Way Park public hearing tonight on closure of 1st Street West


I got this email yesterday from a Way Park area citizen, Tom Kotula:

On Monday, Jan 5th, the city council will hear discussions about whether or not to close off first street west to connect the two halves of Way Park. Perhaps this might be a good place to start a discussion concerning that possible decision.

See the agenda item and addenda pdfs for tonight’s council meeting.


Way Park sketch

See pps 24-26 of today’s Council Agenda packet (PDF) for more details on the public hearing. I’ve converted it to plain text below for convenience.

See the Way Park overview on P. 3 of this Appendix to the Northfield Park System Master Plan.

ITEM: Public Hearing for Closure of 1st Street West at Way Park


The City Council is being asked to hold a public hearing for the closure of 1st Street West at Way Park.


The City Council is being asked to hold a public hearing for the closure of 1st Street West at Way Park. The 1st Street reconstruction project is dependent on a discussion on this issue. On December 15, 2008 the City Council received the feasibility study for the reconstruction of 1st Street. At this time staff asked for direction on the issue relating to the closure of the street at Way Park to maintain the project timelines. The Council made the motion for staff to move forward with the process required to close the street. The first step in this process is to hold a public hearing. A notice of the public hearing was published in the Northfield News on December 24 and 31, 2008. A notice was also sent to the residents potentially impacted by the project on December 23, 2008. The next step will be for the City Council to act on the closure at the second meeting in January 2009.


Project History

The Way Park Master Plan was approved by the City Council on April 16, 2007. Prior to adoption there was an extensive planning effort by the Parks Board that focused on development of the park for park and recreational purposes. The resulting concept plan includes the closure of 1st Street, with 72-foot diameter cul-de-sacs located at the west and east ends of 1st Street where it intersected Way Park. See Figure L-10. There was an in depth discussion of the use of this design, a hammerhead, from a functionality perspective.

However, there was not discussion on operation and maintenance of the design and how it relates to the overall city budget and staffing levels. The plan was approved contingent on further review of the vacation of the street as required by the charter. On October 20, 2008 the Council ordered the feasibility study for the 1st Street reconstruction project. At this time they also gave staff direction to provide information on seven items related to the project that included three related to closure of the street:

1. Report/Comment from fire/police chief on closure of 1st Street.

2. Cost implications of options

3. Vacation vs. Closure of the street

The feasibility report was presented to the council and received on December 15, 2008. The council also passed motion 2008-0165 with a 4-3 vote to move forward with the process necessary to close First Street.


Yes votes by Pownell, Nelson, Denison and Lansing. No votes by Vohs, Pokorney and Davis. Vote is 4-3. Motion carried.

The options for 1st Street through Way Park can be lumped in two categories, a thru street or street closure. The attached table presents information related to each category.

Closure Vs. Vacation

If 1st Street is closed through Way Park, the City could consider vacation of the street Right-of-way. However, the street could be closed without vacation. When a ROW is vacated the land ownership is turned over to the surrounding land owners, in this case the City. To go through the vacation would require the services of a land surveyor, attorney and staff time. Staff does not feel that there is a benefit for ROW vacation that would justify the expenditures. It should also be noted that the vacation procedure will require a public hearing adding an additional procedure to the project process.

Public Input

There was an extensive public process as part of the Way Park Master planning efforts. Throughout that process overall there was neighborhood support for the Master Plan as adopted by the council. A questionnaire was completed at that time related to closure of the street and parking. The full summary is attached.

Below is a summary to the question, “1st Street West should be closed at the east and west property boundaries of Way Park?”

Yes No
1st Street Residents 6 6
2nd Street West and St. Olaf Avenue Residents 23 6

SUBMITTED BY: Katy Gehler-Hess, P.E., City Engineer
Brian Hilgardner, P.E., Design Engineer

1. Notice of Public Hearing
2. Figure L-10
3. Table on Issues related to Street Closure
4. Way Park Survey Results Summary


  1. Bruce W. Morlan said:

    At one of the neighborhood informational meetings held by the city this issue was well addressed by a citizen who had a conceptual design closing 1st Street. It is my understanding that this (eventual) closing is in the comp plan. Unless Northfield wants to contribute its own local stimulus package by building then removing a road, this seems to me to be a no-brainer. Cheers!

    January 5, 2009
  2. Jane McWilliams said:

    Because I will be attending the hearing tonight as the League of Women Voters observer, I will not be able to make a statement. Here is a letter I sent recently to the council expressing my concerns. It is pretty long – sorry!

    One of the difficult decisions you will need to make early in 2009 is whether to abide by the plan the council-approved for Way Park which requires closing West First Street. I hope you will look at all aspects of this change before you take action on it.

    The Friends of Way Park, who were instrumental in developing and advocating for the plan, which the Park Board brought for council approval, have my great admiration.
    Several years ago they rallied citizens to convince the council not to sell the land the former hospital occupied for so many years, thus respecting the desires of the park’s donors. They have studied and recorded the history of the Way sisters’ bequest, and engaged Spencer Jones to develop a plan, partially incorporating a scheme which had been created many decades ago, but not fully implemented. The Friends have been vigilant and articulate in following the progress of the new plan’s approval and urging implementation. I sincerely admire their vision for a beautiful new amenity for our city and their very thoughtful work to realize it. Because the Friends are my neighbors and because I admire their efforts, it is not easy for me to ask you not to rush to judgment about closing the street in anticipation of later redevelopment of the park.

