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Muskego path might still diverge from plan

April 26, 2012

Muskego - Muskego's Public Works Committee will likely schedule a special meeting to review a controversial recreation path that would be built along a portion of Tess Corners Drive.

A divided Common Council this week decided to give the path another look, to the relief of about 20 residents in the audience who oppose the path. Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti cast the tie-breaking vote that sent the matter to committee.

Tess Corners Drive residents have object to the planned eight-foot-wide path because of the substantial loss of trees, its impact on their front yards, and how close it would come to their homes. One homeowner estimated it would within 35 feet of her living room window.

Because much of the path will cut through his district, newly elected Alderman Robert Wolfe, who was at his first Common Council meeting last week, asked for more information. Chiaverotti said she wanted the new alderman to have that chance. Wolfe is on the Public Works Committee.

"I can see their concerns," said Wolfe said, who has looked from their front doors to where the path would be. The council should look at alternatives, he added.

City officials hope that the path and the related Tess Corners Drive road and drainage work can still be done this year, despite the delay due to 11th-hour objections.

Path alternatives

As to what exactly could be done to satisfy those objections isn't certain. Cost and safety factors are among the issues.

Moving the path from its planned off-road location to beside the shoulder of the road could add roughly $170,000 to the $1.4 million project, Public Works Director David Simpson estimated. But Alderman Dan Soltysiak speculated that the extra cost could be brought down under some of the options that came up at the council meeting.

Those options include a path on just on one side of the road, with a barrier to protect bicyclists and walkers from traffic; a mixed on-road, off road path; or a path being narrower than the standard eight feet.

Whether any of those options would reduce tree loss is an open question. Simpson doubts it would.

Not only that, the city might be throwing away between $50,000 and $80,000 it spent to design the path as it is, said Alderman Keith Werner.

Recreationists vs. neighbors

While nearly all the speakers at the council meeting opposed the path, two said they like the city's bike and walking trail system and hope that it will be completed one day. They aren't alone, Chiaverotti said.

Lots of people want the Tess Corners path, based on the 82 emails her office received from residents of Stony Creek, a retirement community, she said.

In a broader sense, aldermen are striving to avoid such battles every time a recreation path segment is built. Two aldermen remember two other such battles just as pitched as this one.

One of them is Neil Borgman, who said the problem is that trees have grown up in the city rights of way in older parts of the city, beautifying the neighborhoods. New recreation paths could result in the loss of some of those trees, he said.

Alderman Kert Harenda urged the council to review the five-year trail plan, set priorities and develop more meaningful notices to warn people living along future paths about potential impacts. Then they can object in enough time for the city to try to work out problems, he said.

RESIDENTS SPEAK:

What a few of the speakers who addressed the Muskego Common Council on the planned Tess Corners recreation path said:

"The traffic coming around our corner is horrific. A bike path would add to the problem." - Judith Stenzel, corner of Tess Corners and Cornell drives

"It's too expensive and a total misuse of taxpayer dollars." - Dianne Stern, Tess Corners and Woods drives

"Why let our properties be diminished. … I don't see the road now. I don't want to see it and I don't want to see a bike path." - Roger Kabishik, Belmont Road

"I am so excited about this path. … I'm amazed at how much paths are used. The problem is that they are not connected." - Linda Johnson, Sandy Noll Court

"One thing that's gotten out of hand is the traffic on that road. … It's a very dangerous curve there, and the walk would be on the outside of the curve. That's where all the accidents happen." - Fred Galten, Tess Corners Drive

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