N. Sycamore Street residents get point across to council

City Council
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The City of Monticello’s N. Sycamore Street reconstruction project was again the topic of heavy discussion during the Dec. 17 council meeting.

     Several property owners were present to have their questions asked of the council and city officials.

     The council did approve the preliminary parameters of the project, directing City Engineer Patrick Schwickerath to proceed with the plans and specifications. They also approved the preliminary assessment and project schedule. This sets a public hearing on the project for Monday, Jan. 7, 2019 at 6 p.m.

     “There’s no debate this project needs to be done,” addressed Council member Dave Goedken.

     The debate, however, began when it came to the council’s potential approval of the project’s driveway improvement plan.

     “You need to make a decision before we can move forward with the project,” advised City Administrator Doug Herman.

     Council member Brenda Hanken questioned why the city/council was even dictating what property owners should be doing with their driveways. “Some people don’t have the money to do it,” she said of paying to have their driveways paved as part of the project’s 10-year assessment. “It’s a hardship on people.”

     Hanken actually made a motion to table the discussion, but the remaining members of the council urged everyone to keep moving on the project.

     Schwickerath explained the plans include assessments for a paved driveway for up to two vehicles, whether side-by-side or back-to-front. There are 17 property owners associated with the project.

     Several people with gravel driveways questioned why they needed to have it paved if they were happy with the way it is currently.

     Council member Tom Yeoman explained that city code dictates that with new construction, all driveways must be permanent dust-free pavement.

     “I have no problem paving the approaches,” voiced N. Sycamore resident Gaylen Kray. “But I have two driveways and they’ve been gravel since I bought my house. It’s a burden to pay everything plus the school bond assessment.”

     Kray and N. Sycamore residents Nick and Sonya Zimmerman, Jason Miles and Tristan Miles questioned why the city was cracking down on their gravel driveways versus every other gravel driveway in town.

     “You need to enforce the ordinance throughout the city, including with businesses and industries,” said Kray. “How long do they have to comply?”

     The N. Sycamore project gave residents a one-year window to have their driveway paved.

     “We have to start somewhere,” said Yeoman. He said there are some people on N. Sycamore who want to see paved driveways throughout the corridor.

     When asked why those people weren’t at the council meeting to express their views, Yeoman said it’s because they don’t want to be harassed by going against their neighbors.

     Nick Zimmerman said he would like to see the one-year stipulation removed to allow him to sell his home without having to pay the assessment himself when he may not be living at the residence.

     “I don’t want to be there for the next 10 years,” he said of the city’s 1o-year assessment policy.

     Zimmerman also commented that the amount of gravel the city sees on N. Sycamore supposedly due to gravel driveways does not compare to the loose gravel from alleyways in town. “The plows push a lot more gravel into the street and storm sewer than on N. Sycamore,” he said.

     Council member Rob Paulson acknowledged that the city does have a lot of gravel driveways throughout town, and nothing is being done on that front.

     “We have to start somewhere and the city is heavily investing on this project,” voiced Mayor Brian Wolken.

     Jason Miles asked what the city is doing about St. Matthew Lutheran Church’s gravel parking lot in conjunction with the street project.

     “It’s being addressed,” said Yeoman.

     Tristan Miles said his family of five lives off one income. He said with all of the property tax increases, he shouldn’t be forced to pave his driveway. “The dust is pretty minimal,” he said. “Any increase in our property taxes matter; every dollar matters, no matter how you break it up. At what point does the increase stop because some people live paycheck to paycheck?”

     Council member Chris Lux agreed. “I understand what you’re saying,” she said, speaking as a N. Sycamore resident. “I don’t have a lot of money, and I only work part-time with my husband retiring. We’re at a crossroads and I don’t know the answer at this time.”

     Following Hanken’s motion to table the vote died due to lack of a second, the council approved a driveway improvement policy that eliminated the one-year mandate to have your driveway paved. The new resolution gives owners the option to pay their driveway as part of the project assessment over a 10-year timeframe. Driveway approaches and sidewalks still have to be paved.

     Goedken suggested the council also look at amending its code of ordinances concerning gravel driveways in town in relation to street reconstruction projects.

     Those in attendance from N. Sycamore thanked the council for hearing them out.

     “We want to work with you on this,” said Lux. “No matter what you think, we want to work with everyone as best we can.”

     From a project design standpoint, Herman and Schwickerath said they would be reaching out to all 17 property owners, asking whether they want their driveway included in their preliminary assessment or not.



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