City dismisses residents’ concerns as it prepares to obliterate a generation of investment in landscaping.

The city of Saint Paul claims to treasure its neighborhoods. However, the seven homeowners on a small cul-de-sac in Highland Park have found the opposite to be true. In the nine months since the city announced Phase 2 of the Griggs-Scheffer paving project, we have sought to work with city planners to preserve the atmosphere of our Edcumbe Place neighborhood and save the city money.

Our neighborhood is a closely spaced planned unit development that was created in 1987. Road clearances are narrow. Our street winds slightly downhill and does not fit into the city’s paint-by-numbers approach to repaving. So the city has decided to re-engineer our neighborhood to make the road look like the city says it was supposed to look when it was first paved 35 years ago.

The houses and yards on our street were all constructed and landscaped based on the location of the road approved by the city in 1987. It turns out that the legal description of that 20-foot-wide easement was faulty and does not reflect the road as built in several technically minor but physically important respects.

Phase 2 of the Saint Paul Department of Public Works' Griggs-Scheffer repaving project. The Edgcumbe Place cul-de-sac is located near the center of the map.

Our efforts to be a part of the process have served only to allow the city to claim that it is inclusive and transparent, when in fact it has been dismissive and opaque. City staff have stated in so many words that they are not interested in our opinion on the project and have hurried on to more important work.

City planning staff have decided to ignore the existing road and replace it according to the original faulty survey. The result will be the destruction of numerous mature trees, the forced removal of retaining walls, fences and landscaping, and the relocation of a section of road within 10 feet of the living room windows of one house.

 

The property owners have asked unanimously that the replacement road simply follow the path of the existing road. Unfortunately, city planning staff have decided to ignore the existing road and replace it according to the original faulty survey.

The result will be the destruction of numerous mature trees, the forced removal of retaining walls, fences and landscaping, and the relocation of a section of road within 10 feet of the living room windows of one house.

 

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None of this must happen nor should it be allowed to happen. In fact, this result is so vastly different from what presently exists that we are willing to petition the City Council to vacate our road so that it can be privately repaved, saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We have asked that the Griggs-Scheffer project exclude our stretch of pavement so that the overall project will not be delayed by further discussion of our situation. We have obtained the services of a reputable engineer and contractor to do the necessary work at a substantially lower cost than the city’s projected costs.

We, like many residents in the Griggs-Scheffer area along scenic Edgcumbe Road, have sought to work with city planners to encourage the thoughtful and cooperative redevelopment of our streets. We, like they, have seen our input dismissed by city staff.

We have been patronized by city staffers. They have heard our input but not listened. Their conduct has not been in good faith. They have been opaque about their plans to re-engineer our neighborhood, and have been purposely late so that they can claim there is no other option. This is no way to run “Minnesota’s Livable and Dynamic Capital City.”

Public hearing set on April 14

The City Council has scheduled a public hearing on Phase 2 of the Griggs-Scheffer paving project for April 14. We plan to appear at the hearing to ask that the council delay approval of the portion of the project that deals with our street until a more responsive plan is developed, a plan that does not suddenly and arbitrarily revise 35 years of right-of-way maintenance.

City staff is forcing on us seven homeowners a solution to a problem that does not exist.

We urge the City Council to make good on its policy that neighborhoods matter.

— Tom Meier

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