    As a former member of the Planning Commission, I am aware that the Northfield Comprehensive Plan has discouraged creation of cul de sacs in new neighborhoods, and, instead, encourages connectivity in order to enhance pedestrian and vehicular circulation. Thus, we need to think carefully about creating cul de sacs in an old neighborhood. This is particularly true in one where there is no north south street dividing the 800 and 900 blocks, creating a very long block between Orchard and Madison, which to some degree already impedes connectivity.

    The vision is for the park to be uninterrupted from North to South, physically and visually. That is an exciting possibility. However, I believe that the effect may be impaired seriously by whatever design the city uses, be it 94” cul de sacs, smaller cul de sacs or “hammer heads” which will take significant “bites” from the portion of the park in question.

    I would ask that you consider another design, which would respect historical precedent, keep traffic flowing and provide visual continuity to the park. When my family moved here 48 years ago, there was a significant park east of the hospital, in effect an extension of Way Park, and a large oval median, planted in low evergreen shrubbery, in the roadway. As the hospital grew, of course, the park on the west was eliminated. Until then, neighbors (including children) and hospital staff and sometimes patients enjoyed using both parts of the park, and found it possible to safely cross the street at one or the other end of the median. Later, to accommodate the parking lot, and retain the road width, the median was eliminated.

    If we keep the street open, and restore the oval median, we maintain connectivity, while also providing visual continuity to the park. We create traffic calming because of the (historical) bends in the street, which embrace the median and slow traffic. If we were to add decorative paving at each end to create visible crossing areas, we would enhance pedestrian safety. The median is large enough to accommodate very nice landscaping, which could, until the park is redeveloped as well as afterward, be a nice improvement in the neighborhood. I believe many of the neighbors would enjoy assisting the city in maintaining that area.

    I believe Spencer Jones drew a similar concept in one of the 4 or 5 plans citizens reviewed and considered prior to the decision to go with the current park plan. I urge you to ask the Engineering Department whether it is available, so that you can compare it with the plan accepted by the council last spring.

    The engineers who presented the feasibility study showed the council two open versions of the street. At the neighborhood open house, I asked whether they had considered a design like the one I have described above, and they had not. I urge you to request that this version be explored, for feasibility, efficiency and cost before making this very important decision. I believe a design like the one I have described is a better option than the two the engineers showed, and I hope you will give it your serious consideration.

    I am sensitive to the huge decisions you have before you, and perhaps this one seems trivial in comparison with revenue shortfalls, land annexation, replacing an administrator and many other important issues. Nevertheless, closing a street mustn’t be done without a careful weighing of all the advantages and disadvantages, and without considering reasonable alternatives.

    Thank you for giving my concerns your consideration.

    Jane B. McWilliams
    901 W lst Street

    January 5, 2009
  3. David Sudermann said:

    Jane, with all due respect to you, our friend and neighbor, there are compelling reasons to close the short piece of West 1st Street that splits Way Park. First, let me set the record straight on several points:

    1. The Way Park Master Plan was the product of a year-long planning process in 2006. The city commissioned landscape architect Spencer Jones to work with staff and community. Friends of Way Park participated in the planning process along with many others in the community. The plan agreed upon called for street closure.

    2. The Park Board, after review, sent it on to the Council with unanimous. City Council formally accepted the plan in April 2007. The Way Park Plan was created by and belongs to the entire community, not just Friends of Way Park.

    3. The support for the Master Plan in the park neighborhood and wider community is almost unanimous. Those not in favor of closing of the street can be counted on the fingers of one hand, well, one hand and two fingers. Out of 110 Way Park households surveyed this past weekend, 103 signed a statement of support.

    4. First Street, by the way, already dead ends above Lincoln and terminates at St. Dominic Church. Just .65 mile long, it is not a through street; “connectivity” is hardly compromised by unifying the park.

    Why close the street and create a unified park? Here are the reasons:

    • Safety for children and pedestrians. As the park becomes developed more and more children will want to cross from one side to the other, and there are currently some 80 or 90 small children living in the vicinity of the park. Special needs kids from Longfellow School regularly use the park. Keeping the road open simply invites an accident.

    • Usability. Splitting the small five-acre park in two takes away nearly 9% of the park area, counting sidewalks and right of way. Even worse, taking all this space out of the middle greatly diminishes the functionality of the park, now really two less-useful mini-parks. Jane’s idea for a large boulevard would shrink the park even further.

    • Environmental benefits. Closing the street promotes better rainwater infiltration in an area very sensitive to runoff. Just ask those of us living downstream from the park!

    • In an inventory I made of all 100 or so neighborhood parks (10 acres or fewer) in Rochester, Faribault, Red Wing, Hastings, Edina, and Northfield, Way Park is the only one with a street running through it. There must be a reason why planners do not push streets through small parks.

