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Grecula wants safer streets, better zoning in Brainerd

Justin Grecula is one of two candidates vying for the open at-large seat on the Brainerd City Council.

Justin Grecula
Justin Grecula is one of two candidates running for the open at-large seat on the Brainerd City Council in 2022 election.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Traffic safety and zoning are at the forefront for Justin Grecula as he runs for Brainerd City Council.

Grecula is one of two candidates running for an at-large seat currently filled by Tad Erickson, who did not seek reelection but is running for Crow Wing County Board instead.

Living near Memorial and Mill Avenue parks in northeast Brainerd, Grecula said he often witnesses cars flying past his house when there are large events at the park.

“I realized the street right by my house is way too wide. You can park on both sides, there’s enough room for two cars to get through with absolutely no issues, so people just fly through it,” he said during an Oct. 6 interview.

Talking with police officers, Grecula said he believes it’s a citywide issue but there is not enough law enforcement to properly enforce the rules of the road.

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“We have these super wide streets. They’re designed for cars and not for people,” he said. “I want to be able to let my kids ride their bikes around town and, you know, feel comfortable that they’re safe while doing that.”

With that issue and a long-standing interest in urban design, Grecula said he decided to run for City Council and see if he could introduce some traffic calming measures throughout the city and give neighborhood streets less of a highway feel and design.

The first step to that goal, he said, would be meeting with the city engineer and deciding on a specific width the city should set for its roads. The streets could be more narrow than they are now and still allow for on-street parking, he said.

“So that would be the first set, and then obviously every street that needs to be redesigned, we’re going to have to look at individually and see how it’s utilized and if there’s parking there because that takes up some space. That’ll slow people down,” he said. “But if there’s not, then we need to make changes.”

Grecula has previously spoken on street safety in reference to the project proposed to reconstruct Highway 210/Washington Street in 2026. He said pedestrian safety was his biggest concern with the project design and making sure measures, like wider sidewalks, barriers between sidewalks and traffic lanes, and potentially even crosswalk signals, are considered.

Improving zoning ordinances is another of Grecula’s goals if elected. Earlier this year, the council approved a new zoning code, which Grecula said is a great improvement. But there are still more steps to take, he said.

“They kind of box everything in where it is and don’t allow for much real growth in the updated zoning,” he said. “Most of northeast Brainerd, for instance, is zoned as Traditional Neighborhood 1, where I’d like to see that bumped up to a 2. I’d also like to see mixed use development in more areas out there than just downtown.”

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Traditional Neighborhood 1 — or TN-1 — zoning is intended to provide for a compact, pedestrian-oriented mix of residential uses. Traditional Neighborhood 2 — or TN-2 — zoning, by comparison, has similar standards but is meant to provide for both residential and commercial uses.

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While Grecula said he believes the city does a good job of getting information out to residents through livestreamed meetings, he said he would also like to see more people coming to meetings and voice their opinions.

“But that’s really on people,” he said. “If I was elected, I would for sure be willing to hear any and all sides of any issue and take into any consideration I can.”

Grecula said he typically prefers email as a mode of communication but believes the city should work to make sure issues up for discussion are made public in order to get as much community feedback as possible.

Grecula moved to the lakes area when he was 7 and has lived in Brainerd for about four years. For the past five years, he worked as a mortgage processor at First Western Bank & Trust in Baxter. He and wife Alyssa have two middle school children who are active in hockey, which keeps the family busy.

“I think, honestly, I’m an average guy. I enjoy spending time with my family, enjoy the parks, the events in town. And I’m always around,” he said.

Grecula said he believes his ideas for Brainerd’s future make him a good candidate for the council.

“I’m honest, forward-looking — looking to make Brainerd a more sustainable city for the future,” he said. “I have a vision for the city and ideas on how to improve it.”

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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