EDWARDSVILLE — Over the objections of a gallery full of residents, the City Council approved plans for a controversial new subdivision.
The council meeting was packed to standing-room-only as residents of the Willow Creek neighborhood gathered to protest the preliminary plat for Governor's Way, a new subdivision planned for the east side of Edwardsville. Governor's Way would put 72 homes on 39 acres of empty land next to Willow Creek.
Currently the only way in or out of Willow Creek is a single entrance on Gerber Road. Governor's Way will have its main entrance on Governor's Parkway. However, the preliminary plat would add a connector road between the two subdivisions, and that has residents concerned.
Resident Candace Sauermann, a retired transportation engineer who worked for the Illinois Department of Transportation for 31 years, said she was concerned that no traffic study had been done to determine the implications of opening up the connector between the two subdivisions, and that the street through Willow Creek was not designed to carry heavier traffic.
"There is an attractiveness from the north to the south... using our subdivision to get to the YMCA, the schools and potentially out to the interstate," Sauermann said.
Sauermann said the "human environment" of Willow Creek is that of a community within a community.
"The folks there are a family," she said. "Children play in the streets and love to take their bikes along the sidewalks and streets. When a decision is made to change that context, to bisect Willow Creek... with a road that will carry more traffic, it changes the feeling of the neighborhood. That's where the passion comes in."
But city public works director Tim Harr said the plan has always been to connect subdivisions -- that when Willow Creek was first developed in 1990, one of residents' major concerns was that it only had one entrance. In fact, he said, the land for the connector between Willow Creek and the empty land where Governor's Way will be built has been dedicated for a road for decades.
"It's always been the city's philosophy that when land develops adjacent to vacant property, we plan for infrastructure to be extended to that property," Harr said.
In addition, Harr said, they do not actually intend to allow regular traffic on the connector road.
"We are not currently suggesting that this roadway be opened to traffic," he said. "We are saying to the developer that we want them to dedicate the right-of-way and build the street, so at some point if it is needed, we can use it."
Harr pointed out that nearby is East Lake Drive, which was wiped out in a major storm several years ago and required a $1 million extensive rebuilding project. "Thank goodness we had another way in and out of that area," he said. "Someday there may be an emergency, or we may have to plan a reconstruction project (at the entrance of Willow Creek). If we already have a roadway constructed, it can handle it."
Alderwoman Barb Stamer told the residents before the vote that the preliminary plat up for discussion only settled the issue of certain variances that did not have to do with the connector road.
"If this resolution is approved, it does not mean that Willow Creek and Governor's Way will be connected," Stamer said. "That is something that will come up at a later time... You will have another day."
However, Alderman Tom Butts said he thinks the connector road is inevitable. "That's my opinion, it doesn't mean I think it's right," he said.
Harr said even if the road was opened, he anticipates that Governor's Way residents will likely prefer to enter and exit their subdivision via the main entrance on Governor's Parkway, rather than taking the long way around through Willow Creek.
"The beauty of this (design) is that there will be an entrance off Governor's Parkway, so all the construction traffic will go through there," Harr said.
But several residents said they were concerned about safety and the environment of their quiet subdivision.
"If you drive through our community, it's very pleasant: neighbors are talking, people are walking dogs," said resident Gregory Odom. "I take that for granted, that I can work in my yard and walk out in the street. I don't think I'm going to be hit, and I don't feel I'm in danger... I imagine if you have a thoroughfare running through your neighborhood, your property values are going to diminish."
Resident Dawn Ellis said she did not object to Governor's Way, but only to the connecting road between the two subdivisions. "Please help us protect our children, our investments, the integrity of our neighborhood and the quality of our lives by voting against this stub street," she said. "Give the developer the opportunity to come back with an amended plat, such that it is not a through street for everyday traffic."
The vote was 4-2 in favor of approving the plat, with Risavy and Alderwoman Janet Stack voting no. Alderman Keith Short was absent from the meeting.
"I cannot support a street where so many citizens are against it," Risavy said. "Safety is an important issue, but safety would be an issue in any of the other 12 neighborhoods (that have a single entrance). It comes down to, the citizens don't want it."
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at email@example.com or 239-2507.