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River Hills takes serious look at closing Green Tree Road

Aug. 20, 2009

River Hills — Village staff will explore the closing of Green Tree Road either at Jean Nicolet or River roads - a move that would make it a one-lane street with limited access for emergency vehicles. The Department of Public Works will also install stop signs at Jean Nicolet and Green Tree roads as a short-term solution to speeding and safety concerns raised by residents on the street.

Those decisions came after two loud and occasionally out-of-order Village Board meetings, one on Aug. 19 and a second meeting Aug. 25.

Citing concerns about litter, speeding and semitrailers on their narrow street, residents living there last month asked the board to close the street. The board agreed to investigate the steps necessary to close, or vacate, it. That process would take at least 90 days, Village Manager Tom Tollaksen told the board and about 40 residents on Aug. 19.

During the past month, the police and fire departments expressed concerns about closing the road, saying it could result in longer response times, particularly in the case of the North Shore Fire Department. The department uses the street and its bridge over Interstate 43 to provide service not only to the residents in the immediate area, but also to other areas of the North Shore.

At the Aug. 19 meeting residents on Green Tree Road, however, were not fazed by concerns that fire department response times could increase by one to two minutes. The village does not have any fire hydrants, and water to fight fires is brought by tankers. Residents did not appear concerned about slowing down that flow of water by closing the road.

"I saw two men die in front of me in April," said resident Craig Gleason, who fears speeding vehicles will kill someone else even though the April accident is believed to have been the result of a medical problem, not speeding. "A body doesn't make it through when hit by a car going 45 miles per hour."

Glendale blamed for problem

In a letter to Tollaksen, Glendale City Administrator Richard Maslowski offered to work with the village on joint police enforcement, stop signs and the possible construction of a roundabout at Green Tree and River roads, with the city paying a share of the funding.

Much of the Green Tree residents anger about traffic is aimed at Glendale and the construction of the Glendale Market shopping center on the east side of the Green Tree Road bridge over the interstate. Construction on Good Hope Road, set to end in October, has likely contributed to increased traffic, too.

"Why should we give Glendale any consideration?" said resident Donna Manley. "That shopping center has ruined our neighborhood."

Manley begged the board to provide some stopgap improvements to the street before the start of the school year when traffic is likely to increase because of nearby Nicolet High School.

Stop signs to be installed

Reacting to those pleas, the board held a special meeting on Aug. 25 to adopt an ordinance allowing the installation of stop signs.

Although the meeting was in the late afternoon, 21 people turned out to again make impassioned pleas to the board, wanting it closed. The meeting was more unruly than the previous one, with Village President Robert Brunner repeatedly pounding the gavel to restore order after outbursts by a resident who opposed a proposed stop sign at West Green Tree Court and Green Tree Road.

"I am never going to be able to get into my driveway," said Jim Seder, whose driveway is across the street from the intersection of Green Tree Court and Green Tree Road. Two village police officers spoke quietly to Seder, encouraging him to calm down.

Marie Seder told the board that residents met on Aug. 23, a Sunday, and decided they want speed bumps and the stop sign at Jean Nicolet and Green Tree roads. Two other locations were also under discussion, at Green Tree Court and Elm Tree Road, but, in the end, the board approved only the signs for Jean Nicolet and Green Tree roads.

Road publicly owned

Brunner told the residents the board must consider many different aspects of their request in coming to a decision.

"Green Tree Road is a village road, not a residents' road, paid for by everyone in the village," he said. "This involves snow and ice control, maintenance. Some say we should ignore Glendale but there is an outlet there and we can't afford to ignore them. This is a litigious society and we cannot afford to be involved in a lawsuit."

Most of the property abutting Green Tree is in River Hills, but there is a small subdivision on the southwest corner of Jean Nicolet and Green Tree roads that is in Glendale and is accessible only from Green Tree. One of the many questions surrounding the road-closing proposal concerns access to that subdivision.

If the village could legally close the road, the cost of closing it would likely be borne by the village residents who would benefit from the closure, said Tollaksen.

If the Village Board follows past practice, residents living there also would likely pay the road maintenance and snow plowing if the road is vacated, Tollaksen said.

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