, but that doesn’t sound safe to me … That bridge isn’t safe.”
Doboszenski explained that, due to the grade and location of the mentioned trail, Public Works has to haul any snow that is removed from the bridge area. Similarly, he brought attention to the fact that there were four separate snow events in that eight day period.
“We did what we could, with what we had,” said Doboszenski.
Councilor Zajicek reiterated that he would like the Park Board to get involved with this aspect of trail management, and Mayor Chris Kauffman spoke to the request.
“Are we supposed to accommodate every individual in the city that wants to walk in a particular direction?” he asked. “The alternative for us, Jim, is to not maintain our trails at all like most cities.”
Hagen said that Public Works will be clearing the sidewalks by the bridge, and that there just hadn’t been ample time. As for the slope, Hagen says, “It’s just not feasible to clear.”
There was no action to be taken, just lively discussion.
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