    • A unified park actually makes the neighborhood more connected, not less. Having a strict grid pattern of roads may favor motorized traffic, but it does little for “social connectivity.” That is a distinguishing feature of the Way Park Plan, designed as it is for walkers, bikers, and public gatherings. Sometimes it is important to think “outside the grid.”

    • It seems obvious, but the integrity and gracefulness of the park also suffers, if the road remains the center point. Check out the aerial view of the park on Google Earth to see if you agree.

    • The new Master Plan for Way Park remains faithful to the historic design of 1939 and even improves on it by closing the road. Lucile Way would love it!

    You quite correctly point out the undesirability of the huge 94-foot culs-de-sac being recommended by the consultant engineers. This sticks in our collective craw, too. We can get around this monstrosity by making the sidewalk through the park a “multi-use pathway” as called for by City Code. Used ordinarily by walkers and bikers, a fire truck could get through in the rare event that one got lost! This solution seems to relieve the fire chief’s concerns and would allow for much smaller turnarounds.

    Jane, I respect your views, clearly expressed as always, and I long for the day I can stroll through the unified park, unhampered by motorized traffic, to your house to visit!

    January 5, 2009
  4. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve added a photo (to the blog post above) of the Way Park design sketch on a poster board that was sitting outside City Council chambers last night. It’s better than the one that’s up there. Note, tho, the orientation is looking south.

    January 6, 2009
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News: Open or shut?

    A look at the benefits and drawbacks of a few of the options:

    • Dead end with cul-de-sacs — cul-de-sacs need an 85-foot diameter for large vehicles to navigate in one movement, parking enforcement needed
    • Dead ends with parking lots and rain gardens — provides needed parking for park visitors, city needs to ensure nearby residents don’t use parking spaces, allows turnaround for large vehicles, rain gardens allow water from the pavement to drain into them.
    • Dead ends with sidewalk connecting — walkway would be gated, allowing use by emergency vehicles only. Gating system could be costly.
    • Through street — could include enhanced pedestrian crossings or a landscaped median, staying as aligned or meander through the park to help reduce speeding. Parking on each side of the street would be a consideration.
    January 7, 2009
  6. Marie Fischer said:

    QQ: Is that a BAND STAND in the plans?

    January 8, 2009
  7. David Ludescher said:

    With the lost money from Rate Search and the cuts from the State, with more cuts to come, spending money on a project that will increase costs for maintenance and repair seems imprudent.

    Neither the street nor the parks are going to move. We can revisit the issue when Northfield has money burning a hole in its pocket.

    January 8, 2009
  8. kiffi summa said:

    David L: You said: “neither the street nor the parks are going to move”.
    This sounds like a fact, and it is the ‘truth’ … however, although there is as yet no money dedicated for the redevelopment of this park, the street is an issue that must be dealt with now , as it is, and has been on the infrastructure repair schedule for some time. According to the City Engineer, it must be done now because there are so many serious problems with the sewer, drainage, etc.

    So, the ‘fate’ of the street needs to be decided now.

    January 9, 2009
  9. David Ludescher said:

    Kiffi: If the street has to be done now, and the park can wait, then the street should be done now, and the park should wait.

    I know the City can assess the homeowners part of the cost of the street on the theory that it benefits the homeowners. Maybe the same principle could be used to assess surrounding homeowners the anticipated costs of the request. That way everyone wins.

    January 9, 2009
  10. Bruce Anderson said:

    David L.,

    You say in comment #10

    If the street has to be done now, and the park can wait, then the street should be done now, and the park should wait.

    I know the City can assess the homeowners part of the cost of the street on the theory that it benefits the homeowners. Maybe the same principle could be used to assess surrounding homeowners the anticipated costs of the request. That way everyone wins.

    I have to assume that by “the anticipated costs of the request” you are referring to any costs incurred in closing 1st Street to unify Way Park. As David Sudermann clarifies in detail in comment #3, closing 1st Street to unify Way Park is not a “request” by neighbors. This is the Park and Rec Advisory Board-recommended, City Council-approved (both decisions unanimous, as I recall) decision from 2007. The issue is necessarily being revisited now because a formal decision on the section of 1st Street bisecting the newly expanded Way Park must be made in conjunction with the street repairs slated for later this year. It would be a terribly inefficient use of taxpayer resources to upgrade the entire length of 1st Street West in 2009, then tear it up and close the street in a few years.

    I think that the way everyone wins is to adhere to the deliberate, thoughtful decision made in 2007 to close the section of 1st Street running through Way Park in conjunction with the scheduled street repairs, thus negating the need to prepare the roadbed, lay curb and gutter, and pave about 120 feet of roadway. There would be significant cost SAVINGS in doing this. While construction of two cul-de-sacs (which would not need to be nearly as large as described in the Northfield News story if a gated sidewalk wide enough to accomodate emergency vehicles runs through the park, as suggested at Monday night’s council meeting) would entail some modest additional expense, I have to believe a full analysis would show the net cost impact of closing the road would be to SAVE taxpayer money.

