FERNDALE - A once-rural road now inside the city limits will be upgraded to city standards, complete with sidewalks and bicycle lanes, even if it means taking strips of property from unwilling property owners.
The City Council voted 5-1 on Monday, June 18, to go to court if necessary and condemn parts of as many as nine properties along Church Road to meet a state loan deadline. Construction isn't expected to start until 2014, but the city must possess all properties along the project site, from Main Street to Heather Drive, by the end of the year. Otherwise, it could lose its good standing for low-interest loans from the Department of Commerce.
Bicycle lanes and sidewalks are necessary to meet state and federal grant requirements, and the city is counting on future grants to fund part of the $5 million project. But the amenities seemed extravagant to some of the residents who spoke at Monday's council meeting.
"While this project is necessary and long overdue, it should not be a lavish undertaking," said Janella McKay, a Church Road resident. "Making it an affordable street should be a top priority."
Money earmarked for Church Road should be spent on more important city road projects, including Thornton Road, residents said.
Darryl Benson warned the City Council it would tread into risky legal territory if it were to take part of his front yard and regrade his driveway at a 33 percent slope, as current plans show. He said his wife is disabled, and the city must make it easier for her to come and go.
"This proposal will virtually render her home inaccessible to her," Benson said.
City project manager Katy Radder acknowledged the Benson property was difficult for project planners.
"We're still looking at that property. We haven't reached a final resolution, but we are looking at several different options," Radder said.
Council member Lloyd Zimmerman, who voted against the condemnations, said the property owners were victims of poor design and agreed the project was overpriced.
"We're going to be paying top dollar ... to give us something that's not working for our people," Zimmerman said. "I can't support where we're going with this whole process."
Council member Mel Hansen did not participate in the discussion or the vote because he owns property on Church Road.
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