The La Crescent City Council on Monday unanimously approved plans to bolster the city’s downtown area, make the city safer for cyclists, and create recreational trails in the blufflands that overlook the city.
The plans will serve as adjuncts to the City’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan and were recommended to the council by the city’s Planning Commission. Showcasing the plans to the Council, Planning Commission Chairman Don Smith told the officials that about 40 people attended the public hearing on Nov. 20 with generally favorable reactions to the the Bicycle/Pedestrian plan, the Blufflands plan and the Downtown plan.
In urging the Council to ratify the new guidelines, Smith pointed out that, “we can’t have a common vision unless we have a common understanding of what’s in these plans.”
As Smith summarized each plan, the Council asked questions, approving each one in turn. Significant parts of the Bicycle plan ranged from bike lanes on third Street to moving cyclists safely to the pool and La Crosse. It also promotes access to the River Trail.
In touting the Blufflands plan, Smith said that the document “recognizes that no place in the area is like La Crescent and we have a chance to develop this.” He pointed out that while the City has open spaces, it needs an exterior loop as well as a plan to take advantage of the surrounding bluffs.
Smith also said that the Downtown plan is one of the highest priorities in the community, citing support for local businesses as a main focus. “We know continuous storefronts are far more successful,” he said as he urged the City to acquire designated lots for parking.
Whistles in the Crosshairs
The Council passed over an engineering recommendation submitted by City Engineer Tim Hruska, stopping short of committing any funds until it had a chance for more fact-finding. City Administrator Bill Waller told the Council members that the Main Street crossing already qualifies as a quiet zone. Making it happen is just a matter of paperwork.
Beyond that, however, Mayor Mike Poellinger voiced concern about adopting a budget of nearly $500,000 to protect other crossings named in the report.
Speaking before the Council on an agenda request, citizen Dave Hanifl supported the Mayor’s concerns and urged the members to consider other approaches. Hanifl pointed to La Crosse’s success of using crossbuck warnings for 10 crossings as well as negotiating a special exemption for whistle-less crossings between 10 p.m., and 6 a.m.
“There hasn’t been a single incident there in the last 40 years,” he said. “He urged the members to contact La Crosse legal counsel and find how they did it. “Exemptions can be made,” he said. “The City has to pursue it.”
Poellinger also voiced concern about train parking and the transfer of hazardous materials.
The whistle committee is made up of Poellinger, Waller, Hruska, Police Chief Doug Stavenau, Building Official Shawn Wetterling, and representatives from the Canadian Pacific Railway, Federal Rail Administration and MnDot Rail.