    The Northfield News story (Open or shut?) quoted and linked to by Griff in comment #6 was woefully inaccurate and incomplete. Please do not base your opinions on this issue on this particular version of “the truth” alone. For another, far more accurate version of the truth (from my perspective as someone who attended the public hearing), please see David Sudermann’s response to the News story (his first, most comprehensive comment is the second from the bottom).

    January 9, 2009
  11. Bruce Anderson said:

    Correction to my comment #11 above: the length of roadway proposed to be closed is more like 120 yards, give or take, depending on the size of the cul-de-sacs.

    January 9, 2009
  12. David Sudermann said:

    David L:
    There are two, no three, compelling reasons to unify the park now, along with the street reconstruction:

    1. Cost: the street portion of the Way Park Plan carries an estimated cost of $136,000, if the road has to be removed. Thus, combining this phase of the park redevelopment with the infrastructure project on West First where the road will be dug up anyway will save a bundle.

    2. Friends of Way Park, a 501c3 group, has as its main mission fundraising for the park’s redevelopment according to the park master plan, which the city already approved. Until the city commits itself fully to the unified park design, however, FOWP cannot legitimately seek development grants or donations.

    3. If the park is not unified now, and the street is rebuilt through the park, the park will never become unified. If not unified, then the redevelopment will be further delayed and the functionality of the park will remain limited. The neighborhood loses ground, literally and figuratively.

    Finally, it is not clear to me why Way Park redevelopment should need to wait for another five years. This is an historic park at the center of one of Northfield’s historic neighborhoods. A robust community support group is chomping at the bit to begin raising money. The West Side neighborhood for too long carried the burden of noise, traffic, and air pollution from the hospital. It’s high time to provide some relief for this neighborhood, and as the park improves the neighborhood “ecology,” the whole community organism will benefit. We always look for win-win opportunities. This is one!

    January 9, 2009
  13. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce and David S.: The West Side already received a huge benefit when the City decided to use the hospital land for a park, instead of using it for the entire town.

    Jane McWilliams’s arguments are compelling. You are asking that an exception be made to the “no cul-de-sac” rule without a clear need.

    In these tough times, we shouldn’t have to debate the spending of money on things that would be nice, but aren’t needed.

    January 9, 2009
  14. Bruce Anderson said:

    David L.,
    I’m not sure what you mean by “the City decided to use the hospital land for a park, instead of using it for the entire town.” Again, there was an open public process that led to a City Council decision to honor the letter and spirit of the Way family bequest, and use the land for a public purpose (in this case, parkland). In what way is this park not “for the entire town?”

    As for Jane’s arguments, you may find them compelling, but as much as I like and respect Jane, I don’t find them compelling. She, and others opposed to closing 1st Street through Way Park, had and took advantage of their opportunity to express their opinions when the initial decision was made to close the street in 2007, and again in this public hearing. The Park and Rec Advisory Board and City Council did not find them compelling enough to act upon in 2007, and I’m fairly confident that the current City Council will concur with their decisions.

    Concerning the “no cul-de-sac rule,” there is no such rule. As Jane correctly pointed out in her letter, the comp plan “discourages cul-de-sacs in new neighborhoods, and, instead, encourages connectivity in order to enhance pedestrian and vehicular circulation.” This is an entirely different matter, having to do with maximizing the functionality of a modest-sized park in an existing neighborhood, and minimizing the likelihood of vehicle/park user collisions. Pedestrian circulation will obviously not be impaired (indeed would be enhanced) by closure of this stretch of 1st Street, and 1st Street is not a through street for vehicles, as it ends at St. Dominics on the east and the St. Olaf campus on the west.

    Finally, this isn’t a matter of “debating spending money on things that would be nice, but aren’t needed.” This is a matter of honoring the deliberative public input process and following through on commitments made by the City. Furthermore, it is far from clear that the City would spend more by closing 1st Street than by rebuilding it for the 360 feet or so that it runs through Way Park.

    January 9, 2009
  15. David Sudermann said:

    Sorry, I am avatar-less. My wife knitted me a very nice Norwegian sweater for my birthday, so that I would fit right in with the other older guys at St. John’s during the holiday season. I’d like to post a picture of myself in that sweater.
    David L. makes a tempting comment.
    1. Let’s step away from Way Park for a moment and ask a general question. Do we believe that a small community like ours is comprised of competing neighborhoods, such that a benefit to one neighborhood creates a net loss for the others or the whole? For example, imagine that the city plans to spend $100,000 next year to complete the rest of old Memorial Park on the East Side. Should West Siders or South Enders get up in arms because only the East Side is benefitting? Eventually their turn will come. Perhaps the whole body prospers when the health of one its members improves.
    2. Now let’s turn the situation inside out. The city needs a new hospital, clearly in the interest of all. The city elders choose to site it on a small central park in a residential area. Over time the hospital expands until its building and parking lots cover over half of the 4.8-acre park. Houses are torn down; traffic increases; compressors run; sirens shrill; smoke from infectious waste descends black from the sky; helicopters land; rainwater off the parking lots runs into back yards; many homes in the old neighborhood become ill-kept rental units. Of course, it was in the interest of the whole town to have a modern hospital, but at what cost to the old neighborhood? Perhaps the whole organism suffers when one of its members becomes distressed.
    Then, one day the hospital can no longer expand on the old site. A new hospital is built and the old one torn down. Do the residents think they are receiving a huge favor from the city to have the park back? Is it truly a loss for the rest of the town to restore the park?
    What “no cul-de-sac rule”?
    On parks as “things that would be nice, but aren’t needed,” please take a look at General Outdoor Advertising Co. v. City of Indianapolis, Dept of Public Parks (1930), 202 Ind. 85, 172 N.E. 309.

