Monday’s Big Question: 1st Street

Should Northfield close 1st Street through Way Park? Maybe, but it’s not an open and shut case for me.  Here’s how I’m thinking about it.

I’d prefer to keep the street open for at least these reasons (not in priority order):

  • to maximize transportation (motorized and non-motorized) connections
  • avoid creating cul de sacs which are more expensive and/or less convenient for emergency vehicles, snow removal, garbage pickup
  • a street and a  safe park are not mutually exclusive
  • our new comprehensive plan and transportation plan contain policies which seek to limit block length (and closing the street would create blocks longer than the recommended length), eliminate culs de sacs, maximize connectivity for all modes of transportation.
  • concerns that the Way Park Master Plan, while beautiful on paper, has not been reviewed in the context of the entire park system for priority and costs (especially for long term maintenance)
  • closing the street creates expectations that the Way Park Master Plan, a concept plan, will be followed down to every tree and brick

BUT, there are more issues to consider beyond my preference and its justification.

  • The Master Plan for Way Park was approved by the City Council and shows the street closed. Northfield has a tendency to redecide issues, and I’d like to move away from this.  So, the prior decision-making weighs toward closing the street.  But still some questions: What weight does a Master Plan carry?  It’s not a like a plat nor an ordinance, but is a concept plan…what features of the concept plan are malleable?  When and why can a Council decline to follow an adopted Master Plan?   The flexibility of the Master Plan is important to me because of the 1st Street question, but also because we have not considered any questions of time and money yet.
  • The costs of developing and maintaining the new Way Park and the amount to be contributed by private groups or individuals have not been considered. What happens if the cost of the Master Plan is prohibitive?   What if we can’t agree with the Friends of Way Park about the cost sharing for the park?  We don’t have a policy for partnering with private organizations to fund public projects, although we can point to some examples around town.   What if the Friends of Way Park decide to pull out?
  • When can this park be developed given the tightness of the budget, other priorities in our park system, the speed at which private groups can raise money?  If the timeline for Way Park is sufficiently far in the future, does it make sense to keep the street open now?

Bear in mind that the issue Monday is not Way Park per se but determining the scope of the 1st Street reconstruction – a project which needs to be completed not just because of the street condition, but there are serioius drainage and other infrastructure issues in the neighborhood.  Also weigh whether my Planning Commission history creates a bias against culs de sacs because I can cite many more examples of where closing streets created transportation and safety problems than I can think of where eliminating connections helped.

3 Replies to “Monday’s Big Question: 1st Street”

  1. Betsey: Locally Grown says that you voted for closing the street.

    In reviewing the pros and cons, your decision matrix seems to favor keeping the street open.

    Any response?

  2. David – no, you’re right about my vote and right about what I thought would have been the better outcome.

    I struggled with this decision because I do believe keeping the street open would have been the better short and long term choice.

    However, I reluctantly came to the conclusion that the former Council had made the decision to close the street with the approval of the park master plan and undoing that decision was not a political battle I wished to fight.

    The effort I DO want to expend my time and energy toward is the new Land Development Code. I truly want these regulations to be easy to use, efficient to administer, and further the goals of the comprehensive plan. The latest draft was nowhere near those goals…

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