By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
The Monroe City Council Tuesday discussed the possible closure of an alley located between 218 and 224 S. Lewis St., due to reports of ongoing annoyances.
The city received a request from Karl Hofmann, the owner of the Moderono Apartment building located at 218 S. Lewis St., that the alley situated south of the apartment building be permanently closed. The alley, which runs east and west, connects to the alley that runs south from West Fremont Street and originates behind the Keg-n-Cue Tavern.
In his letter to the city, Hofmann discussed the traffic issues caused by people using the alley as a shortcut. Drug traffic has been a problem, as well.
“… the alley has become a ‘drive thru’ for drug traffic sales from the houses to the west of my building and people using it as a shortcut from Blakeley to Lewis Street at all hours of the day,” wrote Hofmann.
Hofmann stated in the public hearing that he is concerned for his tenants, and feels that closing the alley would help increase the security and safety of his building. His initial request stated that his preference would be to fence off the alley with a north-to-south directional fence. He would then pave the alley along with the adjoining parking area that services his apartment building.
Two residents of Blakeley Street were concerned that closing the Lewis Street alley would only result in increasing traffic in the alley on the other side, which runs west out to Blakeley Street. They fear the closure could cause the Blakeley Street alley to become more of a thoroughfare, which would endanger children who live and play in the area.
Concerned citizen Paul Faulds, who owns a duplex at 224 S. Blakeley St., was unable to attend the council meeting, but addressed council in an email.
“I believe providing more traffic to S. Blakeley will pose a risk to children and other pedestrians,” wrote Faulds.
Members of council were also concerned about simply transferring the problem from one alley to another, and discussed ways to alleviate this risk. The Blakeley alley, though typically not passable due to parked vehicles, is not blocked 100 percent of the time.
Council discussed the placement of a dead end sign at the northern end of the alley off of W. Fremont Street, right behind the Keg’n’Cue, so that people would be warned in advance that the alley is no longer passable.
This again was met with concern by councilmembers who feel that a sign will not necessarily stop drivers from turning down the alley, and upon finding the Lewis Street alley closed off, they would then attempt to use the Blakeley Street alley, rather than backing up over 300 feet to get back out onto W. Fremont Street.
In the event of parked cars in the Blakeley Street alley, blocking egress, people might try to squeeze through, resulting in property damage, said councilmember Jason Gamble.
Council has identified several key issues that must be addressed before any further action is taken.
The alley leading out to Lewis Street is currently city-owned property, so the method for transferring ownership must be officially determined before any closure can take place. The city will need to investigate how to transfer the ownership and whether or not monetary compensation is required.
A determination also needs to be made in regards to an easement which is currently in place for a residence on S. Blakeley Street that currently utilizes that easement to access a parking area behind the home at the southernmost point of the W. Fremont Street alley.
Council will continue to discuss the issue.
The City Council approved an amendment which ensures Walmart’s compliance with the lighting and bench-seating standards that are specified in the North Kelsey design guidelines.
Council findings in regards to seating:
“In summary, the amount of seating area required by the square footages of the two plaza areas is 60 linear feet. The proposed revised site plan provides a total of 100 linear feet of seating area. The amount of seating area for the plazas is met by the proposed amenities added to the revised site plan.”
Council findings in regards to lighting:
“The pedestrian light fixtures will be 14 feet in height. The plaza areas as shown will be lit by a combination of 14 foot pedestrian lights (for plaza area 2 and along the trail near the stormwater management area) and LED bollards (for plaza area 1). The revised plans show sufficient lighting of the plaza areas thereby decreasing the likelihood of security problems within those areas.”
No public testimony was heard in regards to the seating or lighting.
The measure resolved a long-standing legal dispute over whether Monroe’s city council had erred in approving Walmart’s preliminary plans. The resolution clears the way for Walmart to proceed with the purchase of the land and the construction of the planned supercenter.