Planning Commission split vote

by Emmitt B. Feldner of the Review staff

PLYMOUTH — There was consensus that neighborhoods, schools and cemeteries should not be the route for a bypass.

But the Plan Commission split evenly Thursday on going so far as to endorse an alternative route for an east-west connection when State 23 becomes a freeway.

That left residents of the Riverview subdivision, more than a dozen of whom attended Thursday’s meeting, to take their fight to tonight’s City Council meeting.

At issue was where to route the east-west bypass when the state closes off all intersections on State 23 between State 57 and State 67, which state officials are looking to accelerate.

“We have two options here (for routes), the third is doing nothing and that is not a viable option. If we don’t pick one and go with it, the state will do what they want and to hell with us,” Riverview subdivision resident Bob Williams stated.

The latest maps from the Department of Transportation provide two alternatives.

One is a route west from Fairview Drive across the Mullet River to an intersection with State 67 (North Milwaukee Street) at Suhrke Road.

The other would end Kiley Way at Fairview Drive, route traffic to the north on County E and then west on a new road that would be built.

Who would build that new road was just one of the issues that split the commission on the resolution, referred to it by the City Council, to endorse the northern route alternative.

The vote on the resolution was 3-3, with commissioner Leon Rabuck absent, Roger Laning, Pete Rammer and Tim Yokes voting no and Bill Barbieur, Harold Meyer and Mayor Donald Pohlman voting in favor.

That means the resolution goes back to the City Council for its action with no recommendation from the commission.

Public Works Director William Immich pointed out that the city, along with the DOT, county and town of Plymouth, signed an agreement 15 years ago or so endorsing a route crossing the Mullet and coming out across from the State 23/67 intersection, a route which would not go through residential subdivisions, school property or the St. John the Baptist Cemetery.

But, he continued, the DOT has indicated it no longer considers that route viable because of the potential danger of the intersection opposite the State 23 ramp.

That led Immich and Laning to question whether the city should go ahead unilaterally to endorse a new route without a new letter of understanding with the other parties.

“I can’t imagine the state saying we’re going to buy four houses and go by a cemetery,” for a bypass, Immich commented. “I don’t think there’s an alderman who will say they want to buy four houses and build a road past the middle school.

“I’m all in favor of the northern route, but we don’t know who’s paying for what,” Immich continued. “We don’t know who’s paying for what. If we’re waiting for the town to build that road, it ain’t never going to happen.”

“Somebody is going to have to pay for it,” Laning, a former county highway commissioner, agreed. “Wherever you build a road you’re always going to have some sentiments. We don’t know what the ramifications of this thing are and we have to iron them out.”

“If we’re going to have a joint letter of understanding, I think we need a joint meeting of those entities with the DOT,” Rammer added. “I see no reason we couldn’t have a joint meeting and then have a joint resolution. It makes more sense to me.”

Pohlman countered that the proposed north route has been discussed at DOT-hosted public meetings, attended by town and county officials, for six months or more.

“Everybody knows the letter of understanding has to be changed,” Pohlman said. “It has to start somewhere. It’s our call to make first.”

That sentiment was echoed by several of the residents attending the meeting.

“We can sit here and drag our feet and not have a say, but it’s going to happen,” Maria Londre told the commissioners. She explained that she had received an e-mail from DOT project manager Rob Wagner indicating the state wants to make a decision on the alternatives within the next few months.

That, several of the residents told the commissioners, is why they are eager for the city to go on the record.

“We’d really like to see the city of Plymouth step forward,” Chalise Cantleberry stated. “We’re here as Riverview residents saying we don’t want a bridge,” over the Mullet River and a bypass route through their neighborhood.

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