    January 9, 2009
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    The Nfld News printed a correction in today’s paper re: Suzy Rook’s article, Open and Shut, that I linked to above in comment #6. Here’s the text from the print version:

    An article in the Jan. 7 edition on the closure of First Street misstated the position of a resident who spoke. Matt Rohn expressed his support for joining the two halves of the park by removing a portion of the street.

    Here’s the sentence that’s been inserted at the top of the online version of the article:

    Correction: This article should have said speaker Matt Rohn expressed his support for joining the two halves of the park by removing a portion of the First Street.

    David S, you have a comment attached to the article on the Nfld News web site that says in part:

    4. A First Street neighbor at the hearing, Matt Rohn, spoke strongly in favor of closure, not in opposition as the article stated. At the hearing one person opposed not only closure, but sidewalks and the street project in general, while another favored restoring a boulevard through the park. This was the extent of the opposition. Further, Mr. Rohn did not broach the idea of a wide connecting sidewalk. One of the councilors first raised that notion in querying the engineers. Anne Larson, in her prepared statement to the Council, then put forward a “multi-use pathway” as a way of providing emergency access through the park. Councilors and the chiefs seem open to this idea.

    January 10, 2009
  17. David Ludescher said:

    David S. and Bruce: Things have changed since the Master Park Plan was developed. Our state aid has been cut, and more cuts are likely.

    Prudence would dictate that we give higher priorities to essential services.

    January 11, 2009
  18. Bruce Anderson said:

    David L.,

    I agree that the City needs to be very careful in making spending commitments in this tough fiscal environment (and always, for that matter). However, 2009 1st Street reconstruction is included in the draft CIP for 2009 to 2013 at a preliminarily estimated cost of $2.5 million, to be paid for with general obligation bonds as described in the packet for last Monday’s council meeting. Are you suggesting that the street reconstruction project, in its entirety, be scrapped?

    If not, the fiscal responsibility question is then, does it make more sense to close 1st Street through Way Park, as called for in the Park Master Plan, or go ahead with some sort of street (with the kinds of design elements discussed at last Monday’s council meeting, such as landscaping and design to calm traffic through the park) for that roughly 360-foot section?

    Closing the road would eliminate the cost of prepping the roadbed, paving a 32-foot-wide street, curb and gutter, sidewalks on both sides of the road, and any traffic-calming elements. It would add the costs of putting in either two cul-de-sacs or two small rain garden parking lots. There has been no analysis of what the construction cost impact would be for any of these options. It certainly seems likely that the cul-de-sacs, at least, would be a lot cheaper than 360 feet of full roadway. City staff did indicate that there would be a bit of additional maintenance cost (snow removal) with the cul-de-sacs, but again, no objective analysis has been presented to that effect.

    January 11, 2009
  19. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce: If it is just street reconstruction, then we should put it off. As you and David S. pointed out, it is not a very busy street, so poor street conditions are more bearable than on the main arteries. (I thought that the plan was for water, storm water, and sewer replacement.)

    I just think that it is poor public policy to spend time or money on parks in a time of budget shortfalls.

    January 11, 2009
  20. Bruce Anderson said:

    If you think the street reconstruction (along with the water, storm and sanitary sewer reconstruction) for 1st Street West from St. Dominics to the St. Olaf campus should be postponed, you’ll have to make that case to the City Council, David L. That decision will be made in the next few weeks, but it’s not my sense that any decision-makers are inclined to mothball the whole project, as it was identified as a 2009 priority in the CIP plan.

    January 11, 2009
  21. kiffi summa said:

    This discussion, with reference to the negative comments, is about as disappointing as a discussion could be…. there is even a lack of recognition of the street project as being needed.

    The whole related projects of the First Street reconstruction and the Way Park Master Plan have been progressing in legislated steps, with public hearings … and re: the Park, through all the processes at the Park Board, and Council. If ever there was a project that has moved ahead slowly, publicly, these two have been that; rescued from the original speculation of 90 apartment units, built as what would pass for hi-rises in this 100 year old neighborhood, one would think most people would be personally happy except for some small details.

    The badly needed street reconstruction (all sorts of drainage issues) has been on the engineering priority schedule for some time, already deferred at least a year or two, and now everything should just stop?

    I hope the councilors who are working on the public input process are reading; a baptism by fire to say the least!

    Maybe Northfield just can’t be a ‘happy’, peaceful place… are we built over a Native American burial ground or something?

