A handful of residents seeking to utilize a small portion of a closed off road on the east side of Mitchell now have access to freely travel on a section of Mattie Street between East Birch Avenue and Quiett Lane.
The request was brought to the Sept. 16 Traffic Commission meeting at City Hall after roughly 15 nearby residents signed a petition requesting the city allow access to the unimproved road.
Assistant Police Chief Mike Koster provided further details of the actions that prompted the city to fence off the area of the road roughly two years ago.
“It was a platted road, and it wasn’t actually paved," Koster said during the meeting. "But the request was to put up a fence on both ends to keep the traffic out. The road was also muddy and deteriorated at that time.”
According to City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein, the request was made by a resident who lived near the road on East Birch Avenue. Ellwein said the nearby resident's main concern centered around dust entering into the individual’s home when vehicles drove on that portion of the road.
"At the time that request was made by the resident, there wasn’t anyone else who came to the Traffic Commission and council speaking in opposition of the street closure,” Ellwein said. “I know this group of people who are requesting for the street to be open have contacted city council members and voiced some concerns.”
For the past two years, nearby residents have been unable to drive, bike and walk on the closed off portion of Mattie Street. Council member Steve Rice voiced his concerns for the safety of drivers, considering the portion of the roadway isn’t paved and completely graveled. In an attempt to find common ground regarding safety measures, Rice suggested the city mull over installing proper signage prior to approval of the road being opened for public access.
“If we took the barricades down, and allowed for people to drive on it, do we post a sign that says ‘drive at your own risk’ on an unimproved road like we do for county roads?” Rice asked. “When people would be driving on it, it would be like driving on a field. What would the city’s liability be if someone were to get stuck on it?”
Rice also questioned how accessing such a small portion of the road is advantageous for any of the residents living in and around the neighborhood. In response, Council President Kevin McCardle said the residents who signed the petition expressed the challenges of being unable to walk, bike and drive on the road as the main reason for seeking to access the road.
“With the golf course being just a few blocks away, many of the people I talked to weren’t happy how they couldn’t drive their golf carts through the road at all,” McCardle said, referencing nearby Wild Oak Golf Course. “It’s a public road, and I understand how they all want to be able to use that road. They have the right to want to access it.”
Upon further discussion regarding safety precautions for the road, the Traffic Commission unanimously approved to remove the fences and place appropriate signage along that section of the road. As of now, there is a sign that reads “Caution: unimproved road,” and the road is open.
Joe Degen, a nearby resident on Quiett Lane, was one of the individuals who signed the petition to have the fences removed. Degen said he wasn’t aware how the fence could have been installed without being notified, which caused some concern for he and his neighbors.
“There was a lot of unknowns with the fenced off road, and I’ve never had to sign a petition for a road to be open. I’ve seen petitions circulated for closing a road, but not opening one,” Degen said. “No one really knew or was aware this road was requested to be closed, and out of the blue, it was closed.”
Despite the road opening following the Sept. 16 Traffic Commission meeting, Degen hopes to see the city pave or grade the unimproved portion of Mattie Street. Regardless, Degen and a handful of nearby residents are pleased their voices were heard to access the road.
“I can’t speak for all the nearby neighbors, but I know some are relieved to have access, including myself,” Degen said.