Saline City Council voted unanimously to begin implementing a traffic order eliminating park spots on South Monroe Street after visiting the neighborhood and seeing first-hand how parked vehicles impaired sightlines for drivers coming out of the Curtiss Park Bluffs subdivision.
Council, in August, approved a traffic order at the recommendation of DPW Director Jeff Fordice and Police Chief Jerrod Hart after residents of the new condominium community reported safety concerns when trying to pull on to Monroe Street from Curtiss Park Lane. Residents said the parked cars blocked their view of oncoming traffic.
The recommendations, based on standards set by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, were to post “no parking” signs 234 feet north of the center of Curtiss Park Lane and 91 feet south of the center line.
But the city delayed implementing the traffic order when Monroe Street residents questioned why they weren’t notified they were losing on-street parking and some residents told council that more parked cars on the east side of Monroe Street would make it difficult to safely exit their driveways.
At the suggestion of Councillor Janet Dillon, several members of council went out to the site a couple weeks ago. Director Fordice created scenarios that helped council understand the problems faced by residents of Curtiss Park Bluffs.
“It was eye-opening,” Dillon said. “Even when you were seated 35 inches tall, there was still obstruction.”
Councillor Jack Ceo, who owns property in the new subdivision, said Fordice’s demonstration brought to life what was otherwise a “very dry MDOT regulation on paper. While Mayor Brian Marl had suggested there might be a compromise to be made, Ceo felt otherwise.
“You always wonder if there’s some sort of compromise that can be made, but this (demonstration) brought it home for me how important (the traffic control order) is,” Ceo said.
Mayor Pro-Tem Linda TerHaar agreed, saying the visit underscored the value of using accepted best practices and standards. She went on to apologize to residents for the way the issue was handled.
She noted the traffic control order was approved Aug. 6. It was discussed again Aug. 20.
“I understood the mayor and council were to bring the traffic control order back for the Sept. 10 meeting. The traffic control order did not appear during the Sept. 10 meeting or the following meeting. It wasn’t until (Councillor) Dean Girbach’s request Oct. 15 that we finally broke council’s public silence. In my opinion, we should have returned to the matter much more promptly. Any member of council might have pushed for that, but we did not,” TerHaar said.
TerHaar said the matter should have been resolved more quickly.
“I apologize for my own failure to move forward and take action. I resolve to be better in the future,” TerHaar said.
Several other council members also spoke of council’s difficulty with the issue. Both Girbach and Heidi McClelland spoke of the need to keep citizens informed. Mayor Marl spoke to council’s inaction.
“I apologize for the lack of finality on the issue. It gives the appearance of feckless dithering, which is not something this body wants to emulate,” Marl said.
Girbach and Ceo both suggested that striping Monroe street might slow down traffic.
While city leadership apologized for the handling of the matter, nobody at the council table spoke to the original issue, which is that a new subdivision was developed in such a manner that it negatively impacted existing residents. In conversation after the meeting, several council members agreed that Curtiss Park Lane might have intersected with Monroe Street in a more safe fashion if the developers cut a unit or two from their plan. It’s not clear there’s anything in the city’s planning process that examines such issues. Council might soon face another sightline issue across the street, if the Fairdene development ever moves forward.