    January 11, 2009
  22. kiffi summa said:

    The Way Park /1st Street closure PROBLEM has come to be a crystal clear example of where the new council will have to decide that THEY must have policy, that they are the ‘deciders’ (as hateful as pres. Bush has made that term) and it is up to the council to make decisions for the community they represent.

    You can neither fix the problem, NOR SHIFT THE RESPONSIBILITY, by making a little committee for each and every problem, and then redoing what has been a thoroughly ‘processed’ process.

    At their ‘shared expectations’ retreat, the new council and the old council members decided to focus on two major areas: public input and process.
    Well, welcome to the twofold Problem of both these areas to be focussed on, as exemplified by the rethinking, re-inputting, reprocessing of the whole Way Park plan and the street that may or may not end up being closed.

    *****Why is this all being redone when the council passed the Way Park plan, which showed the street closed, last spring? *****

    *****Why are they redoing this when they paid for designs from Spencer Jones, a Master Parks designer that we are Oh So fortunate to have living in Northfield ? *****

    ***** Why are they doing this against the advice and encouragement of their hired Master Parks Plan consultant who repeatedly spoke of the unprecedented opportunity of regaining parkland in a 100 year old neighborhood?*****

    *****Where did the initiative to revisit this whole process originate? *****

    THAT ONE NEEDS TO BE ASKED TWICE: ***** Where did the initiative to revisit this whole process originate? *****

    ***** Why is this new council, given their two agreed on areas of focus, going against the very premise they endorsed in their own retreat and campaigned on? *****

    After the last two years of complete disorder and dissent, the fact that this project, approved through all the steps, should become a PROBLEM that had to be revisited, is simply ludicrous!

    There will be many who will jump all over me for asking these questions… go ahead…
    these questions had to be asked.

    January 14, 2009
  23. Peter Millin said:


    I am not familiar with all the details of the project. My gut feel tells me that the need to look at this again might be driven by $$$$.

    If that is the case I would support to look at it again. In my mind this is a “nice to have project”.

    January 14, 2009
  24. David Sudermann said:

    Responding to Peter: Bruce A.’s postings above cover the question of cost, but it is worth another word or two. What we have is a street infrastructure project, the costs of which are born by the residents and the city. Folded neatly into that project is one piece of Way Park development, the street closure between the halves of the park, which does not add to the cost. In fact,it saves over $100,000 in park development costs. It is a fiscally prudent way of getting the park development going. We have a unique opportunity to take care of two birds with one good-sized piece of impervious surface! The only losers seem to be the racoons living in the storm sewers.

    January 14, 2009
  25. Anne Bretts said:

    In fairness, it seems the council ‘accepted’ the plan for consideration, something far different from approving the development of the park and the vacation of the street. The process has gone on, but the expectations of Way Park supporters have been raised without supporting city action.
    It seems the process would have been smoother if the mayor and council had decided the issues of vacating the street and installing cul-de-sacs before the park plan was designed. Giving the park supporters clear parameters in which to create a design would have avoided any possible conflicts.
    To allow creation of a design that might not be implemented seems an exercise in frustration and a community relations disaster.
    At this point, the plan has to be reconciled with reality, which may proved tricky. I can see both sides of this, and it’s unfortunate there isn’t a clear right or wrong answer. The good news is that there is time to incorporate the decision into the street construction plan, either by tearing out the street or incorporating a median or other improvements.
    Let’s hope this can be the new council’s first opportunity to build that sense of good will and community cooperation everyone has been seeking.

    January 14, 2009
  26. kiffi summa said:

    Peter: David responded before I got a chance to, and yes there is a huge savings to be realized by the street closure, as far as the infrastructure process.

    The park development would certainly be, as you say, “nice to have”. Let me just explain to you that the only $$$ the city has yet committed to the park redevelopment is the costs of the design by Spencer Jones. There is as yet NO money committed to the redevelopment of the additional acreage, and as a matter of fact, the existing old section of Way Park has not received the upkeep and improvement dollars that had been scheduled for it some years ago in that Master Park Plan.

    The “city” has made it clear to the Friends of Way Park that the initial impetus for getting the new portion of the park built will have to come from some major fundraising efforts on their part; so as yet there is not any city money committed, beyond what was paid for the design.

    There has been a large degree of interest in the redevelopment of this land from supporters all over the community, not just in the immediate neighborhood; but until the vision for the park can be finalized with regard to the street issue, there cannot be significant fund raising. Of course the economic downturn will affect this for the next few years also.

    This is a pretty fiscally conservative community for the most part, I think; one which decides what it values and wishes to spend money on, and therefore I think the end results will be reasonable, but also of great value to the general quality of life in Northfield.

    January 15, 2009
  27. David Ludescher said:

    The “savings” is the cost of not having to do the street twice. I am guessing that the cul-de-sacs cost significantly more than just replacing the street as it is.

    There is no money for the park development as originally envisioned. Closing off the street is a minor component of the actual park development.

    January 15, 2009
  28. Rick Esse said:

    David L.

