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Brainerd City Council: Bike lanes to be included in Willow Street project

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Bike lanes will be included in a resurfacing project on Willow Street.

Despite some opposition voiced early on in the project, the Brainerd City Council voted Monday to include the painted bike lanes in the project and to eliminate parking on the north side of the street.

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While there was some opposition, mostly by members of St. Andrew’s Church, many people voiced support of including the painted bike lanes.

At issue was a proposal to install marked bicycle lanes following a resurfacing project on Willow Street in southeast Brainerd. The resurfacing project is between South Seventh Street and 13th Street Southeast. The project is slated for this summer.

The city reported in order to create a 6-foot bike lane in each direction, parking would need to be removed from at least one side of the street.

City staff recommended retaining parking on the south side of the Willow Street in front of St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, where a partial sidewalk already exists to create the greatest degree of safety for pedestrians.

The issue went before the Walkable Bikeable City Committee at its April 28 meeting. The group recommended bike lanes on Willow Street, with parking to remain on the south side of the street.

The group cited some of the following reasons for the recommendation:

• Heavier parking on the south side of the street.

• The church has made a significant investment in a sidewalk on its property.

• The bike lanes are in line with the city’s current strategic plan.

• Bike lanes would make sense for the location, as there is already a designated bike route.

• There is very little cost, just the cost of paint.

Walkable Bikeable City Committee co-chair Ed Shaw said adding a bike lane will be a “benefit to the city as a whole.”

“Prosperous cities encourage people to get out. ...This will benefit the city overall,” Shaw said.

Fellow committee co-chair Eleanor Burkett said the city needs many ways of connecting and encouraging people to use different bike routes in the city.

“This brings pride to the city,” she said.

The council agreed with the committee’s recommendation for the most part. Voting against the motion were City Council members Kelly Bevans and Mary Koep.

Koep said that she didn’t think residents on the north side of the street, which would lose parking, were given enough of a chance to weigh in on the topic. Staff disagreed, saying each was notified.

Bevans said the location of the bike lane, being next to parked cars, was not ideal.

“It’s a dangerous potential,” he said.

In other council news:

Voted to direct staff to put a resolution together to place $980,000 in capital improvement bonds projects on the Nov. 4 ballot. A petition late last year halted $980,000 in capital improvement bonds would have funded heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) upgrades for city hall and the police and fire departments, repair to the front entrance at city hall, emergency preparedness upgrades at the public safety facilities and a salt/sand storage building. The petition asked the city take the topic to the voters. City council member Kelly Bevans said with time constraints and urgency in some of the projects, the ballot was the best option for the city right now.

The issue of allowing small houses in the city will be brought back before the council at a June meeting. The council voted to have the Planning Department address some concerns just recently named by the Greater Lakes Association of Realtors, as well as clarify the definition of infill. Once those issues are addressed, the council will discuss the proposed ordinance change.

Voted to forward $40,000 of insurance funds to the Brainerd Area Hockey Association that the city will receive in regard to Civic Center roof damage, which was causeed by bird activity over several years. Although the city no longer owns the building, it was the owner when the damage occurred and agreed previously to forward any insurance money to BAHA for repairs.

Heard from Camp Ripley Post Commander Scott St. Sauver, who detailed the annual training schedule and the economic impact on the region that Camp Ripley provided and the environmental briefing.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at jessie.perrine@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

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