    I’m not an engineer, but someone can calculate square footage of asphalt and lineal feet of curb and gutter for each option. “I’m guessing” that the street closing option would not cost significantly more.

    Furthermore, I don’t see anyone pushing for immediate completion of the Way Park master plan.

    Close the street during this window of opportunity, plant some grass, and we can work on additional ammenities as public and/or private funding becomes available.

    January 16, 2009
  29. David Ludescher said:

    Rick: The cost “savings” proposed is illusory. The $100,000.00 “savings” is what it would cost to add the cul-de-sacs, and add the requested parkland on the road. Estimates should be based upon the additional costs of implementing the plan now. Granted, there is a savings in not building a road through, but the City also loses the benefit of not having the road. The cul-de-sacs,if installed, are not for the benefit of the general public; they are for the benefit of the people living on that street.

    Maybe we should look at doing both. We could install the cul-de-sacs and the existing road. Then, if the master plan ever becomes a reality, closing the road would be simple.

    The extra costs of the cul-de-sacs could be borne by the neighbors in the assessment process, or paid for by Friends of Way Park. That would maintain the maximum flexibility, and ensure that the neighbors have some skin in the game. It would also satisfy the police, fire, and city planners. There would be a significant savings for neighbors if they had the cul-de-sacs installed now.

    January 16, 2009
  30. Griff Wigley said:

    Matt Rohn has a letter in the Northfield News this weekend, critical of its reporting:

    I was saddened to see my Way Park position completely misrepresented in the News.

    Why does the News keep talking about a controversy regarding closing the street when there isn’t one?

    Last Saturday, you relied on a dated survey (done before the park plan had been created) to say that residents on the street were “evenly divided” about closing the street.

    Your reporter credited the city engineer for this claim but this does not comport with more recent views documented at the council meeting.

    January 18, 2009
  31. kiffi summa said:

    Matt: If you are reading here, I would be interested in knowing if the NFNews responded in any way to your ‘complaint’ about their reporting?

    In the RepJ meeting with Leonard Witt, the responsiveness of the News to their public was brought up by their managing Editor, Jaci Smith. She strongly stated that their success depended somewhat upon their being responsive to their callers/writers/e-mailers and that they tried to some extent to shape their writing to satisfy that public ‘clamor’.

    This goes to Griff’s wondering about old and new ‘journalism’ rules, and how they affect content of reportage.

    January 19, 2009
  32. kiffi summa said:

    Christopher Ennis has a letter in the 1.21 Nf news which carries this story a little further.

    Considering the history of this project, and all the proper and proscribed steps through which it progressed, this is not a time when the public can be accused of disrupting or objecting to the process at the last minute.

    This would seem to be an instance of the engineering staff not liking the outcome of the council’s vote last spring, the vote that approved the park design which showed a closed road, and therefor bringing the design back for further consideration and possible redesign. If that is not where the dissatisfaction arose, then where?

    Citizens are so often accused of this sort of last minute disruption (Woodley street) and in that instance, the cost of last minute re- evaluations was always a consideration brought forward by the engineering staff.
    Where are the costs of this ‘reconsideration’, and even possible redesign, being evaluated now?

    January 22, 2009
  33. David Sudermann said:

    Kiffi gets it just about right when she writes,”This would seem to be an instance of the engineering staff not liking the outcome of the council’s vote last spring, the vote that approved the park design which showed a closed road, and therefore bringing the design back for further consideration and possible redesign.”

    The engineering staff, from the first public meeting last October on First Street reconstruction, has thrown up every possible obstacle to the Council-approved master plan for the park while at the same time asserting (incorrectly) that the master plan was merely a “concept plan.” Staff asserts that the Council has asked them to provide several street-park options. “We’re only doing the Council’s bidding,” they insist. But at the same time they elect not to include the Way master plan as one of the options, and the options they choose to include bear scant resemblance to the master plan.

    There seems on staff’s part not only minimal appreciation for the earlier planning-approval process but also little concern for the social-ecology of the neigborhood,so elegantly embodied in the master plan. I regret that.

    January 22, 2009
  34. Anne Bretts said:

    Once again, the key issue, that of closing the road, should have been decided before any master plan was devised. If there was a difference between the staff position and the park supporters’ position, that should have been resolved long ago.
    We are left to decipher whether park supporters represent the public by standing up to bureaucracy or whether city workers represent the public by standing up to a special interest group.
    A clean decision on the street closing is needed. The council should not let this be a dispute between staff and residents.

    January 22, 2009
  35. David Ludescher said:

    DAvid S. I doubt that the engineering department was consulted on the closure of the street when the plan was developed. Further, I doubt that the engineering department is raising concerns because they don’t like the process. They are concerned, as are the fire and police departments, about closing the road.

    I’m not so concerned about closing this road as I am about the bad precendent it sets. How can we tell other people that they can’t build a cul-de-sac or convert to a dead end street if we let this pass? I see some compelling reasons why the road should stay open. But, I don’t see any compelling reasons why it has to close.

    January 22, 2009
  36. kiffi summa said:

    The tautology of this thread is incredibly frustrating…..

    January 23, 2009
  37. kiffi summa said:

    Next Tuesday, february 10th, the Park Board will meet, and the council returned the issue of the treatment of the ends of the closed street (on either side of the center of the park) to the PRAB for their design recommendations.
    There are two internationally known designers, Spencer Jones/landscape, and Nathan Knutson/architect, on that prestigious citizen board, and the council wisely decided to NOT try to design those areas by themselves, at last night’s meeting. So….the return to the Park Board for expert advice.

    A motion was put forward to adopt the Way Park Master Plan, designed by Spencer Jones, and approved by Council vote almost a year ago, but that motion was voted down, 5-2, with only Betsey Buckheit and Jon Denison voting for it’s adoption, or should I say re-adoption.

    Mayor Rossing , who voted against the adoption of the plan, said she was uncomfortable with the Master Plan, even though it had been adopted/approved by the previous council, and cautioned that even though the design issues of the cul-de-sac areas were being sent back to the Park Board for their members professional advice,that advice was just advisory. The Mayor then said ,”we’re in the driver’s seat; we give direction”. I assume she meant the council.

    I would suggest that ALL who want to support the work of the last 7 years, of Friends of Way Park, show up at the PRAB meeting on the 10th. If ‘they’ are smart, they’ll schedule this meeting in the council chambers, instead of the small conference room.

    February 3, 2009
  38. David Ludescher said:

    Another good decision by the Council.

    February 3, 2009
  39. Bruce Anderson said:

    This is a banner day, one in which I can not once but TWICE agree with David L (the other point of agreement being on the drug-sniffing dogs thread)!

    David, you comment:

    Another good decision by the Council.

    However, you may not be aware of the full decision: Council approves closing First for Way Park.

    The final design is still undecided (size/location of the cul-de-sacs; exact path of the 12-foot walkway/emergency vehicle drive, etc.), but the Council confirmed the wisdom of closing First Street by a 6-1 vote.

    February 3, 2009
  40. Mary Rossing said:

    To clarify, council voted to approve the 72′ cul de sacs and the 12′ walkway, with the exact design and placement of the walkway to be determined after input/design advice from the Park Board.

    February 3, 2009
  41. David Sudermann said:

    Commenting on last night’s Council meeting, I venture to say that the outcome met, even slightly exceeded expectations: Council voted, as Bruce notes, 6-1 for street closure at the Park. I had expected 5-2. Then as Kiffi reported, Council also accepted the master-plan design for 72-foot culs-de-sac (note elitist spelling of the plural!) and sent the plan back to the Park Board to tweak the design of the emergency path so that it is not just a road by another name.

    It was an important move for Council to draw the PRAB back into the discussion,since up to this point engineering staff had been relentlessly controlling what could be brought to the table for discussion and appeared to sidestep the Park Board whenever possible.

    The fabled 429 Process, in fact, calls for the Park Board to “weigh in” when park improvements are part of an assessment-driven project (Minnesota Statute 429.031, Subd. 2). Staff has managed to overlook Subd. 2, while at the same time citing 429 for other aspects of the project.

    As Council formulated a motion for the PRAB to lend its expertise, City Administrator Waliniski,warily and wearily, asked for a definition of “weigh in,” apparently wanting to make certain that the Park Board should not be given rein to “weigh in” too much. Those Park Board members are an unruly bunch!

    If the outcome was acceptible both to PRAB and Friends of Way Park (those pushy West Side park proponents), the meeting process itself can only be called weird theater. I recommend viewing the video. The resolution for street closure left open the question of how the stump ends of the street should be bound up and who would do the binding. Council was compelled to grope for a special motion to deal with the terminations. None of us knew at the beginning of the meeting, not even councilors, that staff would try to get Council to make a choice of cul-de-sac options. Mayor Rossing did a creditable job of salvage. It was interesting watching various actors dissemble.

    There is much more theater to “weigh in” with, especially the after-the-meeting analyses in the foyer, but I feel myself sliding too far into irony. Still, I feel grateful to the councilors who saw the value of the unified park design,the park’s potential, and the collaborative process of 2006-07.

    February 3, 2009
  42. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce: Are the Friends of Way Park going to help pay for this change?

    February 3, 2009
  43. Tracy Davis said:

    So the City will pay Friends of Way Park the $5000 saved? 🙂

    Sorry, just can’t resist rabble-rousing.

    February 3, 2009
  44. kiffi summa said:

    David L: You asked: “Are the Friends of Way Park going to help pay for the change?”

    As the Mayor said Monday night, it is the council that makes the decisions.

    The previous council voted to close the street by approving the Way Park Master Plan which showed the street closed. The current council voted 6-1 to close the street.

    The previous council by approving that plan accepted the possible costs to the city of that plan, while telling the FOWP that there would as yet be no $$ budgeted for the park development; they (FOWP) would have to raise a lot of money.

    The city’s engineering dept. wants changes to the approved plan that they feel better serve their engineering principles, and in their view, the city’s needs.The bigger emergency path, the bigger culs-de-sac/parking lots, actually increase the costs, over the approved plan.

    So, what are the changes that you think the FOWP should pay for?

    February 4, 2009

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